Posted by: "Muhammad Masry massrii
Tue Mar 18, 2008 9:09 am (PDT)
Lasik Surgery: When the Fine Print Applies to You
By Abby Ellin on March 15, 2008
I WAS vain.
That’s the only way I can explain why I willingly let a doctor cut my corneas with a laser: vanity.
Little did I know when I chose Lasik surgery that I would not end up satisfied like the friends and acquaintances who raved about their post-glasses existence. Instead, my days are complicated, since I am dealing with side effects that are far more bothersome than being unfashionably four-eyed.
I had been wearing eyeglasses since I was 8, and I was tired of never seeing the stars without glare, of not being able to go rock-climbing unless I secured my glasses. Not to mention the horn-rimmed barrier between me and a date.
I had trouble figuring out which side of a contact lens to stick onto my eye, so I never really gave contacts a chance.
I had been considering Lasik — short for laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis, which entails cutting and reshaping the cornea — since the Food and Drug Administration approved it in the late ’90s. Because I was not too nearsighted and not too old, ophthalmologists told me I was an excellent candidate. But I wanted to wait until more people had gone under the laser.
Roughly 800,000 patients have had Lasik annually since 2000, spending about $2.5 billion on the procedure every year, said David Harmon, the president of Market Scope, a research company for the ophthalmic industry in Manchester, Mo.
The American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery reports a 95.4-percent patient satisfaction rate for Lasik, based on a recent analysis of research worldwide. The researchers found 19 studies specifically addressing patient satisfaction from the last decade, encompassing roughly 2,022 patients. (Some had been post-op for a month; others for a decade).
Most ophthalmologists are confident about the efficacy of Lasik, as well as another popular procedure — photorefractive keratectomy, or P.R.K. Both are designed to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.
“It’s very few people who don’t have a superb outcome, especially with the new technology,” said Dr. Marguerite McDonald, the president of the International Society of Refractive Surgery of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
About five of my friends had undergone the surgery. “Life-changing,” they cooed. “Miraculous!” Because my 40th birthday was looming, my parents offered me either a cello or Lasik. I chose Lasik. But first, I looked up studies online and consulted three doctors. Each did a spate of tests and pronounced me an excellent candidate.
I asked about the risks, and they explained that some people come away with dry eye, double vision, decreased contrast sensitivity and decreased night vision. Some see halos around lights. I was assured these side effects were rare, and usually fleeting.
Ultimately, I chose Dr. Sandra Belmont, the founding director of the Laser Vision Correction Center at NewYork-Presbyteria n Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Dr. Belmont also runs a corneal fellowship program at Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital.
A doctor who was a patient of hers recommended her. She charges between $4,500 and $5,500; I paid $4,500, nearly $1,000 less than other quotes I had received, a consideration since my insurance, like most, does not cover elective surgery.
I signed a consent form confirming that I understood the risks. I thought I did understand them. I did not know then that 5 to 10 percent of patients need to have their vision fine-tuned — or in industry parlance, “enhanced” — after surgery because of an under- or over-correction, according to John Ciccone, a spokesman for the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery.
Nor had I spoken to any individuals who wished they had never had the procedure — of which, I have since learned, there are plenty.
On April 13, 2007, I had the surgery. Dr. Belmont’s colleague examined me the next day. My vision was a little blurry, but apparently that was normal. Dr. Belmont said that everything looked good on subsequent visits, too. But the blurriness never went away.
At night, I saw halos around streetlights; neon signs bled; the moon had two rings around it like Saturn. My eyes felt sore, a result of dry eye, which also causes sporadic blurriness.
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