December 18, 2004

Under the laser

eye.jpgWell, this news is quite "after the fact" but, well, I had surgery on Thursday, the second surgery in my life. (The other being the removal of wisdom teeth.) I've been pretty blessed to escape the knife for this long, and this one was elective surgery: I had Lasik done.

I've been watching the advances of laser eye correction for a while now. My eyesight had always been good enough that I couldn't justify it for a long time. I've just got barely good enough eyesight to pass the drivers license test without glasses being required. (That statement should be rewritten into the past tense.) I also had difficulty with reading street signs at night, or making out overhead menu at a fast-food joint.

Surgical eye correction, the type that involves reshaping the lens, has changed radically over the past few years. First was the Radial Keratomy in which they would make radial slits in the lens, and the resulting scarring would reshape the lens into something more optimal. It was a pretty inexact science from what I can tell, and it was only useful for correcting nearsightedness.

Then came the basic Lasik procedure that used a laser to shape the lens. It seemed significantly better and had some pretty impressive results. Finally they came up with a procedure which has a bunch of brand names like CustomVue or WaveFront or SuperVision. With this procedure there is first a detailed mapping of the shape of the lens created by bouncing a wave off the eye and somehow using the bounced waveform to get an idea of the subtle imperfections of the eye. I believe I read somewhere that it had been first used in Astronomy (improving telescope optics) but some innovative person applied the technique to opthamology.

So once they have a detailed map of the eye, they can actually do a very detailed resurfacing of the lens, again with the use of a laser. When my eyes got examined by the wave-front device, it was determined that in addition to a notable astigmatism I also had a pretty high degree of "second order imperfections" in my eyes, especially the left eye.

To make a long story short, I felt the time had come to get the surgery. There wasn't likely to be much of an improvement on the techniques; there was enough existing data to suggest that the procedure didn't have any significant side-effects; waiting longer just didn't seem likely to pay off. And on the other hand, every year I waited would just be another year of seeing the world without that extra level of clarity.

I don't think I'm going to write about the actual surgery right now. I'm a little tired, so I'll put off A Clockwork Orange Redux for a couple days. Stay tuned though—especially if you have a macabre fascinating with that sort of thing—because I have video of the procedure! (Not for the faint of heart.)

I will give you a end of the story however. My vision is fine. Lots of things I couldn't see with clarity I now can. Just an hour ago I looked up at the stars and marveled at the fact that they were actual pinpoints of light. The day after surgery I was able to read the 20/15 line of the eye chart, and the doctor thinks in a few weeks I'll be reading the 20/10 line. So the surgery was a success.

Posted by Murray Todd Williams at December 18, 2004 10:23 AM
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