1. Thinking about it, a lot
This first stage will much longer than you expect because it’s a big decision that affects probably your most cherished organ. The first thing you do is calculate how much money you’ll save throughout your life if you never have to wear glasses or contact lenses again. Then you think of the pleasures of never having to polish your spectacles or have them fog up when cooking. And the feeling of never having to be unsure about whether your contact lens has slipped behind your eye without you noticing.
But when you’ve weighed up all the positives, you’re suddenly overcome by the crippling fear of something going seriously wrong and ending up blind. At this point it makes sense to do some good research with a trusted ophthalmologist. But if you just Google ‘going blind with laser’, you’ll also find out that nobody has ever gone blind with this procedure so the risk is comparable with that of wearing contact lenses. There is, however, a chance of the surgery not fully correcting your vision which means you’d have wasted a couple of thousand euro. So it’s mostly the financial gamble with which you need to come to terms.
2. Realising the decision isn’t all in your hands
Once you finally decide you’re going to do this, you realise that it’s not entirely up to you. You need to ensure that you are eligible to undergo the laser treatment. So you’ll have to sign up to some rigorous tests to see if your eyes make suitable candidates. The initial tests will also determine which of the three different procedures is best suited to you. The most advanced option – which requires the least recovery time – is the one that’s hardest to guarantee the green light.
3. Getting tested
Besides an initial examination, to see if there’s anything totally out of order with your eyes, you then need a much longer appointment to give the professionals much more detailed information. You’ve got to brace yourself for this one because apart from laying your chin on some uber fancy computers, you also need to deal with strange yellow eye drops and weird fake eyelashes. The strangest part is having your pupils dilated, which means they become huge and you look like you’ve been pilling all night. Remember that you won’t be able to drive for a few hours after this process but you do get to freak out your designated driver with your massive pupils.
4. Meeting the consultant and taking the final decision
You’ll have a few days of waiting before all the results can be collected. After that, you get to meet your doctor and he’ll explain your options. In some cases, you can’t do the surgery at all and you’re probably going to be quite disappointed. The doctor might also recommend some of the less advanced options. If you’re lucky enough to be cleared for the latest technology surgery, you probably want to opt for it. It’s called SMILE and that’s probably because it’s a total breeze. Sounds simple though for the technical guys S.M.I.L.E. actually stands for Small Incision Lenticular Extraction. You recover within a couple of days and you don’t even have to wear any dodgy eye patches.
5. Actually doing it
The procedure itself is only about 15 to 20 minutes long, and that’s for both eyes. The worst part is the wait before you’re led into the operating theatre because you do get a bit edgy and start having second thoughts. The detailed consent form they ask you to sign (which is given to you on the first day of your visit with the ophthalmologist) is probably the main reason.
Once you’re in, your eyes are pinned open with Clockwork-Orange-like pegs, you get anaesthetic drops put in and you’re laid down on a pretty comfortable machine bed. Before you know it one of your eyes is held up by suction and you’re asked to stare into the green light above you until the laser treatment is done. Then the second eye.
You won’t see the results immediately, because it may take a day or two max for the initial blurriness and light sensitivity to subside, but the speed of the procedure is pretty miraculous when you think about it.
6. Digital detox
This is a nice little unintended consequence of the procedure. Because of the blurriness and sensitivity to light mentioned in point five, you’re not going to be able to look at your mobile phone or computer screen. It actually hurts to do so and it’s not advisable. It will only take a few hours until it sorts itself out, but this is a great time to take those few hours to enjoy the digital detox. Just fill your eyes with eye drops and take a nap.
7. Eye-drop life
If you think you’ve already had enough eye drops to last a lifetime, you have another think coming. A few days after the surgery you’ll meet up with the doctor again and he’ll give you a rigorous four-week schedule of eye drops including antibiotics and steroids. The good news is that the eye drops really help the recovery process and they also give your eyes a nice glow. So enjoy it while they last.
Bonus: Life after laser…
We’ll talk about that next week.