Dream Eye Center - Lasek Review

Looking Ahead to a Brighter Future

Story by Nell Robbins

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I’d been struggling with terrible night vision for a few years – a fun fact I didn’t learn until, when visiting back home in the States and driving to my Aunt’s in the evening, I realized I couldn’t see the lines on the road for the different car lanes. 

When Sean approached me about getting LASEK in exchange for writing a review in Groove, I was happy to jump at the opportunity. While much more affordable in Korea than back home in the US, it’s not a small chunk of change to be throwing around or taking for granted.

I went to the clinic, located in Gangnam, and was immediately impressed. The staff was super friendly and helpful, offering me tea, and a locker for my belongings. They quickly took my information and had me meet with one of their techs right away, where I was informed of the process of LASEK versus LASIK and told that, depending on my testing results, I would decide on which of the two procedures to choose.

They have the entire process on their site in English, and the technician sat with me, telling me how each procedure is beneficial in its own way, depending on your vision needs or your cornea shape or thickness. Those who have thinner corneas for instance, are better off getting LASEK instead of LASIK.

From there, I got to go around the entire clinic for the tests. There are 24 tests for patients to help guarantee the best results that will help them determine the proper treatment.

First, was the auto-refractive keratometry test to look for vision problems like near or far sightedness. I had to focus my vision on a fixation target – in this case, a farmhouse off in a distant field. 

Next came an intraocular pressure test, which is a fancy way of saying a small puff of air is blown on the eye to measure eye pressure. It was a bit startling at first, but not uncomfortable.

Following that was the ORK-cam test, to measure methods and options for surgery. I had to look into a big lamp with dozens of orange spiraling rings, feeling vaguely as if I were in a twilight zone lab test. After staring into the lights, I had a bit of lingering glow, but nothing uncomfortable.

Then came a topography test to determine the shape of my cornea, followed by a pentacam test. After looking straight at a green light at the end of a black tunnel, Dream Eye can study the shape, thickness, contour, and integrity of the cornea.

Following that came the wavescan aberrometer. Looking at yet another light, this time the technology calculates refractory errors and wave aberrations.

Next came the tests pretty much anyone who’s gotten a physical can recall. The naked vision test (using one eye at a time to identify letters on the chart), the static retinoscopy (when you wear glasses with interchangeable lenses), a strabismus test (another one-eye-only test), and a binocular vision test (using red and blue lenses to test focusing accuracy, flexibility, and strength).

Then came the stereo vision test to analyze depth perception, and a pupil measuring test. Cornea thickness is tested again, and then followed by a CT scan to detect potential infectious conditions. Then follows the A-scan test, to provide data on the length of the eye. 

The following Schirmer’s test is perhaps the only “uncomfortable” test. However, knowing my eyes are more sensitive than most, I believe it when the technician told me people don’t usually react to the test so strongly. Two little pieces of filter paper are placed in the lower eyelid pouch to assess teardrop production. Aside from some minor stinging, it wasn’t bad.

I was then given drops to enlarge my pupils and did 3 more tests with Dr. Choong-Ki Jung. Basically, I sat in a chair with my chin in a device while he shined a light at my eyes for the slit lamp, optic nerve, and fundus test.

As daunting as it might seem reading it all listed off, the whole procedure took only about 90 minutes, and the time sped by as I was constantly moved from chair to chair and one part of the clinic to another. It was all quite interesting talking with the technicians and going through all the different exams.

Dr. Jung explained that due to my thinner corneas I was a prime candidate for LASEK. We scheduled a time for the procedure, and I came back a couple weeks later, nervous but ready.

First, they put numbing drops in my eyes to prepare me for the procedure. Fifteen minutes later, they had me lay down on the table, inserted the devices to hold my eyes open, and put in the solution to remove the outermost layer of the cornea – and that’s when my nerves kicked in. 

I reiterate – this surgery was utterly PAINLESS, I’m just the type to get jittery during surgeries. When my vision suddenly got clearer and I realized that’s because a layer of the corneal epithelium was removed, I couldn’t stop my teeth from chattering, which made it hard for me to hold still enough to use the laser.

The nurse was super kind and supportive though, and Dr. Jung was very patient with me. The nurse got me a blanket, held my hand, and rubbed my shoulder, while the Dr. told me not to apologize for my jitters and that it was common for many of their patients to have even stronger cases of nerves kick in. If you are the type to get nervous, I would suggest talking it over in advance to see if you can get yourself a sedative of some sort prior. I hadn’t thought I would have such a strong reaction, so I hadn’t thought of it myself.

Eventually, my jitters settled, and with a quick blink of a green light, and getting protective contact lenses put in, it was done! Literally, the entire procedure takes seconds to do. The longest part is waiting the fifteen minutes for the drops to kick in. I must admit, the “Congratulations” song they play at the end felt a bit patronizing, but I understand it was coming from a well-intended place. You likely can request that no music be played afterwards, but honestly, why not have some comedy gold to enjoy after your procedure?

I went and laid down for about thirty minutes in their resting room, with headphones playing soothing music. I actually drifted off to sleep until I was gently woken by the assistant and went on my way.

As for the recovery, I would suggest talking with the doctor in advance – especially if you have green or blue eyes. Apparently, lighter colored eyes are more prone to sensitivity after the surgery. Having green eyes, the pain for me was pretty intense, and had I not done this over a holiday weekend, I would have been able to go back and get stronger medication. I also strongly recommend having a series of podcasts ready to listen to as it helps to distract from the pain. Being unable to read or watch TV, and unable to sleep due to discomfort, was pretty rough. Eventually my husband set up some LeVar Burton Reads for me, and it made my recovery much more bearable. If you have a partner, friend, or roommate willing to crash with you for the recovery process, I would highly encourage it, as I wouldn’t have been able to play the podcast from my phone myself. Even with the brightness down to it’s lowest, my phone’s screen was too intense. Opening the fridge was also a bit of a nightmare. If you don’t own curtains, you will need to find a way to temporarily cover up your windows or your recovery will be rough.

After three days though, I was pretty much back to normal. I wasn’t able to apply makeup to my eyes for another week, but that’s what we have sunglasses for, after all. And sure enough, within another week I could already notice differences in my night vision, being able to recognize friends from down the road in the dark and read signs that I otherwise had been unable to unless closer.

I went in for my follow appointments, including getting my protective lens removed a week later, a follow up check two weeks later, and was glad to hear my vision was above 20/20! Dr. Jung told me in the following three months I’d gain even more ability to see as my eyes healed fully. 

Again, I would highly recommend the procedure to those considering it, and I would even further recommend Dream Eye Center. They are a wonderful clinic with a dream team staff, professional atmosphere, and amazing results!

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Sean Choi