Laser Eyes, One Year Later

May 03, 2007

It has been a year since my original laser eye surgery, actually more like 13 months. A requirement of the lifetime enhancement package that I got is to have annual eye exams. Yesterday afternoon I had the first of these and the results are not entirely good.

The eyes themselves are healthy and in good shape. There is no evidence of any disease not any lasting complications from the mechanical portion of the surgery. However, my vision is not what I’d hoped for. I have blurred vision frequently in the morning when I first get up that prevents me from reading, and my vision is blurry when I am tired. Both of these conditions are new to me - never in my life have I had blurred vision.

After a whole series of tests and measurements performed on my eyes by a technician I finally got to see the doctor. His first question to me confirmed my fear that my eyes weren’t where the surgery was supposed to leave them, “How is your reading?” In order to read I have to have the material at a full arms’ length otherwise I can’t focus clearly on the words or images. Having a bright lights is necessary too. I am unable to read anything held closer without straining or using a magnifying glass.

The doctor confirmed that my right eye, the near eye that has now had two surgeries, wasn’t measuring where they had hoped. After the initial surgery in March 2006 it measured a 3. In English this meant I could read the smallest font size imaginable as long as I held the print no more than four inches from my face. Their explanation was that my eye had healed “stronger” than expected. After allowing it to heal for three months an enhancement procedure was performed to “flatten” the eye. Yesterday I learned that the target number for the enhancement was a 1 or a 1.25. My eye again over-reacted to the adjustment and has healed at a .5. This accounts for the full-arms length required to read a book or clearly see a computer screen.

The doctor is hesitant to “enhance” that eye again, for two reasons. First, it now has a history of over-reacting to adjustments, making it harder to gauge what adjustment to make. Second, each adjustment leaves behind some scaring and alters the surface of the eye at the edges of my vision. Repeated surgeries could start to have a detrimental effect.

He is willing to adjust my left eye, however, as it has had only the original procedure. I’m left-eye dominate and so that eye was designated for distance vision. What he is proposing is to take away some of the distance and make that eye slightly near-sighted. This would, if it succeeded, balance my eyes a bit more and hopefully more my near focal length into about 18 inches instead of 24 or more.

They have a long-wear contact lens that can be inserted that would back my left eye down to simulate the effects of the surgery, but I am reluctant to try that just yet. My fear, obviously, is that a new surgery on my left eye might result in the same situation as my right - an over-reaction that would leave me out of options and looking at corrective lens, either contacts or glasses. The remote possibility that after a year, two surgeries and $3000, that I might have to buy glasses again leaves me understandably upset.

Part of the process yesterday was dilation of my eyes, which left me unable to read or use a computer all last evening. Even though I knew this was a temporary condition, coming on the heels of the doctor’s news it left me feeling very out of control and like I’d made the biggest mistake possible with my eyes. I actually asked the doctor during our consultation if he “could put the astigmatisms back?”

The other upsetting aspect to all of this is a failure upon their part to do two things for me. One, my near vision wasn’t tested yesterday. Therefore we have no idea if it is 20/30 or 20/80 now. Once the drops causing the dilation have taken effect it is too late to perform that test.

The second failure upon their part was to notify me that the eye drops they had recommended have been pulled from the market. It seems that one bottle may have produced a mold in spite of the preservative in the liquid. I actually still have a bottle with a few drops left of that particular brand. They’ve been thrown away.

Over the coming weeks I will need to decide what to do about my vision. I am resigned to having blurry vision when I get tired, and to putting drops in my eyes every single morning to try and reduce the blurriness upon waking. But I am fearful of taking a chance on another surgery. It may make things right and good, but it could also make things far worse and it cannot be undone.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.