“Why don’t you do LASIK?”
That’s what almost everyone says when they come to know that I am actually 850 degrees short sighted behind my contact lenses.
OF COURSE I WOULD LOVE TO HAVE 6/6. There wasn’t a day when I didn’t wish that I could do without my heavy glasses or wearing / taking out contact lenses!
But just like everyone else, I had my reservations – the price, not being able to wear colored contact lenses anymore (for vanity), possible halos/shadows/imperfect vision still after surgery… but really, was wearing contact lenses and glasses for the rest of my life worth it?
I’ve already spent 21 years wearing glasses, and 18 years wearing contact lenses.
If a box of contact lenses costs me $60 for a month’s wear, and my glasses cost $400 for a pair every year, it should have cost me at least $20,000 so far for me to see clearly. When you compare it with a surgery which can give me perfect vision for the rest of my life (I would like to live another 50 years, please) – $5,000 would seem like a steal, doesn’t it? (And not to mention the costs of seeing doctors whenever I get infections…)
And also, I’m so used to my contact lenses, that I hate the sight of myself without it. I thought I look weird, not normal, and ugly in my glasses. In fact on long flights, I would wear my contact lenses onboard.. and wait till all lights are off before taking them out for a nap. And then wear a fresh new pair before the plane descends. That’s how vain I am!
So imagine my delight when I came to know that there’s a new kind of vision correction surgery - the ReLEx® SMILE procedure and the fact that it’s a less invasive procedure!
So what is ReLEx® SMILE?
ReLEx® SMILE stands for – Refractive Lenticule Extraction, Small Incision Lenticule Extraction.
Conventional LASIK surgery involves a machine creating a flap (either with a blade, or without a blade) in your cornea and then having another machine to shape your cornea to perfection with laser. Close flap, eyes heal, voila – 6/6.
ReLEx ®SMILE, on the other hand, doesn’t create a flap – instead, a femtosecond laser creates a refractive lenticule (a thin lens shaped cornea tissue) in your eye and a 2mm – 4mm incision – the lens is then removed by a surgeon – eyes heal, and voila, 6/6.
Here is a video on how this is achieved:
It is less invasive with just a small 4mm incision as compared to a LASIK flap which is around 20mm. Your cornea’s integrity is maintained, and since it is less invasive, it also means you heal faster than a flap would, and there’s less risk of the flap dislodging as well.
Why do ReLEx® SMILE now?
Other than the fact that it is less invasive than LASIK, logically, to me, it is an improved version of LASIK.
Also, I am honestly sick of my plane contact-lens-on-contact-lens-off ritual. I would like to wake up and not worry about whether my contact lenses would fit me well today. I would like to go out and not worry about how long I can stay out, or if I can sleepover even if I don’t have my glasses. I would LOVE to not feel my heavy glasses on my nose bridge, and be able to fall asleep without taking out anything from my eye. It’s freedom. It may cost more compared to LASIK, but that amount for the freedom I get to enjoy? WELL WORTH IT, especially since I have better financial capability now as compared to when I was 18!
But first, before I embark on my journey to freedom, I have to make sure that I am eligible for laser surgery. Due to how high my degree was, my cornea had to be thick enough and healthy enough for the surgery. So I made an appointment for a consultation at a renowned eye clinic in Paragon.
Consultation & Tests
16 September 2014
They advised me beforehand that I should set aside about 3 hours for the consultation which involved a number of eye tests.
I was first led into a room with about 7-8 machines inside and had to work my way through station by station – there was the typical machine to check your degree of myopia / astigmatism, and also several machines to check cornea thickness, eye pressure and to scan my eyes. One of the machine made me feel like I could see all my veins in the eye ball! The tests usually involved staring into a light for 5 seconds without blinking. Not difficult at all!
My optometrist, Ginette was very helpful in answering all my curious-cat questions, and made me feel at ease. After every single test I would asked her if I passed, if my corneas were thick enough. It felt like I was going through an exam (well, I was!) and I wanted to pass badly!
Thankfully, even after 2 serious bouts of eye infections about 4-5 years back, my corneas were healthy enough to go for laser vision correction! It was a relief hearing Ginette tell me that my corneas were thick enough.
After I was done with the hypnotic looking machines, she led me to another room where we did the routine eye reading test.
My reading was:
L: -8.50, astig -0.75
R: -8.75, astig -0.25
Once we were done with the heavy glasses, I was seated down to watch an informational video about laser eye surgery - the do’s and don’ts, what to expect etc, and at the same time, I was also given eye drops to dilate my pupils so that the doctor could take a look at my eyes later on. That stung just a little, and I was told that it might get increasingly uncomfortable – as the pupil dilates, your vision gets a little distorted especially at near distances - this is only temporary, and would go away after a few hours.
