My PRK Vision Correction Experience

So you are considering PRK/Lasik.

If you were recently told PRK is your only option, you either have thin corneas or large pupils.

If you are considering PRK despite being eligible for Lasik, you likely are a researcher and enjoy the mere fact that despite recovery being more difficult, statistically, PRK is safer.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t thrilled when I found out I wasn’t a candidate for Lasik, and PRK was my only option. I am officially part of the thin cornea club, which is apparently a totally common thing and not necessarily a bad thing either. However, I’m a researcher. Throughout my research, I oddly became happy that I was doing PRK. Statistically speaking, it’s much safer. There are zero documented cases of someone going blind since the PRK procedure was first done in 1987. Lasik, on the other hand.. has one documented case of total blindness in 1999. And Lasik overall has a higher rate of complications and enhancement needs. Lasik also is notorious for dry eye as a side effect for years. The one true perk to Lasik is the recovery is minimal and your vision is pretty perfect within 24 hours more often than not. Lasik is great, and I know many people that are happy with theirs, but logically.. PRK is where it's at! From a cost perspective, most surgeons offer both procedures at the exact same cost.

Like I said, I’m a huge researcher. Since my doctor was on a mission trip for a month, I had to wait 2 months for my procedure, so I had plenty of time to read everything possible and watch every video.

One thing I noted, there aren’t many intelligent reviews out there on PRK. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot. But not many people appropriately described all the sensations and everything you feel. In addition, there isn’t much 2017 procedural review on the subject.

So of course, I’ve taken it on myself to provide a comprehensive 2017 PRK review… And also send a huge shout out to Eye Specialty Group (formerly Southern Eye Associates) in Memphis. Dr. Schanzer did my surgery. She's fantastic.

Patient Information
Nearsighted in both eyes
Astigmatism in both eyes
Left Eye: -2.5 , 20/150
Right Eye: -2.0 , 20/400

I used to wear contacts daily, but something happened when I was pregnant with my son and my body started rejecting them. I HATE wearing glasses. They are impossible to work out in due to fog and slippage. But without them, I get headaches and nauseas. 

On to the surgery prep...

One week prior to surgery: 
Take extra 1000 mg of Vitamin C a day to assist body with recovery. 
No makeup
Lid scrubs twice a day

Morning of procedure (before arriving to doctor):
80 mg Predinose
150 mg Zantac

My surgery was on Thursday July 13, 2017.

Up until D-Day, I worked with the coordinator, Courtney. She is the bomb. Literally, the most helpful human in a doctor's office that I've ever met. And I've worked in one before! She never seemed annoyed with me (even though I emailed and called her every 5 minutes). 

Day Zero: 

For those who don’t know, Day Zero is the day an event occurs. When you are born, it is Day Zero. You are not one day old until the following day. This was a common issue that I had with many blogs, and days are important to understand in the recovery process.

I arrive. After signing in and a brief wait, I get called back to retest my numbers to verify my vision assessment. The nurse that did it had just come back from maternity leave, and we laughed about working mom life. She was a rockstar. She took me back to the waiting room and soon after I was called back for the real deal! Insert mild panic attack - am I ever going to see my son again? Thank God for my husband's beautiful way of immediately bringing me back down to earth. He grabbed my hand, told me it would be ok, kissed me, and we parted. He got to go into a super cool little waiting area and watch while a man sat with him and explained everything as it happened. You will hear this guy talking in the video while Ryan filmed. 

The staff is so personable there. I felt like a bunch of my own personal moms were taking care of me. Speaking calmly. Holding my hand.. which I have a bubble and don't like being touched at all, but I needed the extra-mom love on this particular morning. I sat in a big comfy chair and was administered Valium and they walked me through my medicines I would be taking. 

Side note: I've read that a lot of people waited until after to get their RX filled. I took care of it the night before. Trust me - come with your meds in hand. You will thank me later.

Fortunately Eye Specialty Group required I bring my meds with me.

My medications:
Prednisone: 8 pills day 1, 4 pills day 2, 2 pills day 3, 1 pill day 4, 1/2 pill day 5.

