On Saturday, I got laser eye surgery here in Korea. It was a really wonderful experience and the best part is that I can now see! So far into the distance! Without wearing glasses! I know that’s the whole point of getting laser eye surgery, but as someone who has lived almost her whole life wearing some kind of corrective lenses – to me this is quite literally a miracle. This is a very long post, but I wanted to share my experiences for anyone thinking about getting LASIK in Korea.
One part of my motivation for coming to Korea would be to get my eyes fixed here. Korea has the highest number of LASIK procedures in the world because in general there is more myopia (farsightedness) here, at least according to my optometrist. This means they are very efficient and supply-and-demand means the price is much lower! It all depends on where you go, but you can expect to pay around 1,300,000 won or about $1200 US dollars. Back home, it’s usually at least this much or more per eye, so it’s definitely worth the cost. Also since I wear contacts, this surgery will pay for itself in just a few years.
I had a really easy and straightforward experience with my surgery and really liked the clinic I chose. I’d had Hivue Eye Clinic in Seomyeon recommended to me by a few friends who had done the procedure earlier in the year. They offered a discount to foreigners as many clinics in Korea do.
The timing of my procedure was so easy. I booked a consultation for Saturday but had heard that sometimes they offer to do the surgery the same day. They warned me not to wear contacts a week before the surgery, but since I didn’t think I would be having the surgery on the day of my consultation I only stopped wearing them about 4 days before. Still, they said it was fine.
My consultation was at 11:30 and took about 1.5 hours from start to finish, including several tests of my eye health and determining my prescription. That included a sit-down meeting where they explained to me each test and my results compared to the normal baseline population. I had never gotten that kind of information on my eye health back in Canada and I must say it was both interesting and comforting to know. Then they sent me off for lunch and told me to come back in an hour for the surgery.
I came back, was sent down to the pharmacy to buy some eye drops, signed a consent form and had two more short tests. Then I was taken up to the surgery room and had to wait quite a while for someone else’s procedure to be completed. But once it was my turn, it moved very quickly and took altogether only about 1/2 an hour in total.
Here are some things you might encounter:
- They took my blood to make “medicine”. (I’ve since Googled this and no longer am so alarmed, but trust me I was at first.) They use your blood plasma to make special “autologous” eye drops that prevent dry eye and encourage healing. But I have friends that went to other eye clinics in Korea and did not have this.
- I had to stand in a special wind chamber before entering the operating room, presumably to get all the dust off my clothes.
- Since it’s Korea, I had to take off my shoes outside the operating room.
- The staff may not speak much English. I was lucky that my optometrist had some basic English, enough to explain the procedure, and I had help from the contact who works with this clinic.
During the surgery (I had LASIK, not LASEK):
- You might have to get up after the corneal flap has been cut and move to another operating table across the room. This was a very surreal experience and all I could think was “there are flaps in my eyes!” That said, I could see fine to walk even if it was a little blurry.
- You won’t feel any pain or even much sensation. There is an intense pressure on your eye before they make the flap, but after that I didn’t feel anything. My biggest fear was having to watch what was happening but in fact I couldn’t see much at all.
- You will smell a funny burning smell when they use the correcting laser, which is a bit disconcerting.
- The lights are very, very bright and it was hard for me to keep my eyes open.
- You don’t have to worry too much about keeping your eyes open because there is a (painless) clamp that holds your eyelid gently open.
After the surgery:
This will differ for everyone of course, but at my clinic they said I’d be totally fine to walk around and see right after and I was. I took the subway home with a friend of mine but I probably could have navigated it alone! That said, I had some discomfort: it felt as if there was something in my eye, and I had a lot of light sensitivity for the first few hours. Also, things were a bit filmy and blurry with a halo effect around lights. Before I went to bed that night though, it was much more comfortable and I could see pretty clearly. When I woke up on Sunday, it was like magic! My eyes as of this writing are still fairly dry but my vision is great! In general, my clinic said to expect only about one day to recover from the LASIK procedure.
Be prepared to go into the clinic after one day, one week, two weeks, and a month intervals. My day-after followup was a very short eye test and the doctor took a look at my eye under the microscope. Everything looked fine and they say I have above 20/20 vision now.
I was really pleased with my experience and am absolutely thrilled with the results. My recovery time was absurdly short with minimal discomfort and best of all, my eyesight is great now. I am so excited that I was able to give myself this gift and feel very lucky that I got the opportunity to be in Korea and was able to feasibly save up for this.
If anyone has any questions about the procedure, let me know in the comments below and I’ll try my best to answer them.
Would you ever get a medical procedure in another country? If you wear glasses, would you get laser eye surgery to correct your vision?