My PRK Experience
Now that I’m almost two months through my PRK experience, I’m comfortable writing about it. If you landed here cause you, like me, have been freaking out about your progress and want to find someone with a matching story to help your sanity…. then hopefully you landed at the right place. But…. let’s start back at the beginning.
Background: First, I’m 42. Had -3.25 in my right eye, and -3.75 in my left eye. Wore contacts/glasses for 30 years. Have always considered Lasik eye surgery. You know, the one where you go in and the next day WALLA, your eyesight is amazing. You wake up and see the time on your bedside clock. Yeah, I wanted that. This is 2020, and our family used barely any of our medical flex spending money so instead of losing it, I thought this would be the perfect time to get that fancy eye surgery. I had the money, I had vacation time, I was at home and could recover easily……
I have a close acquaintance who is an eye doctor and told me he would take great care of me. So I went in for the consultation and sure enough, I was a perfect candidate for Lasik. However, he recommended that I got PRK. (Cue WTF is that in my brain)… It’s a safer version, a little bit longer recovery time (more on that in a bit), less expensive, and the results are the same in the end.
Ok, if that’s what he recommends, sure why not.
Pre-Op and Surgery Day: I was really good about doing the pre-surgery drops, and had my contacts out for like 3 weeks ahead of the surgery. My wife brought me to the surgery center the day of the surgery. I got the Valium, and the run down. Everything was pretty smooth.
When it was time to go back for surgery, I was ready. 30 years of blurry vision and contacts were behind me.
Now, PRK. Instead of creating a flap and zapping your eyes, the surgeon removes the epithelium layer completely before zapping. You can read about the differences in a million other places. But this was weird. You feel nothing but can watch the “brushing” away of the skin layers. Then ZAP ZAP ZAP, for what seems like about 20 seconds, a laser zaps your eye. No pain, just weird sensation.
Then the surgeon flushes some liquid (maybe water) on your eye and for a few seconds, you see perfectly. Then it’s going blurrish. The surgeon puts a “bandage contact lens” on your eye, and walla. That eye is done. I chose to do both eyes at the same time. I was in the surgery for like 10 minutes. Boom.
Done, walked out. Could sorta see. Got home and slept off the valium. This was Tuesday, September Sept 29, 2020.
**Reading through this, I’ve found myself making some comments about my Doctor that may be viewed as negative. My recovery was on the longer side, and his expectations were around “normal recovery” I want to be clear. He’s been outstanding. He has checked in on me via text and told me to contact him anytime for any reason, which I have. I couldn’t recommend him and his office more.**
Day 1–2: Things are uncomfortable. A bit itchy. Can’t really see well. Had my day after appointment (Wednesday) and asked about driving. My vision was like 20/100 or something. Not good enough to drive, but the doctor told me I should be good that weekend or maybe in a week. My vision was not good at all, but since I stated more in the 20/300 range, I could tell it was better. It would be a week or so for the epithelium layer to heal and then it would be better. Well, not exactly.
Day 3: Day 3 sucked. Eyes itched bad and hurt. They warned me about Day 3 and it didn’t disappoint. I mostly tried to stay sane as I wasn’t watching anything. Lots of audiobooks. My phone and computer were worthless to use since I couldn’t really read. I bumped the font size up pretty large.
I should say something about drops. For the first few weeks, I used the preservative-free drops religiously. In fact, I did for the first 6 weeks almost on the hour. They feel so great, and also give you a few seconds of really great vision.
Week 2: I’m actually going to jump ahead to my 2-week follow-up appointment. I didn’t pass the vision test to drive so that was still a no-go. I was a bit frustrated since I thought I would be ok to drive by then, but apparently not. The surgeon wasn’t super worried and said everyone heals differently. My vision was still like a 20/80 in both eyes and I had ghosting in both eyes, worse in the left eye.
