Lasik surgery is a gamble
I had Lasik surgery done by Dr. Raymond Fong in the summer of 2001. I had just finished my Army service and the corrective surgery was a welcome-home gift from my mom.
I agreed to it for several reasons. My brother had had the procedure with Dr. Fong and he was satisfied with the results. Vanity like Abby Ellin's, the author of the NY Times piece. I was accustomed to wearing glasses, but I never liked them: the dependency, persistent disgusting green growth between the lenses and the rims, the blinder effect, the thick lenses, the hit-or-miss nature of ever-changing prescriptions, the humid feel of them when I was sick, and the lenses fogging up, scratching up, and getting dirty. I gave up on contact lenses because of the expensive and annoying maintenance, their tendency to slip off my eyes, and the uncomfortable daily ritual of deliberately placing foreign objects onto my eyeballs. As a recent soldier, I also had fresh memories of the real vulnerabilities and danger of poor vision and the impracticality of eyeglasses in a tactical environment. The prospect of going from blind and sight-aided to perfect vision with a simple surgical procedure was tantalizing indeed.
Unfortunately, my Lasik surgery didn't leave me with perfect vision. I didn't expect 20/20 vision because with glasses, I had about 20/25 vision. I hoped for 20/20, but if I attained 20/25 with the surgery, I would be satisfied. My vision has been about 20/25 on an eyechart since the surgery, so it was successful in that regard. However, I've learned that many important aspects of vision are not measureable on an eyechart.
Since the Lasik, I've had problems with floaters, ghost images or double vision, contrast sensitivity, glare, halos and starbursts (night vision).
Floaters now have a permanent place moving across my field of vision. I don't know that the floaters were caused by the surgery; it may be that they were already floating free in my vitreous before the surgery, and the way my vision worked through my old glasses disguised them while the removal of glasses revealed them. Be that as it may, floaters continually distract me now and I didn't have a floater problem before the surgery.
When reading over an extended period of time, my vision eventually doubles with a ghost image effect that worsens if I attempt to push through it. This was especially troubling when I was a student. The double vision isn't due to a failure of my two eyes to coordinate, it's there if I use one eye. The effect takes a while to recover. It's happened when television watching, too.
The contrast sensitivity problem is most noticeable when I'm indoors facing the window during a bright day. Close people and objects will be dark against the backlighting from the window - think of a camera that can't be adjusted to fix the light contrast obscuring of an image.
At night, my glare, halo, and starburst problems didn't go away 3-to-4 weeks after the surgery as I had been informed to expect. They just stayed and are as bad now as they were immediately following the surgery. For starbursts, think of TV images where every light source (say, in an indoor sports arena), no matter how far in the background, is surrounded by spikes of light in the foreground that block out whatever's behind them, except the spikes of light in my vision are much more irregular and jagged. Unlike some others, I don't think I've lost my night vision as far as my eyes adjusting to the dark; however, it's hard to say for sure since I live in a city that's lit practically 24/7. I haven't driven a car at night since the surgery.
Like Abby Ellin's doctor, Dr. Fong seemed to "gaslight" my complaints and concerns. He kept insisting that the surgery was a success, and it was, if judged exclusively by the standard of an eyechart test. He eventually admitted that the technology to fix my side effects didn't exist yet. (Does it now? I should find out.) Maybe that's why Lasik practicioners seem so unconcerned about certain Lasik-related complaints - there really isn't anything they can do to solve those problems. It would seem that I fell into the percentage of Lasik recipients for whom the fine print applies.
Do I regret having the Lasik surgery? Yes. Correctable, even if inconveniently corrected with glasses, vision, with full utility of aspects of vision beyond the eyechart, is better than improved vision with uncorrectable side effects. Lasik has worked well enough for enough people so that I would not advise anyone who asked not to get the surgery, but I would caution them that it's a gamble.