LASIK for Travelers

Article by Latifah Al-Hazzá

    LASIK for Travelers was originally published on The Al-Hazzá Adventures

    Lately, I’ve been going back and forth on whether I should get LASIK eye surgery or not. I’m beginning to get annoyed with constantly bringing my contacts, contact solution and an extra pair of contacts with me on trips. I’ve also been getting frustrated every time I do a water activity (when contacts are not smart) or even an activity with high winds while traveling because I sometimes lose a contact and often times I have to take them out immediately after because of the burning sensation.

    I’ve always ignored optometrists when they tell me that contacts can damage the health of my eye. But I’ve decided to finally take a walk along maturity (and responsible) lane and seek more information about LASIK and how it can not only improve my vision but also how it can make traveling easier and safer!

    I attended a LASIK info session at the Maloney Vision Institute where Dr. Robert Maloney and Dr. Neda Shamie gave me in-depth insight into the LASIK process, pros and cons. A little background about the two doctors so you know they are legit: Dr. Maloney has been practicing LASIK eye surgery for around 20 years and played a significant role in the FDA trial for LASIK, while Dr. Shamie trained with the pioneer in refractive eye surgery.

    What is LASIK?

    The FDA defines LASIK as ‘a procedure that permanently changes the shape of the cornea using a laser’. The goal is to correct a person’s vision in order to lessen their dependence on glasses or contacts.

    Why LASIK for the constant traveler?

    As travelers, we tend to be very active. We’re swimming in the ocean and in pools, we’re running and sweating, we’re applying sunblock and it’s dripping down our face. The bottom line is we are irritating our contacts. Irritations in contacts can cause severe eyeball infections. In fact, the risk of complications with LASIK surgery is lower than the risk of complications due to contacts.

    What's so bad about contacts?

    A lot of people overuse their contacts…guilty. When this happens, there becomes evidence of blood vessels wanting to compensate for the lack of oxygen.

    • Dry eyes
    • Lack of oxygen to the eye
    • Easier for particles and bacteria to get trapped under the contact leading to an infection
    • Contact lens tolerance to screens (phone, computer, etc.) has gone down

    A true story that happened to me:

    One summer I traveled to Cyprus with my dad. I was constantly wearing my contacts. Mind you, Cyprus in the summer is primarily all beach activities. Sand was getting in my eyes, I was opening my eyes in the ocean, sunscreen and tanning oils were being rubbed into my eyes from my fingers, I was touching lots of public rails and I wasn’t changing my contacts.

    What happened may be TMI but I’ve got to share this. I ended up getting a stye on my PUPIL! A stye is an infection that’s basically a small pimple that usually appears on the eyelid. This was on my pupil though, meaning it was blocking my vision. I legit couldn’t see out of one eye and the sun made it burn so much. To make matters worse, I was wearing my contacts on the stye which was preventing my eye from breathing and trapping the infection...what was I thinking, duh!

    Just when I thought things couldn’t get any more difficult, the entire island was basically shut down (August is when Cypriots take holiday). I had to travel a great distance to get to the only pharmacy that was open. I couldn’t communicate with the pharmacist, I just pointed to my eye. He gave me drops that I couldn’t read, but that healed it almost instantaneously.

    Now, you may think this was a happy ending, which it partially was, but now I have a major scar on my pupil that every eye doctor points out could have caused me to go blind.

    What makes for a great LASIK candidate?

    • People that have healthy eyes (though it is still possible to do the procedure on patients with astigmatism)
    • People that have stable vision (not deteriorating)
    • People that have a glasses prescription that isn't too high (-8 to -10 becomes iffy)
    • People that are tired of wearing contacts/glasses
    • Active people

    How does the procedure work?

    After speaking with the Maloney Vision Institute and LASIK veterans, I’ve learned that LASIK eye surgery is a painless procedure with the only sensation being a quick pressure. Basically, doctors must create a very thin flap that is then lifted, the cornea is reshaped and the flap is laid back down.

    Step 1
    Advanced measurements are taken of the eyes and their focusing power. These measurements are used to guide the laser vision correction treatment.

    Step 2
    Ultra-fast laser creates a thin flap to prepare the cornea for treatment (20 seconds each eye).

    Step 3
    An ultra-precise laser corrects your vision by gently reshaping the cornea to the desired curvature based on your unique measurements (1 minute for reshaping).

    Step 4
    Wear safety glasses for 4 hours and throughout the first night.
    Use eye drops for a week.

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    Possible Cons of LASIK

    • Dry eyes.
    • Sometimes there’s a glare with night vision.
    • Doesn’t prevent changes to your vision in the future, just treats the visual errors present at the time of surgery.

    Overall, I am pretty convinced that LASIK is the way to go, especially for those with a very active and travel-centric lifestyle. As the highly qualified doctors at the Maloney Vision Institute said, "LASIK equals a healthy cornea". The health of our eyes is probably not something we think about as compared to other body parts, but it's something that we all need to make a priority. For more information about LASIK eye surgery visit the Refractive Surgery Council's blog, it is a great resource for laser vision correction patient education.

    Follow Latifah Al-Hazzá @tifahhhh

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