After a welcome lie in, Alex and I turned up at the clinic at 2pm. It's recommended that someone come with you because the dilation of your eye leaves you very sensitive to light and having someone to help you home is a good idea. We sat down and they provided a cup of coffee and an information pack on the testing I'd be undergoing. As well as details of what each test was for, it contained a sheet with details on each member of staff at the clinic and their qualifications.
The testing is in 3 levels. First I saw a LASIK advisor. She discussed with me your reasons for having LASIK, took details of my medical history and then performed 5 tests run by machines which check the prescription of your current glasses/eyes, test your corneal pressure, check for blind spots, photograph your cornea and your pupils in different light levels.
Then, it was back to the coffee area to wait for the optometrist. She performed a full eye test to check my prescription and a few other tests to check my dominant eye, refraction and balance of my eyes. She also discussed the procedure a little more and explained the main reasons which might lead to me being unsuitable. She'd actually had the procedure done herself and seemed more than happy with it. Finally, she gave me some eye drops to dilate my pupils. These sting rather and leave your vision slightly blurry but eventually they left me with enormous pupils, nearly the size of my irises!.
Back to the coffee area again, this time for about 30 minutes while the eye drops develop. Then it was on to see the surgeon. My surgeons name is Dr Joanna McGraw M B Ch B (Cape), FCS (Ophthal), FRCO (Lond). She has been a LASIK surgeon since 1995 and has performed 2000 operations since she joined Boots in May 2001. She has a very slight South African accent, and is brisk but reassuring. She performed even more tests, checking the thickness of my cornea, measuring the length of my eyes, checking my retinal health and so on. Some of these involve having anaesthetic eye drops which feel really really odd. Your eyelids feel strange as if there's something which doesn't belong to you underneath them.
Finally, after a bit of examination of the results, it was confirmed that I am an excellent candidate for LASIK. I have a stable prescription. My cornea is nice and thick and under low pressure which means that there is plenty of space for treatment. My pupils, when dilated, are not too big, which means that I have a minimal risk of glare/haze effects, which apparently happen when your pupil dilates to larger than the treated area (similarly when your eyes dilate to larger than your lenses you also experience this). My retinal health is excellent, with no tears, scrapes or scarring, meaning that my chances of experiencing one of the more serious side effects such as retinal detachment is very low. All in all, the surgeon suggested that I would have about a 97% chance of ending up with 20/20 vision.
Of course, there are still risks. I could have inflammation or infection in the healing eyes. This can normally be treated with eye drops. Some cases (although none at Boots) have required steroid tablets. It is theoretically possible that such infection could lead to blindness, although there have been no known cases of that with LASIK. If it is overly disturbed during the healing process, my cornea could become irregular, leading to ghosting effects or distortion - these can be difficult to correct if they occur although I can maximise the chances of them not occurring by taking care not to touch my eyes for the first couple of weeks after the procedure. There are several other possible complications which are all treatable. I should expect to have dry eyes for the first week or so (some experience it for up to a month), for which they will give me eye drops.
Basically, there are always going to be risks with a procedure like this. From the consultation, however, it seems that my expectation of problems is very low and my chances of getting what I want are pretty high. So I'm going ahead with the treatment.
The one slight delay comes from the fact that I've been wearing my contact lenses for so long. Rigid gas permeable lenses actually deform your cornea slightly. Although I've had them out for 3 weeks, they want to be absolutely sure that my cornea has popped back into shape before proceeding with the treatment (otherwise, the chances of under or over correction are much higher as the cornea continues to bounce back and I'll probably need a repeat treatment). So they've recommended that I get some soft contact lenses to wear for a month and then come back and have the treatment. I could just wear my glasses, but we discovered in the examinations that the glasses prescription is really really out of date, which explains why I've been getting headaches! So, I'm off to the opticians on Wednesday for soft lenses, and then in the middle of April I'll be going under the laser. I can't wait!