Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Woes of Traveling Blind

Bad Eyesight

I've been wearing glasses since I was 11, and contact lenses since I was 19, which basically means I've struggled with poor eyesight for more than half of my life. I would have carried on with the hassle of wearing my lenses everyday if I weren't as active as I am, or if I didn't travel as much.

The thing is, contact lenses and everything else that comes with it are expensive... especially since my eye grade changes constantly. Plus, my lenses have to be especially made too because of my astigmatism and dry eyes. My lens solution also has to be a specific brand, and when you add all of that up, it ain't pretty.

And there's also the water dilemma. Those of you who know me well, know that I am practically a mermaid. I swim, I do triathlons and I surf. There is always the internal debate on whether or not I should wear my lenses before those water activities. If I did, it's not safe. If I didn't, I won't be able to see. Aaaagh! It's so inconvenient!!!

Water Bunny


I've thought about getting a Lasik procedure done a few times before. I guess I just never got past the fear of doing it, plus the cost. I did have myself evaluated 5 years ago in Beverly Hills, and I was a candidate then. However, the cost was the same as getting a boob job - and I could not afford either (not that I would want my boobs done though). But then a few years ago, I heard a few of my friends say the prices of Lasik have dropped significantly, especially here in the Philippines. A couple of them have had theirs done at Asian Eye Institute for 1/10th of the price I was quoted in Beverly Hills 5 years ago, and they couldn't be happier!

What pushed me to really do it was 3 weeks ago after having an eye exam at an optical shop. My eye grade jumped up to a whopping 525 from 400, and it scared me to pieces.


Asian Eye Reception
Asian Eye's Reception

I booked a screening at Asian Eye a couple weeks later. I didn't really know what to expect, but I had a few fears. First was that I might not be a candidate anymore because of all the weirdness surrounding my eyes (dry eyes, astigmatism, high grade, graves disease)... Second, was that if I were a candidate, doing the Lasik procedure freaks me out!!!

Exam Room
Anyway, I was asked not to wear my lenses 7 days prior to the screening. I was also told that the screening would take approximately 3 hours. I thought they were exaggerating, but it really DID take 3 hours! It was the most comprehensive eye check up/exam I've ever had in my whole life! Talk about being thorough!

At first it was just like a normal eye exam at the optometrists. Then they take you in to see these machines check the size of your cornea, check your retina, check your (or my) astigmatism, the amount of tears you create, then they counter check that with a manual process... These guys mean business! I have to say it was very organized  though... I had half a mind to take a book with me, but the waiting time was very minimal. I was being ushered from room to room quite efficiently.


Because of how comprehensive the exams were, they detected a few problems with my retina. Because of my astigmatism, my eyes stretch out to the shape of an American football, causing my retina to stretch beyond its capability, therefore making them thin. The main doctor, Dr. Ang, called in their Retina expert, Dr. Quilendrino to look further. She confirmed that my retina was close to tearing (in both eyes) and suggested that they do a laser therapy treatment to repair them and make them stronger. (The image below practically shows how they did the treatment on my eyes, and honestly, I was really uncomfortable. It felt like the laser was inducing brain freeze... It really wasn't pretty. I was glad it was over quickly though, and Dr Quilendrino had the nicest, soothing voice that made me feel really at ease.)

photo from


Apart from the weak and thin retinas, I apparently also have very irregularly shaped corneas. Even more irregular than what astigmatism does to them. Dr Ang says that because of this, he wouldn't do LASIK on me, but suggests PRK instead - Photorefractive Keratectomy. From what I understand, instead of removing a flap like they do in LASIK, PRK works by reshaping the cornea using an excimer laser, allowing light entering the eye to be properly focused onto the retina for clear vision.  PRK also falls under the umbrella of laser eye surgeries, but is recommended for cases like mine - meaning people with corneas that are thin, or with unusual curvatures. The downside to it is that my recovery time is a little longer and more uncomfortable, but the upside is that I have less risk for infection. Dr Ang says it is the safest route for me, and I really have no cause to disagree with him.

photo from


At least I AM a candidate and I am scheduled for the procedure on Friday. Am I scared? YES. Am I excited? YES. Bottom line is, I just want to be able to see clearly again without having to rely on lenses or glasses. To those of you who have struggled with eyesight like me, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. And as for travel, this means not having to worry about buying lens solution or lenses or carrying glasses or worry about whether or not I should wear them before getting in the water. The good always outweighs the fear. I've been semi-blind for too long. It's time to see things clearly.

Wish me luck!!!

Have you struggled with poor eyesight? Ever considered or done Lasik yourself? Please share your thoughts and comments below! I'd love to hear about them :)

Hi There! Have we met before? You look familiar! Those shoes look great on you, by the way! I’m Eartha and I recently decided to quit my job to travel the worrrrld! Join me in my adventures by checking back on my blog, and leaving me a comment or two!
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