PRK Corrective Eye Surgery: Weighing the Risks for the Me I See

I’m two weeks away from undergoing PRK (Photorefractive keratectomy) and after fielding incoming questions from my vision enhance friends and colleagues, I’ve started to seriously consider whether undergoing eye surgery is worth the risk.

Until attending an initial consultation at LASIK MD, I had no idea what PRK meant. Nowadays, PRK is used primarily as an alternative for candidates, like myself, who are unable to undergo LASIK for a variety of reasons. Still considered the safer of the two surgeries, PRK involves a more painful recovery which dissuades many potential candidates. I was, in fact, one of those candidates. When I attended my first consultation in 2011, I was told that my corneas were too thin and that, unfortunately, I was not a candidate for LASIK eye correction. I was devastated. I had been mustering the courage to undergo any type of eye correction and suddenly I was faced with an option that sounded extremely painful and much more expensive.

It wasn’t just a little bit of pain that made me shy away from the thought of undergoing PRK. As it turned out, the doctor who presented me with the results of my eye tests had recently endured the procedure. I have since been told that women tend to handle the pain better than men who have undergone the surgery, but when I heard what this doctor had to say, you could have heard my jaw hit the concrete floor. This spokesman for LASIK MD didn’t just confirm agonizing pain. His testimony was along the lines of: “It was 3 days of absolute hell. I shut myself in a dark room drugged up on Tylenol 3s but even those weren’t strong enough. I have never been in such unbearable pain in my entire life. Ever.” Um… thanks? Needless to say, I was a bit taken aback by the honesty of he should be most modest about what to expect and decided to return home and think things over.

A year later, after having done some research on my own and prepping myself for the recovery that will follow, I walked back in for my second consultation. After meeting with the doctors again and discussing the pros and cons of PRK, I’ve scheduled the surgery for two weeks from today and am planning on taking a solid 3 days to recover. Unfortunately, the recovery time varies so much that I could be out of commission for days, weeks, even months! From blurry vision to halos by night (which are the least of my concerns), I have no way of gauging when I’ll be back on my feet… or online! As an active individual who likes to move around, not knowing when I’ll be able to drive my car or keep my balance as I try to run through the woods is a bit disconcerting.

On the other hand, that is why I am choosing to undergo surgery in the first place. Having started wearing glasses on a permanent basis during my undergraduate studies, I am still not use to having my eyes constantly framed by a thick rim and a lens that needs to be cleaned umpteen times a day. Contacts you say? Yes, that does sound like the obvious solution, if only I didn’t suffer from headaches and dry eyes every time I put them in. Now that I no longer play soccer and have to worry about my glasses impairing my performance, I find myself less and less willing to exchange frames for contacts when it comes to going to the gym or getting dressed up for a night on the town.

Consequently, I am now the girl with glasses. It doesn’t sound like a big deal and admittedly, it is a relatively superficial reason for undergoing the knife, but imagine being six feet tall and then one day you wake up and you’re 4 feet short! In the blink of an eye, you are being perceived in a completely different way by those you’ve known for years and even you don’t recognize the person staring back in the mirror. The worst for me is flipping through the hundreds of pictures that remind me of the me I was before. As someone who didn’t go through formative years wearing glasses, I find it hard to resist an opportunity that may help me find my way back.

I can’t wait to be able to wake up and see the every contour of my husbands handsome smile, or walk indoors on a winter day without fogging up. But I’m nervous. Wouldn’t you be? They are my eyes after all. The eyes through which I see the beauty of the world and through which I witness moments that bring me extreme happiness and painful sorrow. If that were jeopardized, I would have no one else to blame but myself. Such is the overwhelming opinion of those around me with 20/20 vision. For them, undergoing surgery for convenience sake is crazy. Despite the fact that there is no record of PRK resulting in blindness, there is a always a risk that something goes wrong and you are left with impaired vision or have to wear glasses, just like before.

For me, the benefits and potential freedom from glasses and contact lenses outweigh the risk. I want to be able to run after my kids without them pulling after my glasses. I want to be able to go for a run and not have to worry about pushing my  sweaty glasses further up my nose. I want to see the world as I am used to seeing the world, and more importantly, I want the world to see the me I am: the me who likes to run and dive head first into the ocean without having to wonder if there is something lurking below me that I can’t see because I left my glasses on the beach. That’s the me I know and while I’m shaking on the inside, I’ve never been more ready for anything in my life.

For a more detailed definition of PRK vs LASIK, visit allaboutvision.com.

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Categories: the view from above | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “PRK Corrective Eye Surgery: Weighing the Risks for the Me I See

  1. Thorsten

    Arden, although the PRK procedure is a more complex one than Lasik (which is what I did) it’s the greatest gift to get your full vision back. May it be a few days of pain but you will feel within a very short time that it was worth it. Just the fact of being able to buy and wear sunglasses that you like and not considering the fact that you can chose to buy the sunglasses that you want, do sports without glasses and go out without either being half blind all night or wearing glasses…. it’s a way of getting your freedom back. Many people declared my crazy when I decided to go for Lasik surgery in Istanbul, Turkey about 2 years ago but I can only say it was the best investment I have ever made for myself…. so don’t be scared just do it and you will literally see yourself….. 🙂

    • Thorsten! Thank you so much for sharing your experience – it is unbelievably comforting to hear from people who have undergone corrective eye surgery and not only lived to tell the tale but recommend it with such zeal! Ich freue mich sehr, wieder Frei zu sein!

  2. Pingback: Post-PRK: Looking Forward… with Perfect Vision | thefriendlygiraffe

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