Zantac: 150 mg twice a day to help stomach cope with steroid

Vigamox: 1 drop each eye 4 times a day
Lotemax: 1 drop each eye 4 times a day
Prolensa: 1 drop each eye 2 times a day

And preservative free drops. I suggest taking up stock in these. These puppies are a life saver. I got some on Amazon and just clicked subscribe and save. 4 boxes each month. 

Helpful tip - I set alarms in my phone and labeled them with what meds to take. I even gave each med it's own alarm sound and memorized them in case I couldn't see the alarm label. Worked like a charm.

After taking the Valium, I was escorted to another comfy chair in a dimly lit portion of the room where they pulled a curtain, and I was required to lay back and let the Valium take effect.

I fell asleep. I went from panic attack mode to sleeping. Thank you, Valium! 

Next thing I know, Dr. Schanzer is gently waking me up with her super sweet and calm bedside manner. She woke me up much like my own mom would have. That was nice. 

She asked me if I understood everything that was about to happen, and my eyes sparkled at the opportunity to show off my detailed research. I explained the procedure to her.. stopping when I had a few questions that I hadn’t been able to get solid answers on in my research. She sat back and giggled at my knowledge dump. I'm sure I was annoying... I was doped up though and unable to control my word vomit. 

Then she escorted me back into the room. Another nurse put her hand on my back to guide me, which looking back, these all may be psychological tricks to calm you, but I don't even care. It worked!

The nurse that did my vision assessment earlier cheered for me as I walked in.. I'll be honest, her excitement for me really helped my anxiety. She also reminded me of one of my close friends, Mary Beth. I think that’s why I found her even more comforting to talk to.

Then the procedure. 

I was told this room would be freezing. It was quite comfy if you ask me. Perhaps, they don't know my husband keeps our house 68 year round.  

I lay down. Numbing drops and a ton of other drops. And now.. you can watch the video of one of my eyes. I am speaking over the video to describe what is happening and what it felt like.. as best as possible. 

If you only want to watch the procedure... It begins around 6:30 in, but I recommend fast forwarding to around 6 minutes to get an idea of the moments leading up to the beginning of the video.

After the procedure:
I felt a hand grab mine. I assumed they were comforting me so I just held their hand. Turns out they were trying to help me sit up, but they just let me hold their hand as long as I needed. Then I sat up. 

Everything was so clear. I'll admit, I got emotional when I saw the time on the clock. HD vision is all I can say. I'd been so limited with glasses for so long. 

I am escorted out and sit in a chair where Dr. Schanzer checked to ensure my bandage lenses looked solidly in place. Everything looked good. She assured me that she would answer her phone if I needed her at any point over the night and to not hesitate to call if my lens fell out. 

Then they sat me down in my comfy chair corner and made me relax. 

I was amazed at everything I could see. There was some mild ghosting which is normal. But then the numbing drops wore off. It felt like prickly little needles. I know that sounds bad, but it honestly wasn't that bad. I let a nurse know, and she brought my pain drops over and started administering medicine. Within a few minutes I felt better. After about 20 minutes, they took me out to my husband and went through my routine with him. This was key! He made sure I stayed on routine. 

I was very sensitive to light.. even with my super cool doctor-issue shades, so Ryan had to literally walk me outside. He's good at many things, but navigating humans.. not so much. I only tripped a few times though. 

He took me to Chick Fil A. He refused to ask for a toy for my adult meal. Then he took me home. On the way home, the discomfort came back. Again, it's a totally manageable discomfort. Kind of like when you get a little soap in your eye. 

We got home and did more meds. I hugged my son and stared at his beautiful face while praising my sweet Jesus that I got to see him again. Then I put my humidity sleeping goggles on that the doc gave me and went to sleep. These goggles are seriously amazing. They trap moisture so your eyes can heal more quickly. Humidity and moisture are great for your eyes. I wore those goggles a lot even when I wasn't sleeping. Mainly because I never knew when my son would decide to scratch my eyes out. Which he tried twice and my goggles saved me. But they also kept my eyes from drying out while watching tv. 

