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Tired of Contact Lenses!!! But a Little Scared of LASIK... :-/ - Seattle, WA

I'm 28 years old, and have been wearing contacts...

I'm 28 years old, and have been wearing contacts for almost half my life. I started wearing contacts when I was about 13 years old. I was not a very responsible lens wearer, as one might expect of a teenager. My parents suggested that I wear glasses, but I was pretty strong willed and did NOT want to wear glasses. I eventually became more responsible, and things were generally fine until I developed seasonal allergies around age 19. The sneezing and runny nose could be dealt with, but the impact on my eyes was terrible- itching, watering, blurred vision- those with allergies know the routine. I found a hydrogen peroxide cleaning solution for my lenses (Clear Care Cleaning & Disinfecting Solution), which helped out quite a bit. On the really bad days, I would reluctantly wear glasses, which did relieve some of the symptoms. A couple of years after developing allergies, my optometrist suggested that I switch to daily lenses. This has helped tremendously, although my allergies are not nearly as severe as they used to be either. The daily lenses make traveling much easier as well. It's so much easier than dealing with solutions, cleaning, cases, etc.

So, all year long, my daily contacts are great, my vision is clear, and the hassle is minimal. But once summer rolls around and my allergies kick in, I remember why I hate wearing contacts. Even now that my allergy symptoms are much less severe, I will sometimes have blurry vision in one or both eyes as soon as I put my lenses in in the morning. It's almost like there is oil or dirt on the lens, even if it's a brand new lens. I work on a computer all day; having blurred vision in one eye is simply not an option. I have to wear my glasses on days like these.

Overall, I do not enjoy wearing glasses, even though I think my specs are pretty cute. I'm pretty active when I'm not sitting in front of a computer at work, and I find it impossible to do some of my favorite activities while wearing specs... swimming, yoga, etc. I don't drive often, but when I do, I feel less safe while driving with glasses vs. contacts. I feel like my peripheral vision is not as good while wearing glasses. Oh yeah, and I live in Seattle... and wearing glasses in the rain is NO FUN at all! I don't know how people do it! And on the days when the sun is actually out, I want to sport some shades, not nerdy glasses! I simply don't feel like myself when I am wearing glasses.

Long story short, I'm tired of dealing with the hassle of glasses and contacts. I think I'm ready for LASIK, but I have to admit that I am a bit nervous. The more I research, the better I feel. It looks like most of the potential side effects (glare, halos, dry eyes) are short term. LASIK has been on the back of my mind for several years now, but I'm just now starting to call around to different offices to book a consultation. I'll keep posting as I find out more!

Calling around for Consultations

So far, I have called three offices to inquire about setting up a consultation.

Stephen G. Phillips - Sound Eye and Laser (Seattle)
Everyone who I've spoken with at Sound Eye has been friendly and helpful. The first time I called, I just inquired about consultation cost, which is free. The second time I called, the woman who I needed to speak with to answer my questions was assisting in surgery so they took my name and number. She called me first thing the next business day and answered my questions about the procedure, cost, and recovery time. I asked her specifically about what type of procedure they perform (from my limited research, there are a couple of different types of LASIK, as well as PRK). Her answer was a little confusing, and I didn't end up with a clear idea of the procedure, although I believe it is "bladeless." Fortunately, the Sound Eye website provides more details about their procedure. They are running a special right now- the full cost of LASIK is $2995. They also work with my eye insurance provider, VSP, which will reduce the cost by another 5%. Before the consultation, you can't wear contacts for 8 days. (Contacts change the shape of your eyes, and Sound Eye takes measurements of the eye during the consultation.) They are located very close to home (walking distance!), so this looks like a good option so far. However, I have read a few negative reviews of the doctor online. (As well as some really great ones!)

Brian McKillop - Eye Associates NW (Seattle)
I have not had good luck with this office. They have an automated telephone system, which was of course annoying. The first time I called, the staff was a little rude, and then transferred me to billing to answer questions about consultation cost, but the billing department was closed. I called again the next week, was transferred to another department, and then to another department and was instructed to leave a message. I still have not heard from them (it's been a couple of business days.) They are also located close to home (on the same street as Sound Eye and Laser), so I was hoping to have a couple of good options nearby. Unless they return my call and are as friendly as the other offices' staff, I will not be going there.

