At 4 years old I was prescribed my first set of glasses. Here I am 36 years later, and I may finally be out of them. I turned to PRK (Photorefractive Keratectomy) in hopes of finding freedom!
In 200,1 I underwent LASIK (Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis) surgery to correct a pretty severe case of astigmatism and near sightlessness. At the time, it wasn’t enough to free me of the frames and lenses I had learned to live with. The problem was I averaged about 20/1300 vision and the doctor was very clear that it was unlikely that he could correct my vision to 20/20. He told me he could get me close, but I would still need glasses. He was correct. I normalized at around 20/60 after about 18 months and have stayed stable for the past 15+ years.
Enough was enough though. I am active on the Jiu Jitsu mats, I love to hit the trails in my Jeep, and I spend a fair amount of time on my motorcycle. These are all activities that kinda suck if you wear glasses, or if you don’t have clear vision without corrective lenses. For those wondering why contacts weren’t an option, well, it’s because of astigmatism. Astigmatism and contacts don’t play nicely. I tried time and time again and just couldn’t get the vision crisp like I hoped.
I went in to see my eye doc a couple months ago and he recommended that I go get a consultation for LASIK. Even though I’d had the procedure once, technology had advanced he noted, and I may be eligible to do it again. It wasn’t the case, however. Because of the way the procedure was done back in the day, there was too much risk in creating an incision in the top layers of my cornea again. They instead recommended PRK which has similar results, just approached a little differently, so I wouldn’t have to worry about creating the flap necessary with LASIK.
To keep an already long post shorter, I’ll skip the back and forth with making the decision. I decided to do it, and last week I underwent PRK laser surgery on both eyes. The purpose of this post is to provide a general understanding of the procedure and to offer a recap of my experiences through the first week of recovery. If you’ve ever thought of getting corrective eye surgery and PRK is an option, I hope this post helps you better understand what the recovery might look like.
PRK – It’s Game Time
My surgery was scheduled for late Thursday afternoon. Actually, my oldest daughter Hallie underwent LASIK the same day which was pretty cool. I am so happy for her. She was seeing 20/20 the next morning.
The strategy was to get the procedure done, get medicated, and sleep until Friday morning. That didn’t work, however. Before I go into that, let me chat a bit about the procedure.
The doc had me start my prescription antibiotic eye drops the day before the procedure was scheduled. 4 times daily. This continues until a week after the surgery.
We got to the office at around 4 pm the day of the event and they asked if I wanted to take the Valium they had prescribed. I opted not to as I was super comfortable with having the procedure so I didn’t see a benefit. The benefit comes afterward quite frankly, so take it if you are prescribed, it will help you sleep post-surgery.
The team then ran through eye measurements in what seemed to be a full exam to make sure that all the numbers added up and were consistent with the initial consults. Everything was good to go. As the tests were being conducted, one of the nurses started numbing my eyes and making sure they were prepped for the procedure. Once the surgeon was ready, they walked me into the procedure room and had me lay on a gurney under the PRK laser. The surgeon was great, chatting up every step in an effort to keep me comfortable.
Once I was on the gurney, they add a lot more numbing drops and then forced my eyes open with surgical forceps. At this point, I wasn’t feeling anything but pressure and was pretty comfortable so they adjusted my head under the laser. All I could see at this point was a nice red dot above my face.
The doc then used a nice little brush, much like a coarse toothbrush to scrub my eyes. He used the brush to remove the top layer of my cornea (Corneal Epithelium) so he could then go in with the PRK laser to do the corrective procedure. This, my friend, makes for a not-so-awesome couple of days after the surgery.
Take note: This part of the procedure is why I mentioned you should take the prescribed Valium and also the reason I didn’t get much sleep. It’s also why I couldn’t open my eyes for 2-3 days at the sign of any light. I was straight living like a vampire!
You see, scrubbing off the epithelium to do the procedure is how it was done prior to LASIK. LASIK introduced a new method which consists of creating a corneal flap to do the procedure. In contrast, LASIK heals faster and is less invasive. The trade-off is you weaken and thin the cornea which brings its own risks and restrictions. Otherwise, the two procedures are very similar in terms corrective action and long-term results.
With the ceremonial eye scrubbing ritual out of the way, they line up the PRK laser and begin the correction. That laser locks onto your eye with better than pin point precision and it didn’t take but roughly 15 seconds per eye to complete the correction. I smelled a slight odor at this point which I knew was coming. It was basically the laser burning off the imperfections in my eye. A dandy experience and sure to give you the confidence to sign up today! Right?
It was quick and over before I knew it. The next step was definitely my favorite. Next, they drenched my eyes with some anti-scarring meds and this wonderfully freezing cold sensation literally overwhelmed whatever sensors I had left that weren’t still numb. They placed some protective contacts lenses into each eye, and that was that. They stood me up and handed me a couple of Tylenol PM’s and sent me on my way. I selfied up though before I walked out.
Let’s See What Happens Next
In typical Dre fashion, I went around the long way to voice my experiences. Sorry, not sorry. 🙂
Now that I’ve given you a recap of what happened pre-op and through the procedure, let’s get to the day-by-day post-op breakdown.
Day 0 (Thursday)
Starting with the day of the surgery, you have an idea of what happened at the doc’s office. After my magical selfie with the surgical team, Shelly drove us home. No more than a mile down the road and it became increasingly difficult to even open my eyes. It started to become apparent that the sun was not my friend. Even with my eyes shut, wearing shades, in a car with tinted windows, the light was causing a steady stinging sensation and that’s when the waterworks started.