Thursday night, I was able to walk around and see. Things were slightly blurry. A little ghosting. A few halos around lights. Nothing major. I even watched tv and wrote this blog. 

Around 10 I took my meds, and went to bed. We will "see" what tomorrow holds, but honestly.. Day zero, not bad. 

Just stay on top of your medicine. Do NOT wait until you need pain drops. Just take them regularly. I've felt very little discomfort today. Dry eyes, an occasional foreign body sensation (I think it's due to the contacts), and some light stinging. 

All in all.. I'm feel positive. 

Day 1: Recovery

So before I headed to bed, I popped back 6mg of melatonin. It really helped kick that Valium back in, and I slept wonderfully. I woke up around 3AM with some insanely dry dessert death eyes. But I did some artificial tears which were the equivalent of heaven in your eyes! … and snoozed until 6:30. Then… it got bad.

I woke up and had some pretty bad light sensitivity. If you are like me, you struggle putting drops in your eyes without looking in a mirror. Even the slightest amount of light was blinding. Curse those automatic bathroom lights. I opened the doors and let out a slight scream as the lights blinded me and threw me to my knees. My husband got out of bed and helped me, but my eyes were screaming. I was convinced I had permanently damaged my eyes.

I put in the Vigamox, which stung like the dickens. Waited 5 minutes and popped 3 tylenol while waiting, took the lotemax, waited 5 minutes, then took the Prolensa. I struggled to get ready. My sweet, sweet hubby brought me breakfast. About 30 minutes after taking all my meds, I was back to feeling normal. A little bit of a foreign body sensation, but if you’ve ever worn contacts, I would say it felt just like wearing contacts and they kind of start to itch at the end of the day. I had an 8:15AM doc appt, so I went back to sleep for about 30 minutes.

Again, my husband had to help me get to the car. Every ounce of light was personally attacking me. My husband believes that yesterday and today have been the brightest days of the year… It is July in Memphis, so that is probably accurate. If you’ve never experienced light sensitivity… the best I can equate this to is when you go to the beach and the sun is reflecting off of everything and you struggle to see. But honestly… worse than that. Just along the same lines. It doesn’t hurt. Unless the light suddenly and viciously attacks you like the auto lights have been doing in our bathroom.

Fast forward to the doc appointment. First they checked my vision. I went from worse than 20/150 to 20/25 in my right eye overnight. My left eye which was 20/400 tested at 20/40, but she suspected it was due to light sensitivity, so she did a pin hole test which is where I read the letters but through a much smaller hole, and sure enough, my left eye was 20/25. 

Next, they examined my eye ball. It was so hard to keep my eyes open because they were flashing a bright light in it. Fortunately, they know this and are patient and helpful. She said my eyes looked amazing, contact lenses were still in good, and my cornea layer was looking good. She did increase my lotemax dosage from 4 times a day to every 2 hours. Which I’m fine with. That helps with the pain.

We then headed to Kroger to pick up our Clicklist order. My husband remembered he needed beer so he ran in, leaving me blind in our vehicle. Sure enough, The Clicklist lady knocked on my window. I’m blind. I have no clue if it’s Clicklist, Ryan, or some stranger. So I crack the window and ask for identification and explain I am recovering from vision surgery and couldn’t see. The giggling click list lady identified herself and said she was happy to load my car while waiting on my husband. Thank you, angel click list lady.

Then I went home. Occasionally, I am experiencing mild discomfort, but it subsides pretty quickly. I took some more Tylenol and Lotemax because my discomfort was increasing and set my alarm to wake me every 2 hours. I took 6mg more of melatonin to help sleep, and fell asleep watching Fixer Upper… Which was new for me. Most people with contacts or glasses know the struggle you experience when laying down and watching tv. You have to know take our your contacts before you fully fall asleep, or switch to glasses and lay uncomfortable. 

Nope. I laid in my bed and watched a very slightly blurred Chip and Joanna Gaines knock another one out of the park as I drifted.  

30 minutes into my nap, I went through about 30 minutes of random stinging sensations. I was pretty uncomfortable. It was time to take my meds so I did. Then I struggled with some serious light sensitivity and was unable to keep my eyes open. I remember reading one guy saying “Just follow the cues of your body. If your eyes won’t open, they likely are telling you to chill the heck out and you need to just close them and lay down.” So I did. When I woke up, I felt great.

