I received my first pair of glasses when I was about nine years old. I didn’t like them. Kids in school used to make fun of my big ‘ol glasses and two ponytails…
Not my best look…
At fifteen, I moved on to contact lenses. I guess I followed my older sister Alyssa’s footsteps since she had started wearing colored contacts. I was more than happy to get rid of my glasses. It felt like a rite of passage to move on from glasses to contact lenses.
Without my glasses, I felt more confident in being active and playing contact sports in school such as Captain’s ball. I used to love that game! Except when the ball hit me in the face while I had my glasses on, ouch.
Even running was a breeze; I didn’t have my glasses slipping down my sweaty nose. It was cool to step out of an air-conditioned room and not have my glasses fog up, paralyzing my vision for a few seconds. Needless to say, switching from glasses to contacts was easy.
I became really dependent on wearing them. I developed a bad habit of wearing them for too long that sometimes it made my eyes extremely dry. I’ve even worn my contacts to sleep, especially when traveling on long haul flights. I switched from monthly contacts to extended wear daily contacts since I realised I needed to wear them for the most part of the day. Even the daily contacts didn’t help very much with the occasional dry eyes; I guess I just shouldn’t be wearing them for more than 12 hours a day!
Once it got so dry that the contacts literally fell out of my eye.
Alyssa did LASIK a few years ago, when she was my age. (Quite a fateful coincidence now that we think of it!) I just turned a year older in August and I was curious to find out if I was eligible for refractive surgery too. Perhaps this was another rite of passage for me – from wearing glasses to contacts lens to permanently correcting my eyesight!
What is laser vision correction surgery/refractive surgery? Laser vision correction surgery, also known as refractive laser eye surgery refers to any surgical treatment using lasers to correct problems such as myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism, to decrease your dependency on glasses or contact lens.
How does it work? The treatment works by reshaping the cornea (the clear front portion of the eye) so that light traveling through is properly focused onto the retina for a sharp and clear image.
I scheduled an appointment at one of the LASIK clinic at Paragon Medical on September 3rd. On the day of consultation, I had to undergo a few eye tests/pre-refractive surgery evaluation that will provide detailed information on the health of my eyes. I couldn’t wait to get LASIK done!
Alyssa accompanied me to the LASIK Clinic in Paragon. Turns out she did LASIK at the same clinic too, six years ago!
When I arrived at the clinic, I had to fill out some forms with my personal particulars and medical history. My nurse was very thorough with her explanation on the pre-refractive surgery evaluation. The evaluation process took about two hours.
We started the evaluation process with five different machines that gave specific information about my eyes. 1) The auto-refractor evaluates my prescription. 2) Next was the non-contact tonometer that assesses the eye pressure. 3) The wavescan machine picks up imperfections in the eye so that the lasik procedure can provide a precise correction (aka it determines which part of the cornea needs to be lasered). 4) The orb scan analyses the corneal thickness.
The orb scan looked like a hypnotic device! Pretty cool.
Lastly, 5) the penta-cam – it measures cornea thickness and cross sectional view of the anterior structure such as the iris and lens.
We moved from one machine to the other quite briefly. The tests didn’t take more than five minutes each. I was perplexed to find out that it took so many different machines to analyze the eyes, just goes to show how complex our eyes are.
I’m sure many of you would’ve had to do this Visual Acuity Test to find out the prescription of your eyes if you ever needed to wear glasses. The test measures the sharpness of vision by grading the ability of the eye to discern diminishing sizes of alphabets, numbers or shapes at a specified distance of six metres.
Here’s the medical lowdown on my eyes:
Right eye: 725° myopia / 100° astigmatism
Left eye: 550° myopia / 100° astigmatism
As you see, I have a pretty high prescription and what is considered near-sightedness or myopia, which is fairly common. The prevalence of myopia in Singapore is one of the highest in the world, affecting around 20% of children aged seven years and 80% of boys by the time they enter National Service.
The good news is, my eye prescription hadn’t changed for over four years. Bear in mind that eye prescriptions tend to change throughout your twenties. If you can prove that you have a stable prescription, you might be a good candidate for laser eye surgery.
My nurse helped to apply dilating eye drops for the second round of Visual Acuity Test. My eyes stung just a little bit, but only momentarily.
Relaxing the focusing muscles of the eye allows for a more accurate measurement of refractive error. It is extremely important that they get the most precise readings, hence the tests had to be very thorough.
While waiting for the dilating eye drops to take effect, I watched a short animated video on the different types of laser eye surgeries to correct myopia. It gave me a clear idea on how the procedures are done, what to expect and the preparations required pre and post surgery.
After watching the video, I did a second round of the Visual Acuity Test followed by a consultation with the doctor.
Based on my eye test results, my doctor concluded that I was a suitable candidate for either LASIK or ReLEx Smile.
What is ReLEx Smile?