I got home and now I realized that any light at all was going to be my kryptonite for the foreseeable future. I grabbed a quick bite and locked myself in my room. My room blackens out all light which is good, but at this point, not helpful anymore. The stinging persisted even in the dark and at this point, I could fill up 5-gallon buckets full of tears. There was nothing else I could do but think about when it would improve. I tried to get some sleep, but pretty much didn’t, and this was night zero!
Day 1 (Friday)
I awoke from what little sleep I did get on Friday morning, day 1 post-op.This is where the real fun started. So what I thought couldn’t possibly get worse, did. The light sensitivity leveled up and I could now fill the city water fill tank with the number of uncontrollable tears my eyes were dropping!
Let’s see if I can paint a picture of the feeling in my eyes at this point. Have you ever been minding your own business, taking a shower, maybe singing your favorite tune, and you’re shampooing your hair when out of nowhere a huge drop of that sudsy, follicle cleansing goop lands in your eye? Yeah, that all painful and dreaded moment? Well, the sensation I was feeling on Friday was similar to someone continually squeezing a fat bottle of Head and Shoulders into my eyes in a random sequence (just to keep me guessing), while someone made sure my hands were hog tied behind my back so I couldn’t stop them. Yup. That’s pretty much what happened and it would not go away!
That was my Friday. I took my drops and steroids as prescribed and somehow powered through. Day 1 completed with discomfort and dryness. On occasion, and very rare at that, I would catch a glimpse of what looked to be improved sight, but at this point, I wasn’t sure if I was hallucinating!
Day 2 (Saturday)
Day two was a lot more of the same in terms of watery eyes at times, super dry at others. Light sensitivity was still really extreme; however, I could sense that there was a slight relief from my experience on Friday. It’s like they switched to Head and Shoulders for sensitive scalps 🙂
Yes! I finally got some decent sleep although still woke up quite a few times. I continued my drops and steroids as prescribed, and was able to leave my dungeon of a room and spend more time in the family room with the shades down and sunglasses on. There were quite a few moments, especially when rewetting my eyes where I would get focus in my eyes. I could see details across the room momentarily clearer than I could before the procedure. Even though I was still dealing with constant sensitivity and irritation, this gave me a lot of hope for what’s to come. I also noticed that my eyes felt a bit better towards the evening than the morning.
Day 3 (Sunday)
Sunday, Day 3 was a game changer! I slept pretty well only waking up a couple times. I woke up and removed my sleep goggles (Forgot to mention earlier, you’ll need to sleep with goggles so you don’t touch your eyes) and although I could feel irritation and sensitivity, I knew instantly there was an improvement. Not really on the eyesight, but more so on the discomfort level. I would say it had decreased about 30-40% and was manageable.
I found that I had an easier time dealing with artificial light than I did with sunlight. Once again, I kept up with my meds/drops and I again noticed subtle improvement throughout the day.
Sunday was my turning point for sure.
Day 4 (Monday)
Monday morning, day 4 came and it was awkward, I woke up and the light sensitivity and discomfort were at a major low. Could it be? The freedom I have chased had finally arrived? Yes, my eyes are still sensitive, but it’s nothing worse than being in a pool all day. Or, maybe you can compare it to leaving your contacts in for too long. Totally manageable.
Finally got out of the house when I went for my check up in the afternoon. The doc removed the protective lenses and did an exam. He noted that my astigmatism and near-sightedness no longer exists in my optics. The general message was my eyes were looking great and that I was healing as expected. He noted that swelling from the procedure will continue to decrease, and as it does, my vision will continue to improve. He told me I was legal to drive and my eyes had reached 20/40 and I should continue to see a daily improvement.
I did work all morning and evening. As you know, I work online. This is a pretty major obstacle as my eyes have not normalized and looking at a computer screen offers some beautiful, high definition LIGHT! It’s uncomfortable but I am fumbling through. I see double of all the small letters and such on the computer still and from what the doctors noted, this will likely last into the coming weeks, of course improving a little each day.
I found that my eyes seemed drier today so I am rewetting more often and I have kept up with my meds as prescribed.
Day 5 (Tuesday)
Caught them z’s! I got a great night of sleep last night and woke up feeling minimal irritation. Light sensitivity is still there but minor. My eyes are pretty dry so I am constantly rewetting
them. We are halfway through the day and my daily meds cycle.
I definitely did NOT see a visual improvement today, in fact, I almost feel a bit of regression. Hope is not lost, however. From what I have read, this is absolutely normal.
The computer is still very challenging to deal with and I didn’t see much improvement there yet. Again, I am able to deal with it, but it has certainly slowed me down some. I think it will be manageable in moving forward.
How’s it Going in a Nutshell?
All in all, I am pretty happy that I went through with the PRK corrective procedure. I haven’t seen all the improvements that typically come with time yet, but I have seen some overall improvement with my vision. I can walk around with no glasses and the blurriness is already less than it was before the surgery. It can only get better from here, especially as the rest of the post-op symptoms diminish and my healing progresses.
As the week progresses, I will try to update my accounts from the rest of today through day 7. If you have any PRK related questions or experiences you’d like to share, please leave me some comments!
I will share this post on Facebook as well, and although it was very long winded, I hope it was helpful!