The idea of having LASEK in Korea had never even crossed my mind. However, anyone who has ever worn contact lenses or glasses understands the pain of being “four-eyed”. I won’t dwell on the negatives as we don’t need to be reminded of our everyday struggles.
If you had the chance to do something that would change your life, would you? Or would you let fear get in the way?
Why LASEK in Korea?
The tipping point for my decision to have LASEK in Korea was the quality of doctors and the advanced technology. Seoul is the plastic surgery capital of the world with medical tourism being a thriving industry in Korea. LASEK is a common procedure here and the doctors perform the surgery almost daily. LASIK in Korea is also very popular and the doctors who performeither LASIK or LASEK are equally qualified to do both procedures. As a result, their experience is unmatched. Rated as the best in the world, I couldn’t miss this opportunity to have the life-changing surgery.
Costs for LASEK/LASIK in Korea
The costs for LASEK in Korea vary and depend on the condition of your eyes. Both of mine were -4.15 with astigmatism in the right eye. EyeMedi offer a 20% foreigner discount and so the total cost I paid was 1.7 million won for both eyes ($1 700). This cost includes the initial consultation as well as all checkups. However, all medication is additional and cost me roughly 100 000 won ($100) for the first two months of eyedrops and painkillers. If you’re getting LASIK in Korea, expect to pay a similar price.
Why I chose to have LASEK vs LASIK in Korea
Here, I’ve detailed my initial consultation at EyeMedi Gangnam. My eyes were put through numerous tests to check if I was a suitable candidate for either LASIK or LASEK eye surgery.
When performing LASIK, a flap is created and a laser is used to reshape the cornea. Thereafter, the flap is returned to its original place. LASEK differs from LASIK as there is no flap. As a result, there is less chance of problems arising.
Dr. Lee gave me the go ahead and recommended LASEK as I am extremely active and it is known to be the safer option. Athough LASIK has a shorter recovery time, it is an older procedure and so I decided to deal with the pain of LASEK in the hopes of a great outcome.
Before my LASEK surgery
I had to wear my glasses for 7 days prior to the surgery as contact lenses change the shape of your cornea. On the day of my LASEK procedure my heart was racing and I was a nervous wreck. I felt as if I was going to have an emotional breakdown in the middle of the Seoul Express Bus Terminal!
I arrived at EyeMedi Gangnam and met Mr. Choo who took me through a few more eye tests to ensure that there were no changes from the initial consultation. Whilst waiting and getting all admin sorted, I was given countless amounts of eye drops by the EyeMedi staff. At this point, they would usually take you into a room and draw your blood. The blood platelets are used for a recovery serum called PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma). This formula speeds up the recovery process and helps with healing. However, during my initial consultation, I explained that needles were not my thing and that I would most likely pass out if my blood was drawn! Mr. Choo agreed to use artificial blood platelets and so I could skip this step (happy dance!)
I was then given the prescription for my medication and guided to the pharmacy downstairs. After returning, I was taken to the surgical department. Here, I donned a surgical gown and sat anxiously as the medical staff cleaned my eyes.
After 20 minutes I was escorted to the operating theatre, and lay on the operation bed, anxiously waiting for Dr. Lee to arrive. I could hear his voice from a mile away and that familiar sound put my racing heart at ease.
Again, I emphasized how scared and nervous I was, and he smiled and reassured me that I would be fine.
During my LASEK Surgery
Days leading up to my surgery I had done so much research, perhaps too much, that I knew exactly what was happening and what would happen next.
First, a speculum was inserted around my eye to keep it open. Even if you try to blink, you can’t. The doctor started with my right eye and applied numbing anaesthetic eye drops to it. I was eagerly awaiting these, hoping and praying that they were strong and effective. He fiddled around in my eye for a few minutes and I could feel a cooling sensation but didn’t quite know what he was doing.
Finally, he told me to look straight into the laser – but the laser was red and blurry, not green like I had researched it should be. I panicked, but Dr. Lee told me to stay calm and that it was going to go green for about 20 seconds, which it did.
I nervously waited for that “burning hair smell” as I’d read is to be expected when the laser is reshaping your cornea. To my relief, I didn’t notice or smell this at all. Phew!
Lastly, he inserted a protective contact lens in my eye that needs to be removed 5-7 days after the surgery.
The right eye was done, one more to go.
15 minutes after I entered the operating theatre, the procedure was complete. I was relieved!
No, it wasn’t painful. However, I could see what they were doing, I knew what was coming next and I could hear the instruments. I was anxious throughout the procedure, holding tightly to the bed and was relieved when it was finally over.
After the surgery
Immediately after the surgery, I was good to go and left with a spring in my step knowing I would soon have great eyes. After I left EyeMedi, I could see clearly and had none of the side effects that I had read about.
I had to take a 2-hour bus trip home and this is when the anaesthetic started wearing off and the happiness I felt after leaving EyeMedi seemed like a distant memory.
LASEK eye surgery recovery time – The aftermath
As is expected with any form of surgery, there is pain during the healing process. If you’ve chose LASIK instead of LASEK, you won’t have to go through this pain (but you may have other issues in the future). This recovery process can range from slight discomfort to severe torture. I guess I was one of the unlucky ones who experienced the worst of the worst! However, it’s a small price to pay for the perfect eyes I have today.