Week 3–4: My vision doesn’t seem to be getting better. At this point, I’m reading blogs online and Quora questions. Lots of reddits as well. I’ll admit, I didn’t really research the PRK differences much before the surgery. My bad, but I had my doctor telling me it was going to be fine after 4 weeks. But now that I’m searching, people are saying that recovery could be as long as 3 months or longer. Are you f***ing kidding? Doc told me it would be a few weeks, and in fact, at my 2 week, he said at my 4 week, I’d be perfect.
Well, at my 4-week appointment, I was 20/50 in my right eye and who knows in my left. That’s right, we couldn’t even get a read on the left. The ghosting was so bad. My right eye was not ok either. Now, I knew it was going to be bad numbers since I couldn’t see well at all at home, but the surgeon had several tests and basically told me “well, you’re in the 1% who it doesn’t work for, so we’ll schedule a touch up for a few weeks from now.”
Now, I had read enough online to tell the doc that “it’s your timelines and expectations that are causing anxiety here. I’ve seen enough online that says I need to chill for 3 months before considering anything like that.” He didn’t disagree and said everyone is different but it isn’t normal where I was.
So, I went on my blurry way.
Week 5: More of the same. Blurry vision although decent enough for me to drive. I’m not driving at night as the starbursts on lights are so bad, and headlights on cars are painful to look at. Still struggling to read anything. Can’t see across the room. Can barely read words on our 55" TV. Really questioning what I did.
Week 6: Not sure what happened, but it is starting to feel like I can see a bit better. I should note, that doctor gave me some Restasis samples so I have been using them for a few weeks. Also, he hooked me up with a lipiflow treatment for dry eyes. Not sure if either of them helped (the lipiflow is strange but felt great) and the Restasis, burns but seems to help.
Now, I found myself picking locations around the house and on my usual drives to “compare” my eyes from last time. Week 6 is the first week I seemed to be getting some improvement. My right eye has gotten a bit sharper, but the left is blurrier and has ghosting still.
Went in for my 6-week follow-up. 20/20 in my right eye and 20/40 in my left eye. Now, if this “20/20” they are saying is what I paid for, then I got duped. I could make out the letters a bit, but lots of guessing. In fact, I’m like “Yeah, I can tell it’s a “Z”, but can barely read it.”……
But, at this point, I’m thrilled. Not thrilled that they are calling this a 20/20 or 20/40 experience …. but I definitely felt better about the eyes.
Week 7: Things are continuing to progress even if really slow. My vision right when I wake up is blurry, but I put in some drops and it gets much better. So clearly, there’s still some dry eye going on. The morning until about 2 pm has good vision out of the right eye, and left eye is still a bit blurry. My eyes start to get tired at about 330pm. I can almost see ghosting move around, it's more blurry. Night vision is hard still. But feeling better.
Week 8: This has been the best week so far. When I’m outside vision is very good. The left eye still has some ghosting which causes blurriness. The right eye still does as well, but overall, I’m seeing improvements that feel like daily. In fact, This is the first week I’ve felt that I’m in good shape and just waiting for some healing.
I forgot to note, that at my 6-week check-up, the doctor said “I generally tell people that you need 1 month or each amount of correction. Since I had -3.75 and -3.25, that would be between 3 and 4 months.”
Now, that may have been better to hear earlier. To be honest, though, I didn’t really ask. But, considering I’m just through two months and am seeing big improvements recently, I’m really looking forward to the next 4 weeks for sure.
NOTE: If you are reading this, trying to help your mind cause you had PRK and are freaking out. Let me say this is the first week I’ve been feeling things are going to be great. This is two months after the surgery. In fact, up until week 7, I had severe ghosting in my left eye, while my right eye never had ghosting. Each day gets a little better and better. My left eye still has ghosting but it is slowly improving.
Week 9: There has been more and more improvement. In fact, in really good light, things are fantastic now. The ghosting in my left eye seems to have gotten better over the past few days.