My doctor had over 25 years of experience under his belt and clarified everything I wanted to about LASIK vs ReLEx® SMILE. The doctor looked into my eyes (hahaha, well, literally!) and told me that all was well for me to do either LASIK or ReLEx® SMILE! You bet I was gonna ask him all the niggling questions I had in my mind, and he answered all of them in detail. Most important questions for me were:
How long do I have to stay off make up? (as a beauty blogger, this was important)
Can I wear contact lenses after surgery? (lol I know, I was sort of expecting him to roll his eyes but he didn’t lah)
“After 6 months, we can see if you are suitable to”
Okay, I jest la! And many other burning questions, but this post is getting really long – if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll try to answer them!
I decided on ReLEx® SMILE of course, as it was the less invasive surgery – and he pre-empted me that in the case that I do not achieve 6/6 or still have residual degree left to be cleared, I could still get enhancement surgery done – but this time round, it will have to be LASIK (which means cutting a flap, instead of ReLEx SMILE which has no flap). I understood this risk and said I wished to go ahead, and thus, my surgery was set for 20th October, after my trip.
You can get laser surgery done as soon as the very next day after consultation, and go back to your regular activities on day 3 post op, but I decided not to tax my eyes during my vacation. That was my very last trip with my glasses and contact lenses!
Preparation for surgery
20 October 2014
Other than instructions to come with no make up on, not to drive and also to shampoo my hair before the surgery (as I will be unable to shampoo for 2 days after) there was no other special preparations for the surgery – I could eat normally, but I was so excited I forgot to – luckily, they had milo and biscuits at a snack station.
I had to go through the tests again as it was more than 1 month after my consultation. So yes – try to arrange for your surgery to be done ASAP after your consultation!
You cannot wash your face for the next 24 hours post surgery, and try to not get water into your eyes 48 hours post surgery, so I decided that I would have a hydrafacial (that cleanses, exfoliates, extracts and hydrates my skin all at the same time) done at the aesthetics clinic on the same floor – I mean, why not? I can make sure that my face is gunk free (esp since I just came back from a trip) as well as relax my nerves just before the operation.
I think it was normal to feel scared! I was getting the jitters when I sat in the waiting room with 2 other patients who were supposed to get it done before me.
Someone then walked out from the operating theatre as the nurse placed scrubs on me and I immediately asked him how he felt. He was tearing and his eyes were red… but what he said really cracked me up. “医生讲了一个很感动的故事所以我哭了” LOL. I could use the joke no matter how cold it was!
Another person went in and when he came out 10 minutes later, I asked him how it was – he said it felt like it was PSI300 hahahaha. And right after laughing at what he said, it was my turn to sign the form and get my surgery done!!! I was so nervous and I grasped my locker key super tight. (You can place your things in a locker if no one’s there to wait or keep your bag for you)
You will be given a post-op care kit to bring home, and this kit contained:
- Antibiotic Eye drops
- Lid care wipes ( you can’t wash your hair or face so this is to clean your eyes for 2nd and 3rd day)
- A pair of 3M goggles for you to wear immediately upon exit of the waiting area after op
- 2x eye shields (to protect your eyes from pressure or foreign objects when you sleep)
- Tape (to tape the shields to your face)
Scrubs, on. Glasses, off. Eyes, wiped clean and sterilised by the nurse. Anaesthetic numbing eye drops dripped!
I’M ALL READY FOR YOU, PEW PEW LASER!
And oh may I add – based on TCM, Chrysanthemum and Wolfberries are purportedly good for the eyes. I had a bottle of that in my bag. ; p
“SUCTION, ON” – THE SURGERY
I was placed on a bed which was 90 deg to the doctor, and it swung into place beneath the machine.
The doctor told me to relax – he covered the left eye, and then opened my right eye wide with a prong. The machine was activated and it started lowering itself towards my eye… “Focus on the green light”, I was told. And then I heard a female voice from the machine say… “SUCTION ON.”
I think this part is the most scary part of all – for all you people who have itchy hands and went to see exactly how a LASIK procedure would be like, you’ll probably be freaked out and be afraid of 1. pain 2. seeing what’s happening 3. final destination-like happening.
First of all, 3. is not going to happen.
Secondly, no you don’t feel pain. (Anaesthetic numbing eye drops, remember?)
and Thirdly, if you’re as blind as a bat like me, you pretty much CAN’T SEE ANYTHING once you take off your glasses anyway!
The lasering was super fast. There was no burning smell, no sensation, no pressure no nothing. All I could see was a green dot which slowly became blurrier and blurrier by the second because a lenticule was being formed. Removing the lenticule would give me perfect vision – and after a “SUCTION OFF”, it was time for the doctor to perform the manual extraction of the lenticule.
Soon, the lenticule was removed, my eyes were dripped eye drops and wiped over and it was time to perform the laser surgery on the other eye.
Everything was over in less than 15 minutes – I could see immediately after the surgery, but it was hazy and it was glaring.