I was given the below medication and eye drops that had to be taken religiously:
- Antibiotic eye drops: 4 times a day
- Anti-inflammatory eye drops: 4 times a day
- Emergency eye drops: Use for severe pain
- PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma): 4 times a day
- Artificial tears: Every 30 min
- Eye ointment: to be used after the protective lens is removed
- Painkillers: 4 different kinds of painkillers to be taken 3 times a day
Lasek recovery: The 1st night and 2nd day
Just a side note, after you’ve read my LASEK recovery process below, you may be put off from having the surgery. But I assure you, it’s the BEST thing I’ve even done! Since my procedure I’ve spoken to many people whose LASEK recovery wasn’t nearly as bad as mine. So yes, I feel like a complete baby for complaining so much but I have zero regrets!
During the first night after having LASEK eye surgery in Korea, I experienced no pain but my eyes were sensitive to light. I couldn’t use my phone or computer and so I took the painkillers and hit the sack.
The next morning I could barely open my eyes because the natural light in my room was too bright. Yes, I’d read that your eyes become sensitive to light, but I did not realize that it would be to this extreme. I immediately cried for sunglasses and lay helplessly under my blankets listening to an audiobook for the next few hours.
In the meantime, my boyfriend tried to find boxes, towels and cardboard paper to cover the frosted windows. I made sure he covered every single gap with not one, but two layers! Yes, it was that bad. I had slight scratchiness in my right eye but this is to be expected. When I was able to open my eyes, I could see clearly and this kept me positive.
Lasek recovery: End of day 2 and day 3
Towards the end of day 2, I started experiencing severe pain in both eyes. It felt as if someone was stabbing them with sharp knives that had been drenched in onion juice. And no, that’s not an over exaggeration!
Thinking this was as bad as it could get, I used the emergency eye drops. The pain subsided for about 30 min but then it started all over again. I took my medication and tried to sleep, but it was an extremely uncomfortable night. I woke up screaming with pain continuously and somehow managed to get a few hours rest.
Day 3 was by far the worst. I cannot explain the pain I felt in my eyes, but it was excruciating. To top it off, my emergency eye drops had run out. I took a few extra-strong painkillers and sleeping pills that I happened to have lying around the house. Again, I spent most of the day hiding under the blankets looking super stylish in my sunglasses and hat.
For those first 3 days, I was completely helpless. My apartment was pitch dark and I couldn’t cook or even make myself tea as I was in so much pain. No TV, no phone, no light! I wasn’t even allowed to shower or wash my face for 2 days after surgery. I just lay in bed wishing the pain away and feeling very sorry for myself.
Lasek recovery: Day 4 and 5
At this stage of recovery, most people start feeling better and brave the outdoors. I, however, was still feeling rather fragile and sore. The pain had subsided slightly but my eyes were still extremely sensitive to light. I continued to wallow in my bed and listen to my audiobook. My sight was good and I was looking forward to testing out my new eyes.
Lasek recovery: Day 6 and 7
After 6 days the pain had finally come to an end and cabin fever had reached its maximum. I decided to take a stroll to the grocery store and went out for lunch the next day. I could see! However, I continued to wear sunglasses and a big hat indoors as everything was still very bright.
Lasek recovery: Day 8, 9 and 10
I returned to EyeMedi Gangnam where a few tests were done on my eyes and the protective lenses were removed. Dr. Lee was happy with my progress but he warned me that after removal of the protective lenses I may feel pain for the next day or two. Noooo…! There is also a slight chance (1 in 20) that the epithelial layer may detach and so I was warned to be extra careful with my eyes.
To my relief, I experienced no pain during these 3 days. I tried watching TV but dimmed the brightness on my screen and still wore sunglasses. My sight was clear and fluctuated occasionally which is to be expected for the first month or two.
Lasek recovery: Day 11 – Return to work
The next week of work was manageable. After 9 hours in a room which has the brightest of white lights, I was pretty impressed that I had survived the day. I could see clearly and it was so weird going to bed and not having to take out my contact lenses.
Happily ever after – Why I’m so happy I had LASEK eye surgery in Korea
It has been 6 months since my surgery and I have been for numerous checkups at EyeMedi since I had LASEK. I now have 20/13 vision! Yes, that is possible and it’s better than perfect. I am experiencing no side effects and it was so worth the pain and torture I experienced to get to this point. Don’t let the LASEK recovery time scare you from making the best decision of your life! Not having to wear contact lenses and glasses has been a dream come true!
Would I recommend LASEK in Korea? YES!
This entire journey has been surreal. Yes, I was fortunate enough to be able to afford the surgery, but just having glasses is a privilege on its own. There are millions of people in the world in less developed countries who have worse eyes than I do, yet they do not have access to good eye care.
Never take anything for granted – good eyesight, just like good health, is a blessing and something to be grateful for every day.
Where to have LASIK or LASEK in Korea?
There is plenty of information on the web regarding LASIK or LASEK clinics in Korea that cater for foreigners. However, the moment I met Mr. Choo and Dr. Lee from EyeMedi Gangnam in Seoul, I knew that this was the right place to have the procedure.
EyeMedi doesn’t offer referral discounts or accommodation in Seoul if you need to travel from out of town (as some other clinics do). However, I feel that they went above and beyond to ensure that I had a successful experience. But most of all, the results speak for themselves and I believe this is due to their attention to detail and superior expertise.
How to get to EyeMedi Gangnam in Seoul?
EyeMedi is located in Gangnam, Seoul. Go out of exit 11 at Gangnam Station and turn to your right. The building is on the corner, above Hollys Coffee. EyeMedi have recently moved to the 3rd floor. You can contact Mr. Choo on their facebook page and he will give you all the information you need.
Do you have any questions regarding Lasek? Drop me a message and I’ll be happy to answer your questions.