With that said, after about 3 pm, my vision starts to get a bit blurry and ghosting comes back. Nighttime TV and driving are ok but blurry. I’m hoping (and expecting) this is just a natural part of the stabilization process.
Week 10: More of the same. Still with some ghosting in the left eye and still not as sharp as the right eye, especially when reading text/numbers at a distance.
I can still tell that it’s getting better, little by little each day. A digital clock (on our ecobee or microwave) really helps tell the progress. You can really tell when things look sharp or not.
I’m still using Restasis and preservative-free drops during the day. Also have a follow-up with the doctor next week, which I’m looking forward to.
Week 11: Had a checkup with the doctor. Measured errors of 0/0 in my right eye, and 0/.5 astig in my left. Didn’t have astig before, so not sure if I’m just presenting that due to eyes getting better, or if it’s a thing. My right eye is pretty great, as you can imagine. However, the left is good, but not quite there. It’s frustrating. Although it seems like it is still making small progress.
Since my last appointment though, things got quite a bit better. The point is that they are still changing so we’re not really considering any enhancements at this time. We scheduled for 6 weeks out to do another check-up. The doctor is still pretty sure that my left eye is “going to turn the corner”…..
The hardest thing to try not to do is cover one eye and recognize the difference. When I’m using both eyes, the ghosting/astig is noticed, but just barely. When I go with “one eye” view, I really notice. Since things can continue to change slowly, it’s probably not good for me mentally.
My vision is good, not great. Well, maybe “Good +” or “Great -”.
Week 12: Well, not much to report right now. My left eye is still a bit blurrier especially when reading. However, with both eyes open it’s hard to even notice it.
Being at the three-month mark now, it’ll be interesting to see which direction this goes. On one hand, there’s plenty of comments out there that at this point your vision is stable. However, plenty of other comments say 3–6 months have more healing time and that three months is still early in the healing process.
Week 13 & 14: More of the same. Right eye is super sharp and I’d bet my vision in my right eye is 20/15 or better. So clear and sharp and can everything across the room. Left eye is still a bit blurry when reading anything beyond 5 feet or so. Seems like it’s getting better albeit very slow.
Week 15: My vision continues to crisp up. My left eye, the one presenting with .5 astigmatism, still struggles to read small words at really any distance beyond a few feet. Right eye is like a hawk. It’s so strange how good it is. I hope the left eye eventually catches up, which I have hope that it will. I have an appointment in a few weeks where we should get some official measurements.
Week 16: Vision is still fluctuating. The right eye is in really good shape. Very crisp. The left eye seems to be still improving albeit very slowly. It’s really hard to tell. I have an appointment next week. A really weird thing. I have a hard time with some words (fonts, colors, etc matter) even as close as a foot or two away. However, I can sometimes (from my living room) read the license plate on my neighbor's car across the street. Makes no sense. Another thing, I still have some starbursts and halos at night, so healing must still be going.
This is such a long process……….
Month 4: Going to move to monthly updates (will additions for dr. visits). At this point, I’m at 4 months post-PRK. Yesterday, I had a check-up. Here are the details:
Did several scans and tests. Doc walked me through them.
The manual eye, the “which is better 1 or 2” test was great for the right eye but we’re still struggling a bit to get a solid preference on the left eye.
In the scans, the topo is looking good, but the left eye still has some “remodeling” which the doc uses to describe the healing of the epithelial. Errors across the board have improved if even slightly.
At this point, we’re discussing enhancement on the left eye, however, it wouldn’t surprise him if time heals the left eye. Next appointment in 6 weeks.
Month 5: Ok, it’s been 5 months. Haven’t had an appt since the last update, that’s in a couple of weeks. But, now that it’s been 5 months since surgery, here’s my current update.
Which isn’t much of an update. Right eye great, left eye good but with ghosting.
First, it’s winter in MN. Air is dry overall, and I know my left eye is dryer than the right. No idea why the difference, but I can just feel it. While I’m not convinced it’s the only thing causing a bit of blur on my vision, it’s for sure contributing.
