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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lasik retrospective

Ready for Take Off by vyxle from flickr (CC-NC)

It's been over six month since I had my eye operation, so it's time for a quick retrospective.

I was a fairly atypical patient. Before operation I had mild short-sightedness, about -1.5 in each eye. It wasn't annoying enough for me to ever bother with glasses or contact lenses. I might had some use for them if I ever bothered driving or something like that, but driving in London is a ridiculous idea. And perhaps not even that, I cycled without problems for years.

If you think about it, there are surprisingly few common activities that require highly precise long distance vision. Most of our lives are spent in small rooms, interacting with people and objects no further than a few meters away from us, and the only benefit from long distance vision is knowing that the bus is coming towards you and you should stay off road, not its registration number. Long-sightedness seems like a much worse problem in modern civilization - what use is precise distant vision if you cannot even read what's on the screen, or see faces of people standing next to you clearly?

Anyway, perhaps more due to my transhumanist drive towards self-improvement than an actual pressing need, I decided to go for surgery. To get laser eye correction you need your vision to be stable - unlike with glasses and lenses you cannot change the lasering every couple of years. And you need money, as unfortunately NHS doesn't yet fund corrective eye surgery. What good is socialized medicine, if the only time I needed it I had to pay with my own money? Oh well, that's a rant for another day. Here's the clinic I used.

What operation looks like

Before the operation I underwent a series of eye tests with a lot of fancy machinery. There was obviously the "focus on the picture" machine, looking at letters through a series of lenses, and also machines I haven't seen before - one that puffed into my eyes and observed effects of puffing (I was supposed not to blink), and another that projected rotating light line onto my eye, also no blinking allowed. And there were a few more tests I don't remember too well.

On the day of operation, it went really quickly. First I got anesthetizing eye drops and had to wait there for half an hour or so. Then I was laid on a table, and the operation begun. To prevent blinking some plastic contraption was put around my eye, keeping the eyelid open. Water was poured onto it to clean it up and lubricate, and then some big machine pressed it so it stayed in place. Normally eyes wander around all the time, it feels really weird to have an eye in place and pressed upon. Really weird. It was time for the first laser - it cut a flap in my eye. Then the machine was removed and the flap was moved aside by the surgeon. Of course with a flap removed from my eye, I could barely see anything, it was extremely blurry. I was told to look at a green dot in front of my, while then the second laser reshaped my eye. After a few seconds the lasering was over, and the surgeon put the flap back on its place. I was given a minute of rest, and the same procedure was applied to the second eye. The whole thing lasted perhaps 10 minutes.

After that, I was left in a darkened room to rest for 20 minutes. A good thing I remembered to take my MP3 player with me, otherwise I would be bored to death (of course no reading allowed). Then a quick vision check, I got a bunch of eye drops and was sent home.

First weeks after operation

There was no waiting for the results - I instantly had superclear vision. But obviously that's not the end of story. Eyes after operation are extremely sensitive and fragile - it takes some time for them to heal. I was issued with a long list of activities that I wasn't allowed to do - no Tube on the first day (due to some air pressure issues). Not letting water or sweat into the eyes for the first week. Going outside only with sunglasses. No exercise, no alcohol, no cycling, no make up, no flying, no swimming, no gym, I think the list pretty much implied no sex too, even though it wasn't spelled explicitly. And a complicated schedule of eye drop - lubricating ones to take every 1-2 hours for a week, anesthetic every two hours on treatment day, antibiotic four times a day for 6 days, steroids every 2 hours for 3 days, then every 4 hours for another three days. And sleeping at night only with very uncomfortable eye shields, to make sure they don't touch the pillow.

Fortunately most of the limitations were lifted within a week - the ones that were left for longer were swimming, long list of sports I don't care about like football and skiing, and definitely under no circumstances rubbing, touching, or putting pressure on my eyes. Then a few appointments to check progress (1 day, 1 week, 2 months, 6 months) and that's pretty much it.

There was no pain involved. My eyes were extremely ridiculously oversensitive to sunlight at first - hence the sunglasses - but that passed quickly. They were also very dry, and I had to use lubricating eye drops for a few months. At first it was every 1-2 hours, just as the leaflet said, then it was maybe twice a day, and now I perhaps use them once a week if my eyes feel particularly dry, but usually I don't bother.

After six months

Apparently my vision is "better than 20/20", which is better than human average, but not by a huge margin. No problems left, other than occasional dryness. And I cannot cry, but that's more likely a personality issue than anything related to my eyes.

So it's top human values, not superhuman values yet. But we might get there. Right now, if your vision is bad and unchanging, you should get lasered. But I can imagine that with time we might get to the point when eye lasering with simply be a smart thing to do for pretty much everyone. We are superhumans already. We are resistant to diseases that could kill wild people with vaccination, we have access to ridiculously good memory with Google search, now we can even get superior orientation in unknown territory with Google Maps and a phone. We can communicate with people who are on the other side of the world. We got so far away from our wild state, it would just be another step on the way to get better vision than they had.


Kamil Dworakowski said...

I am looking forward to enhancing my brain with a direct access to internet.

Anonymous said...

I think I'll wait until they can put a biomechanical implant in my eye that not only lets me see better but also lets the computer implant in my head put up HUD information in my eyesight.