Jennifer J. Lee, MD - Washington Pacific Eye Associates (Bellevue)
Like other doctors, I had read good and bad reviews about Dr. Lee online. Although the office is not nearly as close to home, I want to keep my options open. The staff was very friendly, and took my name and number to have a medical assistant call me to answer more detailed questions. The medical assistant, Philip, called me back quickly, and was friendly and helpful. Consultations are $150, but will be deducted from the surgery cost if you go through with it. The consultation could potentially be covered by insurance if it is counted as an annual exam. Both PRK and LASIK are offered. Both procedures are $3900 total. Phillip explained the difference between PRK and LASIK. He was easy to follow and understand. Unlike Sound Eye and Laser, you do not need to avoid wearing contacts for several days before the consultation (that's a big plus.) Before the surgery, depending on the condition of your eyes, you cannot wear contacts for one or two weeks.

Phillip offered some advice, which he says he tells his friends also looking into vision correction: he recommended that regardless of where you go for the procedure, that you look for a opthalmologist who specializes in more than one type of surgery (i.e. more than just LASIK), and to avoid LASIK clinics. LASIK clinics perform just LASIK because it is profitable. He says he has seen some patients from LASIK clinics who he thinks should not have had LASIK (corneas too thin, eyes too dry, etc.) I thought that was excellent advice.

To summarize, Sound Eye and Laser looks the most promising so far. The staff was friendly and helpful, consultations are free, the price is competitive, it is located close to home, and the doctor seems trustworthy. The only con is that I can't wear contacts for several days before the consultation.

P.S. Allergies are killing me today!!!

I'm at work and I didn't bring my glasses as a back-up... totally have that fogged vision thing going on and it is SO ANNOYING!

Booked my first consultation!

I booked a consultation at Sound Eye and Laser for July 26th. However, I also discovered that Sound Eye and Laser does NOT use bladeless LASIK, also known as Wavefront or Intralase LASIK. This makes me a bit nervous, as bladeless LASIK appears to be preferred by many doctors, including the doctors on RealSelf (Q&A: http://www.realself.com/question/intralase-better-than-traditional-lasik). I'm reading up on the differences, and will be booking at least one other consultation with a different doctor who performs bladeless LASIK.

Unprofessional Experience at Sound Eye and Laser

Had my consultation today. It did not go well. The assistant who did my eye examination seemed rushed, unorganized, flustered, and borderline frantic by the end of the appointment.

A breakdown of my experience with the assistant:
1. She was not gentle, and even bumped equipment into my face. She did not make sure I was seated at the correct levels, or that the equipment was properly placed. At one point she was asking me to read a chart, but I wasn't even able to see it because I was not facing it.
2. She put numbing drops in my eye without telling me that it would cause my eyes to BURN. The burning only lasted 30 seconds or so, but why wouldn't she warn me first!?
3. She was using some equipment that was going to touch my eye, but did not tell me. She became frustrated when I would blink when the equipment would get near my eye. I asked what she was doing, and she said "testing the pressure." I had to ask her several times what was happening before she would tell me that it was actually going to touch my eye. She made some condescending remarks about how she didn't know if I could handle LASIK if I couldn't handle this!
4. She dilated my pupils, then had me wait in a BRIGHT SUNLIT ROOM!!! While in this waiting room, I was supposed to watch a video about LASIK and then fill out a True/False answer sheet. The iPad froze, so I just guessed on the answers. She also did not inform me that my short-distance vision would be terrible while wearing glasses or contacts with my pupils dilated. It was a somewhat humiliating experience. Why on earth would they dilate a patient's pupils, put them in a BRIGHT room, and ask them to watch a video?! When I asked her about my short-distance vision, she said she forgot to tell me that it would be affected by the dilation.
5. She seemed to have trouble determining my prescription, which I only know because she verbally expressed it. Hmm... really comforting...

My experience with Dr. Phillips:
1. He was a little... well... touchy. Nothing too uncomfortable, but he touched my knee a lot. I found it unprofessional.
2. He seemed somewhat rushed, but did spend a significant amount of time answering my questions, although not as candidly as I would have liked. He seemed to beat around the bush when I asked him about things like how old his equipment was, and why he uses older LASIK technology (i.e. a metal blade vs. laser to cut the corneal flap.)

Other office staff:
At the end of my visit, I asked a woman in the optical shop how long my pupils would be dilated. When she said 4-6 hours, I was shocked. That meant I would have to miss the rest of the day at work, as I would not be able to see my computer screen for several hours. I was PISSED. I told them it would have been nice to know ahead of time, and she got very defensive, claiming that this was a common practice at any exam. How would I know that? I should have been informed of this when the appointment was booked. Very unprofessional. What if I would have driven a car to the appointment? I would have been unable to drive home! My appointment ended 6 hours ago, and my vision has just recovered.

Based on the unprofessional staff, as well as the older equipment in use at Sound Eye and Laser, I will not be getting LASIK here.

FREAKY LASIK VIDEO!

Ohhhh my goodness, not sure I can go through with LASIK at all after watching this video!!!
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