In the daytime, when the sun is shining, I can see very well with both eyes. I notice ghosting on digital displays and street/freeway signs. After about 4 pm and for sure when it gets dark, the left eye blurriness is amplified.
However, I want to note, that while I see ghosting in the left eye, which I’ve had the entire healing time, I can also “see” fantastic crisp letters as well. It gets its blurriness from the much lighter colored, but very visible ghosting. I’m really hoping that these model away or heal out.
DR. APPT — Month 5
So, while I still had a few weeks to go until my appointment, I texted my doc this morning to vent a bit. He told me to come into the office to run measurements, which I did. (Another reminder to make sure your doctor is focused on you and your recovery. Mine has been incredible. Is very responsive when I have questions. I can’t stress how important that is and how much I’ve appreciated it)
For the first time, we were able to get a refraction test to measure my left eye…. the one that is lagging. -.25 and .75 astigmatism. Enough to definitely cause blurriness.
In the right eye, I got 3 out of 5 on the 20/15 line. No astigmatism. That eyeball is perfect.
So, we booked prk enhancement for the left eye, happening on March 18th. Will start updates again then…….
PRK Update — Month 6 | Enhancement — Day 1
I’ve got my left eye enhancement coming up on Thursday. At this point, I’m going to focus my updates on that specific part. At this point, my right eye is solid and while I’d like to see the starbursts at night go away, I’m thrilled with the results in that eye.
Drops started today for Thursday’s procedure.
ENHANCEMENT SURGERY DAY
Pretty much the exact same process as before. Wave measurement. They also did a refractive test, and the wave measurements matched the refractive test. So that’s good.
Got zapped for like 5 seconds max. The first time seemed longer for sure. Much better this time since I have a perfect eye so I’m basically just here with a dry eye and a perfect one. Won’t miss much of anything. Went home. Slept off the Valium. Put in some refresh drops.
Day 2: Doctor Appt Followup
Such a different recovery. I have my really good eye to carry me through this recovery. In fact, last night, I almost forgot I had the procedure since it’s not very noticeable.
Measurements on left eye were 20/50, 18 hours post opp. Vision is fully blurry. Fully expected. Right eye we measured at 20/15 line. So happy. Educated guessing based on shapes for the left eye though. Haha.
I have next to no expectations for good vision in my left eye for 6–8 weeks. Will probably not provide much for updates on here unless things are different than my expectations.
Week 1: So far, so good. Had my check up and got the bandage contact removed. Obviously, things are blurry, but no real issues. The difference between having one really good eye, and the really fuzzy one is very noticeable. It’s annoying, but I’m not expecting much for at least the next month or so, minimum.
Week 2: I have a feeling the enhancement has done a good job. The eye is in much better shape at 2 weeks than last time. When I put the preservative-free drops in, things look good for a few seconds, but after a blink or two, it goes back to ghosty double images. Pretty sure that means I just need to keep healing. So far, so good. Dr. appt tomorrow and will share anything special, but I’m guessing that’ll be a quick check-up without much to look at.
2 Week Dr. APPT: The doctor appointment went about as good as I could have asked. First old news, then new news.
Old News: Right eye. The good one. Got 4/5 on the 20/10 line. The eye tester thing also measured “0" and “0" meaning my eye didn’t want any prescription. This is as good as it gets.
New News: Left eye. The one that got the enhancement. I got a couple on the 20/20 line, but I have ghosting that is annoying and makes it not a clear 20/20. Had this before. However, the cool thing was that with the eye tester, my eye measured “0” and “0” as well. So that is very positive. Ghosting will go away with time (hopefully), but the 0/0 measurement is awesome. The last time, we couldn’t even get a reading on my left eye until like 8 weeks. Next appointment in 3 months.
Week 3: Feeling pretty good. Words that I struggled to see before, I can see better. There’s still some ghosting, but I’m certain that in appropriate time, things will be in good shape. Really looking for the crispness that I have in my right eye.