ReLEx Smile is entirely different from LASIK, as there is no longer the need to create a corneal flap. Instead, a small incision is made in the cornea and the lenticule is dissected and extracted through the small incision. In general, ReLEx Smile has minimal post-op discomfort as only a micro incision is made on the corneal surface. This means 1) faster recovery time and 2) almost no pain and 3) less susceptibility to trauma or complications post-surgery.
Is it safe? I had to ask if my doctor did any corrective eye surgery himself. He did LASEK a years ago, before ReLEx Smile was introduced. From his experience, LASEK was a little more painful and took a slightly longer time to heal.
I was very excited about this new and advanced technology, it was also important to know:
How experienced is my doctor with ReLEx Smile?
“I just did ReLEx Smile surgery for two clients this morning”, he said with a smile. I found out that he started doing the procedure since 2012 and so far, had no complications with any of his clients.
After answering a lot of my questions, I found confidence in my doctor and we scheduled the surgery for the very next day.
I arrived at the clinic just before 10am. The nurses were already busy preparing the surgery room. I had to read and sign a surgery consent form. I read everything thoroughly, in case I had any doubts or questions to ask the doctor. It wasn’t too late to back out. (For a split second I wanted to chicken out because I was scared!)
But all’s good. I knew I was in good hands.
I was eager to get through with the surgery but at the same time, a little nervous. This is going to be life-changing! The doctor gave me a valium for my anxiety, which helped calm my nerves. I tend to get really sweaty hands when I’m anxious.
That was the last time I wore those glasses. Alyssa had to wear a surgical gown too so she could enter the surgery room.
Before the surgery, my nurse gave step-by-step instructions on what I needed to do post-surgery.
- Wear the protective eye shields or goggles for the first 24 hours, then nightly for a week when I sleep.
- Optive lubricating eyedrops every hour or as often as needed
- Vigamox and Maxidex eyedrop: 1 drop per eye every 2 hours until bedtime on the 1st day of surgery followed by 1 drop per eye 4 times a day from the 2nd day to the 14th day. I had to apply Vigamox followed by Maxidex eyedrops at least 5 minutes apart.
- Lidcare eye wipes to clean the eye area in the morning and night for the first 3 days. I wasn’t allowed to wash my face as it might get soap or water in the eyes.
She then applied some antiseptic to clean the eye area as a preparation for the surgery.
“Suction on.” I heard a robotic female voice. “Ready.” I focused on the green light as instructed. I kept very still and continued to breathe deeply and slowly. The laser treatment took about 30 seconds to precisely create the refractive lenticule. A micro incision of about 2 to 4 mm was created.
“Suction off.” The bed moved away from under the blue light and Doc manually extracted and removed the refractive lenticule through the micro incision. I tried to imagine what the procedure looked like from a third person the whole time. For me, it just felt like the doctor was “cleaning” my eye. I couldn’t focus my eyes and all I could see was a blurry light.
Finally, Doc cleaned my eye with a clean cotton wipe again and removed the metal clamp. The right eye was done. Other than a slight discomfort, there was no pain at all. The procedure took about five minutes for each eye. It was all over very quickly!
I tried to open my eyes but the eyelids felt a really heavy. The feeling was quite similar to chopping onions, minus the stinging. Doc did one last eye check and told me that I was good to go!
The nurses adviced me to take the sleeping pills when I got home. This would allow my eyes time to heal and help me get through the uncomfortable phase after the numbing drops wore off.
As soon as I got home, I slept the whole afternoon with the googles on. I woke up every two hours to have a little peek of my new vision. It was still a little blurry but improved every time I went back to sleep and woke up again. AMAZING!
The aftercare instructions were essentially no eye makeup for a week (meh), no exercise for at least three days (that’s not so bad), no washing of the face and hair with soap for the next two days (eeeks) and no water sports for the first month. It hasn’t been a month since the surgery yet; I can’t wait to be able to see underwater!
The next day, I returned to the clinic on my own for the first post-op review. I was already able to see clearly enough, although it wasn’t 100% yet. I did another Visual Acuity Test followed by a brief consultation with the doctor.
I felt totally normal. It’s like wearing contact lenses, except I’m not! These are my real eyes and I’m able to see with them perfectly. I can’t stop saying how amazing ReLEx Smile technology is. To be able to see the minute I open my eyes in the morning is the most refreshing feeling, still quite new to me.
I had a second post-op review a week later. My eyes were pretty much healed and Doc gave me the green light to start wearing eye make-up again.
20/20 vision! It’s almost surreal to think it was attainable for me. I gotta give it to my doctor for the meticulous work he had to do on my eyes. He did such an amazing job!
The following day after the second post-op, I flew to Germany for a chance to visit the Adidas headquarters in Nürnberg. I made sure I consistently used the antibiotic eyedrops and lubricating drops as directed to avoid any chance of dry eyes.
I can’t wait to share my next journey through my new vision. Stay tuned!