Unfortunately, we made plans to play board games with a friend, which I was really looking forward to that night. But I felt pretty good, so I played with my son a lot (in a dimly lit room, of course, which he found hilariously amusing), and watched tv. I stayed on top of my meds, but felt my eyes getting tired, so I tried to lay down for an hour before our friend came over. That helped a little, but my husband made chicken fajita nachos with jalapeños and the second he started sautéing the jalapeños, I once again was brought to my knees. After that, it was 4 hours of me fighting my eyes that very obviously wanted to rest. By the time I went to bed, my eyes were practically swollen shut. I popped 6mg of melatonin along with any other meds that were needed and was out.

Quick note: I also caught up on this blog today. My close up vision hasn’t gotten bad, like I’d read from so many other bloggers. I’m noticing that it’s not crystal clear, but all in all… Not bad. I’m still completely functional. I was expecting it to be bad like when you leave the eye doctor after those drops that make everything look stupid for 12 hours. Nope… It’s just slightly blurry. I’ve been able to make the text a little bigger on all my devices, not out of necessity but just for general comfort. I’ve also had to reduce the brightness on all my devices. I’m not sure if the reviews I’ve read are just being dramatic or I’m just a superhuman. I am following my med schedule perfectly though, so I am sure that is helping my recovery. I didn’t see any 2017 reviews though when researching, so maybe they’ve come up with a solution for close up vision distortion since.

All in all - I’ve been a pretty functional human being.

Day 2:

I am not a superhuman. My close up vision is funky today. It’s still not like when you leave the eye doc after dilation drops. It’s more like a little fuzzy and the contrast just isn’t right. When I went to bed last night, I noticed that my long distance vision had gotten worse as I drifted off watching my personal hero, Joanna Gaines, kill it. Side note: I wish they would do a random Memphis episode. I would totally take care of their kids while they fixed up my dream Germantown house. Side note to that side note: all of my recovery dreams have been about searching for a new house or my husband and I sneaking away from family gatherings to make out. Weird, I know.

I slept incredibly though. I will say, I set my alarm to wake me up twice throughout the night so take Tylenol and Lotemax. That made a WORLD of difference waking up the next morning. I was in zero pain waking up. So I took a mental note to continue taking Tylenol every 4 hours. 

I haven’t dealt with much dry eye. I feel like that would be crazy considering the amount and frequency of drops I am using. But none the less, every hour I use those expensive little vials of preservative free rewetting drops. Perhaps, because I am staying on top of them, I am not dealing with much dry eye. I’m not about to stop using them to figure that out though.

I woke up and played with my son for about an hour. Then I noticed my eyes were starting to shut. My body was telling me to go back to sleep. My beautiful husband understood I was not capable of taking care of my son while he worked on his grandmother’s yard all day, so he took my sweet boy to the nanny so I could get the house to myself for some quality sleep time. Pretty sure I’ve never been so excited, but then 5 minutes after they were gone, I missed them. So I went to bed, noting that my vision was just as bad far away as it was last night. Still not as worse as it was before the surgery. 

Nap time. More house/hubby make out dreams. Woken up by alarm for Vigamox and Lotemax. Eyes still feel good. My left eye is significantly more swollen than the right eye. I noted this last night, but it is still the same. It’s not painful. Honestly, it feels like I have pink eye in both eyes… Minus the pink eye. 

My eye seemed to be getting more swollen though after a few hours. So I ended up reaching out to Dr. Schanzer, who again is probably the most comforting person you could talk to during recovery. I lucked out and got my surgery the day that Southern Eye Associates merged with another clinic and became Eye Specialty Group. Since they were switching over to a different phone system and had been experiencing difficulty with the technical side of the merger (at least that’s the impression I got from overhearing a few conversations), she gave me her personal cell and asked me to not hesitate to call her.

