I did look into the possibility of getting Lasik a few years ago, but what I found left much to be desired.
First of all, anytime I hear only good things about a surgical procedure, a warning goes off in my head. I know that it cannot be the whole picture as every surgery has risks. And Lasik has a long list of possible complications (FDA website link).
I normally don’t have much confidence in the FDA. I see them as being slow to protect public health (not to mention underfunded and understaffed), but even the FDA cannot bury this fact: “…the long-term safety and effectiveness of LASIK surgery is not known.” (that’s a direct quote from the FDA’s website).
I’ve seen the great success rates and statistics for those who undergo Lasik, but I don’t care about them. Because I’m not betting on a football game here. These are my eyes. MY EYES.
It doesn’t matter if there’s a 99% success rate, because if I’m that unfortunate 1%, I would personally have a 100% failure rate as my statistic. So what would be relevant then?
I’ve also heard my friends and colleagues’ glowing reviews about their Lasik operations, all of them have encouraged me to do it too. But their pushiness has had the opposite effect on me (partly because I’m contrarian by nature).
I also take what they say with a large grain of salt because we’re human and human beings do strange things sometimes. It’s not unusual for someone to carry some secret regret in their hearts about something they’ve done (or bought), but later tell people only good things about it.
Yes, people are strange (click if you want to read on to an awesome soundtrack).
So what it boils down to is this — when it comes to Lasik, statistics and reviews don’t matter to me. The stakes are simply much too high.
This is because botched eye surgery would have some unique and very distressing consequences.
Lasik can have some horrible life-altering results
We use our eyes every waking moment — from the minute we rise in the morning to when we close our eyes at night. Complications are not “minor” when they affect a person’s mental/emotional happiness and quality of life.
Here are some of the rather disturbing poor results post-Lasik that people have shared.
“I recall waking up one morning, about 2 weeks ago, tearing profusely. Since then I have had the “menthol” or “exposed” feeling along with dryness in the inner part of my sclera, the part between my cornea and bridge of my nose. I blink a ridiculous amount without any relief and have started reusing Systane Ultra frequently. Aside from the physical pain and discomfort I have been struggling with this emotionally and mentally. I am a 23 year old guy, recent graduate from college with so many hopes and dreams professionally, financially and personally. Struggling through the last 2 weeks, I can’t imagine my next 60 years like this.” (Source: dryeyezone.com, “Post LASIK Regret” forum post)
“I cannot read for any amount of time without experiencing substantial pain. I cannot go outside without wearing goggles because the wind is too much to tolerate,” says Bishop, who spent $3,000 on her procedure. “I have to close my eyes when people walk by me because I can feel the breeze they create in my eyes, and it is painful.” (Source: usatoday.com article)
Outside of sleeping, we’re conscious of our vision all the time. If we see halos, bursts and floaters everywhere, or if we have extremely dry and sensitive eyes that hurt so much we have to wear goggles to protect them from any slight movements of the wind (even indoors), what would life be like then? A waking nightmare, probably.
“I wake up twice per night to put in refresh tears. The floaters are the most depressing because people say there is nothing I can do. I absolutely hate them. Vision at night is terrible with the usual troubles around light sources. I am so depressed and filled with regret about getting LASIK. I would give most of my net worth to be able to go back in time and not get LASIK. ” – from despondent in LA (Source: usaeyes.org forum post)
Joe Tye got Lasik, but ended up spending $1,000 a year on eye drops, using them up to 50 times a day. “Eye drops are to me what a drink is to an alcoholic, except there’s no recovery,” Tye says, “I paid a lot of money to have this damage done to my eyes and it’s depressing.” (Source: an angieslist.com article)
Sadly, there’s been people who have killed themselves over poor results from Lasik. We don’t hear very much about them. But we should – if you’re so inclined, click here to open up a Google search on the subject.
Media coverage is scant, but there’s hope
The industry has invested a lot of money into Lasik equipment and promoting the procedure, so media coverage about its downsides are few and far between. Perhaps even more disturbing is that many Lasik doctors buy their lasers second-hand from other clinics because brand new lasers are too expensive.
But there is some media coverage, for which I’m very grateful. One of the most high-profile articles is probably this NYTimes one, where the author wrote about her own experience with Lasik. The last line is especially poignant — I walk by eyeglass shops and wish I needed to go inside.
Doctors do not know everything
Lasik involves slicing a flap in the cornea. I don’t find the idea of slicing a part of my cornea to be very natural. We have them intact for a reason, I’m sure.
Another thing I’m sure of — doctors and other folk wearing white coats do not know everything. They never have (read this and cry), but we as a society and individuals act as if they do (which is crazy).
Just as our organs change as we age, so will our corneas. What would happen to an aging cornea that’s been sliced? I don’t know, but I guess we’ll find out.
We already know that aging corneas are more susceptible to infection. And that’s just one structural change to it, I’m not even going to delve into the myriad of eye conditions that become more prevalent as we age — all I’m gonna say is there are books written about this subject, people. Who wants to bet that a sliced cornea isn’t going to change the landscape for these already complicated eye conditions and their treatments?
By the way, did you know that the flap doctors make during Lasik can never completely heal? This means that someone who goes for a second eye surgery 10 years after their first Lasik operation will not need a new flap sliced again, the surgeon only needs to lift the old flap up. Knowing this makes my hair stand.
Don’t get me wrong. I know surgeries can save lives.
But Lasik isn’t the difference between life and death. For most people, it’s elective. It’s optional. It’s a “nice-to-have”.
And for me, the risks with Lasik are too high for such a weak potential reward.
If you’re considering going for Lasik, I hope you’ll think twice and not take the decision lightly. And don’t rely on others to be your advocate or give you reassurances, because let’s face reality for one hot minute — eye doctors and sales reps are there to make money off of you. As much as you’d like to think so, they are not your friends.
But the person who cares the most about your well-being and future happiness? Well, that’s you. So be your own fierce advocate and read up as much as you can about Lasik before making a decision.
Here are a few good news segments on Lasik surgeries, their problems and potential complications.
A short list of some of medical science’s shocking errors
- Bloodletting – so popular that at one point, it was standard treatment for almost every ailment.
- Lobotomies – ’nuff said.
- Strong denial of the germ theory – this stubborness likely set us back 50-100 years and led to countless unnecessary deaths on surgical tables and elsewhere (imagine a time when surgeons didn’t believe washing their hands made any difference).
- The promotion of cocaine, heroin and other narcotics – everyone must have had a super great fun-time with this one.
- The promotion of cigarettes – shoulda bought stock.
- X-ray shoe fitters – to bring traffic into shoe stores, these were marketed as great fun for kids, but the radiation led to cancers and genetic defects.
- Thalidomide – a drug for morning sickness, but which led to limb malformation and thousands of miscarriages, stillborns and infant deaths.
- Vioxx – an arthritis drug that likely killed 60,000 people.
- Rezulin, Fen-phen, Propulsid, Baycol…
- …and so many more.
I know it’s tempting to read this list and scoff, because we’re so much smarter and more technically advanced now, right?
But that’s exactly what every person living in every period of the modern age probably thought too.
Time really does make fools of us all.