One thing overall though, is that I have star bursting in both eyes at night. Mostly recognizable when I’m driving and there are oncoming headlights and streetlights.
Week 4: Healing continues, but not a lot to report. Ghosting continues in the left eye that is better after eye drops so I’m guessing it’s dry eye-related in addition to just where we are at for natural healing. Week 6–8 was when I saw things crisp up pretty good during my first procedure, so looking forward to the next month or so of progress.
Week 5: More of the same. Still ghosting in the left. Starbursts with both eyes at night. My “enhanced eye” is better than at this time in the first recovery. That makes me feel good, and look for big improvements over the next 2–4 weeks.
Week 6: Same old, same old. Hope to see the ghosting vanish soon. Not too bad, but it’s still noticeable
Week 7: First, same old. Still have some smudginess/ghosting in my left eye. My nighttime starbursts on lights are also still really noticeable, even in my right eye that has been good. I’m worried it has to do with the size of the treatment zone. If I turn on the interior lights in my Jeep, the starbursts go way down. Really hoping that can resolve, but not banking on that.
Week 8: Looking back, this is when clarity really started to kick in. Really hoping that the minor ghosting that hasn’t really improved, starts to go away soon. With that said, my vision is better than it was pre-enhancement.
Nighttime starbursts on lights are still there on both eyes. Would really love those to disappear as well.
Week 9: Not much change at all over the past few weeks. I’m starting to wonder if my healing has stopped, although I know I shouldn’t think that way.
Week 10: May 27, Week 11: June 3: Not much to report. I’m thinking that my healing may be over or at least, the major changes. My close vision is still not 100% but my distance is pretty good. Looking forward to doctor appointment in a few weeks.
Week 12: June 10
Week 13: June 17
Week 14: June 24 | 3.5 Month Follow Up Appointment
THINGS TO REMEMBER OR CONSIDER:
- I’m not going to give a “what’s better” for Lasik or PRK. That’s between you and your doctor. I’ve had friends do both. And feedback seems to be longer dry eyes for Lasik, and frustrating recovery for PRK.
- You’ll need a full week off of work for sure after PRK. If you can take two weeks, you may need it. I can’t imagine if I had to drive into work for that first month.
- If you are at any point before 4–6 weeks, do not freak out. My vision was so blurry and bad at 4 weeks. Terrible.
- I didn’t feel good enough to drive until 4 weeks, and that was probably pushing it. 6 weeks was better, and it wasn’t until 8 weeks that I was confidently driving and reading signs etc.
- I really didn’t feel much (if any) improvement for the first 6 weeks. It went from 20/300 pre-surgery to like 20/60 or so post and that’s what it was for 6 weeks. I had all the side effects, halos, ghosting, blurriness, tired and dry eyes, etc. When I drove, it was for like 2 miles. While I have seen people online say they were fully good after a few weeks, I wasn’t and there are lots of people who aren’t.
- Weeks 7 and 8, I made significant improvements. Still, a ways to go for sure, but it’s crazy how much better it has gotten. It’s weird to think that for 6 weeks it was the same blurry garbage, and then wham, almost daily it was improving fast.
- I can’t tell you how many times I have been upset, depressed, disappointed, sad, and a million other emotions. People start feeling bad when you are still asking for a ride. I’ve been in some dark places. But, when I said to myself that “I’m giving it three months” I started to take it better.
- Week 8 has had clarity unlike I’ve ever known. Today I was out running some errands, and I almost wanted to cry as I looked at the world in a way I never have. Sure, contacts and glasses got me to clear, but nothing compares to what I have now. I’d say I’m closer to 20/25 in both eyes although some residual stuff going on. But it’s clearer and getting crisp. It’s incredible.
- Week 11 my right eye is very crisp and clear. The left is still a little fuzzy/ghosty. I think the right eye is close to 20/20 or 20/15. Left is not quite, so maybe a 20/25 or 20/30 still.