I sent her a text (because texts just seem less intrusive on the weekend) explaining my concern because I didn’t see any documentation about swollen eyelids. Since my eyes weren’t red, she didn’t seem concerned that my eyelids were swollen. She said to apply cold compresses to them and see if that helped but to call her if I noticed any drastic changes in vision. So far, just minor fluctuations. She also commented on how she couldn’t believe how good my vision had been Friday (yesterday/Day 1). Apparently, I am a superhuman because she said those results with PRK were NOT normal. We exchanged pleasantries, and she ended the call saying ‘God Bless’.

Side note: Dr. Schanzer and her group are very Christian. I mentioned earlier that I had to wait two months to get my surgery because Dr. Schanzer was on a mission trip. Something about having God in the center of everything just puts my soul at ease. 

So I applied cold compresses to my eyes while listening to The Wedding Planner and then another movie after - some adorably quirky Natalie Portman Walmart Baby movie. Drifted in and out of sleep - continuing my med schedule. My husband and son came home around 5:15, so we played and had dinner. My vision was becoming notably worse. Despite knowing it would get worse before better, I still felt really defeated. Dr. Schanzer checked in on me and felt good about my progress. Around 7:15, my eyes didn’t want to stay open. It feels like being tired but your brain is still awake (the melatonin really helps with this). So I listened.

Day 3: Winter is Coming

Winter is coming, everybody! Tonight is the Game of Thrones Premiere. I have promised myself I would keep my eyes closed most of the day, so I could manage to watch. 

My eyes felt pretty good when I woke up. Of course, I made sure to wake up at 2:30AM and take my Lotemax, Tylenol, and some more melatonin. Side note: I need to research if taking melatonin is ok.

I’ve been hearing that the 2nd and 3rd day would be the worst by far. So far, day 3 seems to be better. Hopefully if I rest them enough, I’ll be good to watch the GoT 

As of right now, the only discomfort I feel is kind of like I’m wearing super old, dry contacts. The hydration drops aren’t doing much to help that feeling. I am also praying that tomorrow they say my body has freakishly healed and they can take my contacts out. If I can just get these stupid things out, I think I’ll be much happier.

I took a nap for a few hours. Woke up and had lunch with my boys. Vision is still blurry but not nearly as bad as it got last night. I did research my melatonin usage and the amount I’m taking is more than the daily recommended amount. Fortunately, it’s not habit forming, so as long as I only take it for around a week at this amount/frequency, I should be fine.

I felt like not being completely useless, so I caught up on laundry and played with my son for a little bit. We watched Wreck It Ralph. My vision is still blurry/double, my left eye has been consistently worse with each side effect, but I was able to watch a movie and understand what was happening. Then my son accidentally (or purposely - who knows, he is 11 months) punched me in the eye. Instant stars/tears/screams. My husband dropped everything and ran and grabbed him as I stood paralyzed in fear of what had just happened, paralyzed in pain, and paralyzed because I was scared I would drop my son. It felt like an instant headache, but almost as quickly as it came, it was gone. I examined my eye with my magnification mirror and my cell phone light (as if I know what the heck I am doing - I even slowly moved the light around like they do at the doctor). Everything looked fine. The pain subsided. My son kissed and hugged me as if to say sorry, which shattered my heart in a million pieces. All was well with the world.

I did notice that my peripheral vision is crystal clear. It seems to be the center of my eye, wherever I am staring dead on at that is a little fuzzy/double. I wonder if the epithelium heals from the outside-in.

I will say, once lights are off and it was dark outside, watching tv was much easier. Game of Thrones was totally watchable for me. I had a few points where my husband had to tell me who a character was before I could figure it out due to my vision. And we have a 70 inch HD 1080P LED XYZ (and any other acronyms that mean - like looking through a window, clear) TV… I was sitting about 15-20 feet away from the tv. So all in all, I’m pretty happy. Granted, GoT tends to use harsh shadows and lighting, and I’ve read that sharpness/clarity in shadows and dramatic light will take time to get back. 

