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Women's Health

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My Odyssey With LASIK Surgery

Seeing the Light

continued...

This was sounding more and more like a real possibility for me, but the thought of surgery made me squeamish. The surgeons use a tiny instrument called a microkeratome to cut a flap of corneal tissue, then use a laser to remove a hair-thin piece of tissue, effectively changing the shape of the eye. Cavanagh said the surgery for farsightedness was easier and safer because the laser didn't focus on the field of vision, as in the nearsightedness procedure. Rather, it removes a donut-shaped piece of tissue around the corneal edge.

A few months later I made an appointment for Cavanagh to evaluate me for LASIK. Coincidentally, my editors had just assigned me to write about the controversial issue of using the procedure on children. Cavanagh was a good sport, and not only spent a lot of time talking with me as a patient, but also fielding questions on expanding the surgery to youngsters.

After a three-and-a-half-hour exam, Cavanagh explained that the shape of my eye made contacts impossible. The other option, considering the deterioration of my vision, was bifocals, then trifocals. When he heard that I ride a horse and a bicycle, he told me I'd be safer and could continue my sports at a higher level with LASIK.

I went home and thought it over for about six weeks. He'd given me much to think about -- not the least of which are possible complications, including loss of vision, double or hazy vision, increased sensitivity to light, dry eye, and the appearance of glare and halos around lights, any of which may be temporary or permanent. In addition, an ulcer may form on the cornea, or an eyelid may become droopy. After working for years as a science writer, I know that science is an art -- the doctors can't guarantee whether your vision will improve, or to what degree. And the surgery isn't cheap: $1,900 per eye.

Eventually, I decided to go through with it. So, on Dec. 28, 2000, I found myself reclining in a dentist-type chair, about to see -- literally -- what the future would hold.

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