Was released back into the waiting area where a nurse helped me out of the scrubs and get my belongings. I instantly took a selfie and sent it to the husband who was on the way over to fetch me – and I realized that unlike other LASIK patients, my eyes were not red and did not look like I’ve just been through a surgery… I teared a lot of cos, but it wasn’t irritated and I think that showed how gentle the surgery was!
It got increasingly harder to open my eyes as I went down to the carpark and when I got home, the first thing I did was to put on my eye shields and GO TO SLEEP. If you find it hard to sleep, they actually provide you 1-2 sleeping pills. I was prescribed only one bottle of Antibiotic Eyedrop, and I had to drip it every hour for the 1st day, and for the next 9 days, 4 times a day. It was to be discarded after the 10th day.
Every time I woke up in-between naps I would have clearer and clearer vision. It was like PSI300, then PSI250, PSI200…
The next day review
21 October 2014
I slept the entire day away, and the next day after the surgery, I was due for a follow-up at the clinic with my doctor.
At this point, I haven’t washed my face for the past 24 hour - except for wiping my face clean with Micellar Water Cleanser and using the sterile wipes provided in the care kit for the eye area. Let me just tell you that I think the hydrafacial was AMAZING because my skin was so clean, free of oil and it stayed that way. I was expecting to sprout some pimples cos I wasn’t allowed to wash my face for the next 2 days but I did NOT!
I only had to go through one simple machine test, which read my vision as:
L: -0.25, -0.50 astig
R: -0.25, -1.25 astig
I wasn’t expecting an immediate 6/6 but it bothered me that my right eye was blurrier than my left eye, so I clarified with the doctor.
My doctor told me told me that recovery rate really depends on individual, and that each eye recovers differently. He explained that it is part of the healing process and that my vision will eventually get better!
Review at 2 weeks
3 November 2014
Throughout the entire 2 weeks, it was amazing – everyday you wake up with differing vision because it has yet to stabilise but it was increasingly clearer – although my right eye was still much blurrier than my left eye – my left eye had already achieved 6/6, at least that’s what I believed! I was honestly a little worried – so many people had told me that they could see clearer within a week (and even the very next day) but that was with LASIK, and I guess my degree is much higher to start with and thus took longer to heal.
Took the eye test again, and the readings were:
L: -0.50, -0.25 astig
R: -0.00 , -0.75 astig
On the overall, it was an improvement. Technically I had 6/6 but it would get better in the next few months, and eventually stabilise at 6 months.
1 month later…
My next review was supposed to be in January, but it seems like all my worries were unfounded – at somewhere along the 3 week mark, my right eye cleared up much more and the discomfort went away! And it was then that I suddenly felt really 感动 that I finally went for this, and how it has changed my life so much. I even posted my feelings on my personal fb about it.
I have to admit though, recovery wasn’t as quick as I expected it to be. I understand that recovery time is a case by case thing – generally your vision will stabalize around the 3 week mark. It’s best to rest as much as you can, take breaks every 30 minutes, have more sleep, and drip eye drops whenever your eyes feel dry!
After the 3 week mark, I no longer experience dry eyes and I could go one whole day without feeling like I need to drip eye drops. I still have loads of eye drops though so I’ll just keep on dripping nevertheless!
3rd month review at clinic!
Time for my last and final review. 3 months post-surgery, I am seeing 6/6 vision for both eyes! You must remember, it takes quite a while – around 6 months or so – to stabilise, so these days I’m just reminding myself to rest more when tired, and stop reading in the dark!
So at my final review, my degree reading was:
L: -0.00, -0.00 (PERFECT!)
R: -0.00 , -0.75 astig
Post ReLEX SMILE thoughts…
Everyday when I wake up I’m thankful there is such a technology, and I’m amazed by what technology can do (I mean, I went from 800/900+ degrees to almost perfect vision. IT IS A HUGE CHANGE!). I didn’t have to stick to a particular cleansing routine (usually I take off my lenses after removing my make up and mask after and I have to have my contact lenses on so that my specs don’t become grimy). I no longer have to pack my glasses along for trips – I recently went to Taiwan, and I could just sleep without worrying about breaking my glasses or losing them, forgetting them etc. It was just so much more convenient in all aspects for me!
What’s left now, is to slowly come to terms with the fact that I’m actually asian, with black eyes and dark brown hair hahahaha (if you realized, I dyed my hair dark brown and did my brows so that it’ll match my dark eyes now that I don’t wear colored lenses anymore). Hello, freedom!!!
* It is important to note that there are only 2 eye clinics in Singapore which offers ReLEx SMILE, and this clinic in Paragon has the most comprehensive refractive services available, ranging from LASIK, EPI-LASIK, ReLEX SMILE & LASEK in case you are unable to do ReLEx SMILE.
If you have any questions that are not answered in this post about my experience with ReLEx SMILE, do leave a comment and I’ll try to answer them the best I can! ; )