Monday, January 30, 2017

Off To A Shaky Start: Getting LASIK With Nystagmus

My vision has usually hovered around 20/40 but that is with glasses and when my nystagmus is quietest.  I like to be physically active and my vision caused issues.  Do I play sports blind or do I risk my glasses being damaged.  I've flip flopped on that with many broken pairs as a result.

I had thought most of my vision problems were due to my nystagmus.  In my mid to late twenties I started to realize that my nystagmus was responsible for less of my vision issues than I had thought and that I actually had some pretty bad astigmatism.  This realization opened up my eyes to the idea of doing something about my vision problems.


Contacts ended up being a non-option for me.  I had read that they can help with nystagmus because they correct your vision across your whole peripheral, helping at the null points.  Unfortunately my astigmatism got in the way.  In the exam room, we expected contacts to improve my vision to 20/30 but I didn't see that improvement once my contacts arrived.  The optometrist theorized that contacts could only help with a part of my astigmatism and that to get the full benefit I'd have to wear contacts and glasses that are paired together.  That would be the worst of both worlds and I decided against it.

So onto my drastic measures.

False Start at LASIK

I had read that some people were able to successfully get LASIK despite their nystagmus.

I decided to find a new optometrist that was a "low vision specialist" for a referral for a LASIK office.  My main concern with my existing optometrist is that they were associated with a specific LASIK office and I wanted to avoid biases in my referral.

My new optometrist referred me to Eye LASIK Austin. Unfortunately their screening machine could not deal with my nystagmus and after researching some options, they told me I wasn't a candidate for LASIK.

(Spoiler alert) I later got LASIK despite this office telling me I couldn't get it.  The fact that these people were referred to me for LASIK specifically with my nystagmus in mind put me in doubt of both them and the optometrist who recommended them.  The LASIK people's highfalutin office contrasted with their lack of skill added an air of sliminess to them.  Adding insult to injury, they were over thousand dollars more expensive than what I paid.

Seeing (More) Clearly With LASIK

I decided to take another crack at things a couple years later.  This time I decided to do it all on my own.  Through yelp I found strong reviews for Eyes of Texas Laser Center with Dr Wong (one of the many Dr Wong's in Austin).  The staff assured me he had experience with nystagmus patients and that he would be involved in each step in the process.

I met with Doctor Wong.  He simulated what the surgery was going to be like by having me track a light despite distractions and my vision being temporarily blocked.  Apparently my nystagmus is mild enough that he felt confident performing the surgery without taking any further measures.  They were able to map my eye and create a plan for how to reshape it.  They had an opening the next day, so I jumped on it.

I had someone drive me in.  We waited a while before they took me into an office to drug me up, I think it was an extra strength Tylenol and a Vicodin.  I did not feel impaired in any way.  They were a little concerned and considered increasing my dose but they never got to it.

Eventually they took me into the surgery room and laid me on a table.  They pulled back a flap, shot my eyes, and to home I went with sun glasses (of course grabbing a book from the library first, leaving my driver in the car).

They had me sleep most of the day and taking a strict eye drop regiment for several weeks.  There was a little bit of an issue initially.  After a day or two, one of my eyes was still blurry.  When I went in, I found out that I must have bumped the flap of the lens they cut, causing ripples in it from my eye moving.  It started healing that way.  The doctor had me close my eyes and smoothed out the flap with his fingers and off I went.

A Couple Years Later

It has now been almost two years since my surgery.  My vision is approximately what it was with glasses and it seems my eyes shake less.  I had heard that halo effects are directly proportional to how bad your astigmatism is.  I've had some halos that effect my night time vision but not too different than what my astigmatism caused previously.  On rare occasion, I also get some fatiguing that I've finally (after moving to a drier climate) have identified as my eyes being too dry.  I close them for a bit and I see fine.

I'd recommend looking into LASIK, even if you have nystagmus.  I hope my experience helps someone else with this condition.