Honestly, I really think I just need to get these stupid contacts out. Oh well. I just finished my Sunday night time exfoliation, took my meds, and am excited for my Day 4 check up in the AM. I am PRAYING they take these stupid things out of my eyes, but I was told to not get my hopes up. However, I’m totally getting my hopes up. I feel like my vision will be much better after. If you’ve ever worn contacts so long and your eyes are so tired that your vision struggles, it feels an awful lot like that. I can’t wait to see what the world is like without them.

Have I mentioned I’m ready to get these things out?

Day 4:
I woke up with some serious dry eye in the middle of the night. Artificial tears to the rescue. Around 2:30AM, I did the Lotemax. I refuse to sleep with that stupid humidity mask anymore. It’s literally hurting my nose to put it on. But I apparently don’t rub my face at all. I’m sleeping so hard with that melatonin that I wake up in the exact same position I fell asleep in. 

I went to the doctor. I am seeing 20/20 pin hole. The pin hole blocks out all light and external factors working against your vision. Without the pin hole, the same lines would go in and out of focus. So that’s awesome, I’m seeing 20/20! … kind of.

Unfortunately, she examined my eyes. My epithelium was between 80-90% healed. She wasn’t comfortable taking my contacts out, but she mentioned the area that wasn’t healed was right in the center of each eye, confirming my theory last night that the epithelium heals from the outside-in. 

It’s ok - Less than 48 more hours with these dreadful things in my eyes. I’m going to rest a ton today, as I will be returning to work tomorrow. I will have a ton of work to sort through, so I’m sure my eyes will be strained. So I think I’ll soak up one more day of being babied by my husband. <3

As the day progressed, I kept looking around and noticing significant improvements. Halos have gone down drastically. Ghosting is practically gone. By the end of the evening, I realized my vision was the best it’s ever been.


Day 5:
Still woke up around 2:30 for Lotemax. Around 6, my eyes were yearning for some artificial tears. It was my first day back at work, so I was anxious to get up and get moving to test these new puppies out.

My vision fluctuated throughout the day. I was totally fine to drive - had to wear my shades though. More than half my day was spent at my computer catching up. It was cool testing my vision out on things that weren’t the inside of my house. There were times where I could recognize people far down the hallway that waved. And other times, nope. Shadows haven’t totally come back yet. I tried to take breaks frequently which was easy because tons of people stopped by to ask how the surgery went (all considering it for themselves). 

There were a few times my vision felt odd. Kind of like when you put your contacts on reverse. My RX was so close that things just felt weird - but it really was just odd because one eye would be over corrected slightly and the other under corrected slightly… But it would take a second to realize my contacts were backwards. It was kind of like that sensation. I think it’s because one of my eyes healed quicker than the other. My left eye feels a little bit like it’s lagging behind. By the end of the day though, I could tell my eyes were done. I started getting a headache, so I called it quits around 4:45. Took some tylenol when I got home and played with my son. After he went to bed, I realized my husband and I had been watching tv for an hour, and my vision had been perfectly fine the whole time.

Tomorrow, I am PRAYING I get these stupid contacts out. For now, I sleep.

Day 6:
Doctor’s appointment was this morning. THEY TOOK THE CONTACTS OUT! PRAISE JESUS! I can’t even begin to explain how happy I was getting them out. My body HATES wearing contacts. It just hasn’t felt natural since my son was born. Hormonal, I guess. But that’s it… No more contacts, ever again!!! 

First, they did a thorough examination of my eye. The procedure to take them out was painless. He put some (mild) numbing drops in my eyes and removed them just like I would have normally removed contacts. The numbing drops were because some people experience stinging right when they come off. II didn’t even feel it. No big deal. They put more drops in my eyes. My vision was definitely a little more blurry, but I’ve read now that the contacts are gone, the clarity will really start to come through. Apparently, my eye lids will shape my new epithelium layer with each blink and smooth out any imperfections. The imperfections are what is causing the fluctuation in vision.

The rest of the day went so much more smoothly. I had a few brief moments of totally perfect vision, but honestly, I don’t notice the blurriness unless I focus in on it. I go back for my month post op on 8.16.17. Vigamox is eliminated from my med routine. Lotemax is only 4 times a day now. Prolensa twice a day until I am out.

I will post a blog discussing the next 3 weeks…