Getting LASIK/LASEK in Korea

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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?

Lasek in Korea

It’s over!

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.

Before lasek in Korea

12 years of wearing glasses

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.

Lasek checkup

My checkup at EyeMedi 2 months after the surgery

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 my successful Lasek surgery with Dr Lee in Korea

After my successful Lasek surgery with Dr Lee

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.

Lasik eye surgery in Korea

Mr Choo showing me the before and after

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.

Check up after Lasek at EyeMedi

2 months after the surgery and I have perfect vision

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.  

Lasek in Korea at Eyemedi Centre

EyeMedi Centre

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.

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Lasek in Korea

 

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14 Comments

  1. Wow thanks for this super detailed review! Gonna send it on to my sister who is looking to do this, we were also scared of the actual procedure and had heard about the “burning hair smell” and that sounded terrifying quite frankly but the pain afterwards sounds worse… not sure she’ll want to do it after reading this though lol.

    1. Tell her she HAS to do it! Yes, the recovery was painful, but many people I’ve spoken to had a better experience – perhaps I have a super low pain threshold! Having Lasek has changed my life. If your sister has the opportunity to do it, she really should! 🙂

  2. Omg I’m sorry u experienced so much pain. 😢 My recovery was pretty painless! Korea is def the place to get LASEK or LASIK though. So many people wear glasses and the doctors have so much experience! My eyes were -10 and in Canada, no one would even try… I didn’t get 20/20 but I can function without glasses now and I’m so glad I did it!

  3. Excellent and detailed review. I like that you did not reduce your reporting of the side effects, particularly in the first 3 days after the treatment. I had Lasik done almost 20 years ago, and unfortunately, I did it at the tender age of 18 (and should have waited until my fluctuating eyesight settled down), and since then, wear glasses again. I imagine that so much has changed with almost two decades of advancing technology. I certainly don’t remember the side effects that you mention. I am worried about the detaching epithelial layer (I think that’s the term), and definitely have remained sensitive particularly to sun light. I hope all works out well for you, and I really wish I had waited before getting my operation done!

    1. Wow, I would have been super scared to have it done 20 years ago. The only reason I convinced myself to do it now is because of the advanced technology, especially in Korea… you can’t get better. Hopefully my eyesight doesn’t deteriorate as I’ve heard that it is common. However, even a few years with this great eyesight would have made the operation so worth it. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  4. Yes! I got warned about the burning hair smell too! Whenever I made the mistake of wearing contacts around my Korean friends I got the inevitable “You look pretty without glasses– you should get LASEK” comments. (I guess I look ugly with glasses? lol). I thought about it but never had the nerve or the cash (I would always spend it on plane tickets). It’s cool to hear your experience. I’m glad it was a positive one.

  5. Thanks for the detailed account! I totally understand you as I used to wear glasses and contacts. I hated wearing both to be honest and getting lasik eye surgery was a no-brainer! I got mine done in Korea as well but a long time ago (like 2010). I had a really great experience with them and was happy with my results! I don’t remember the pain being as bad as yours but I may have just erased it from my memory! haha. It’s great that your sharing your experience for other people to learn from and decide whether or not to have it done.

  6. I’ll be honest that I only got three half of this post because as soon as you started talking about the laser.. seeing it, which is obvious, but omg, my spine is tingling right now. I just can’t think about it. I’m glad you were so calm and collected and had done your research. Luckily, I don’t wear glasses, but if I did, I’m not sure I could do this. BUT Doing it in Korea is a great idea so I’ve heard. Cheaper and great technology on the surgery. Congrats!

  7. Oh wow, I feel like I’ve been there with you somehow (you’re a great storyteller). Kudos to you for going through such a popular yet very frightening procedure. I don’t think I could do it, honestly. I hate pain and when it comes to something as sensitive and as prominent as your eyes – hellz to the no! I’m happy for you that it went soo well.

  8. I’m tired of wearing my eyeglasses and I my eyes get a lot of pain wearing contact lens… Gone were the days I can wear sunglasses! But I’m honestly scared of doing lasek because i have very low tolerance for pain. and reading about your experience is making me a little bit more scared:-(.

  9. Thank you so much for your very informative post. Because of this post, I decided to do LASEK at EyeMedi. I scheduled to do it early next month. However, millions of people chose LASIK over LASEK. I also want to make sure that it is safe in the future that is why I chose LASEK. Now, I suddenly have a second thought because as I read some articles they said LASEK is similar to PRK and its long-term complications haven’t been studied yet since it is a new procedure.

    Moreover, I cannot wear lens because I am so sensitive to my eyes. Now that I think of the recovery pain, I really don’t know if I can handle it. I am trying to get myself ready for the worst but now that the surgery is getting close, I am so scared. I am living alone and I cannot even use the eye drops properly. Would you mind telling me some techniques to use the eye drops by yourself? Especially, when it really hurts. How could you manage to open your eyes and put it?

    And how are your eyes now? Is it still perfect? Have you ever worried about the long-term effect?

    1. Thanks for your comment! I know exactly how you feel and had the same reservations before I had the surgery. I chose LASEK as it is the newer and more advanced option. It’s similar to PRK in that there’s less risk of issues as no flap is created, but LASEK is an advancement on PRK and they are not the same. I do believe that the doctors in Korea are some of the best in the world and if they advise it, I needed to trust them. I also chose LASEK over LASIK as I am extremely active and I had heard that with the flap created in LASIK, there could be issues if you have a hard knock on your eyes. However, I do know people who also had a successful LASIK operation. In the end, you need to just do your research and be open with your doctors if you have any concerns.

      My recovery was painful, yes, but I’ve heard so many stories of people having no pain! And it’s only 5 or so days and then you’ll have great eyesight. Just make sure you take the necessary measures as I had – pre-cook a few meals that you can just heat up quickly, black out your room, have audio books available and take at least 5 days off work.

      My eyes only hurt when there was light in the room. When I put my eyedrops in, I made sure all the lights were off. The eyedrops don’t hurt your eyes at all. They soothe the pain and help with the recovery. I messed all of my face the first few times! As long as you get it in your eyes, it’s fine.

      My eyes are now perfect! It’s been 8 months and I’m so so happy with the results. I was petrified before I had the op and now I look back and I’m so thankful I didn’t pull out! For the first few months, I had some dryness but this is normal and was nothing that a few eyedrops couldn’t fix. Long-term effects – to be honest, I don’t think there are any. The worst could be that my eyes deteriorate and I end up wearing glasses in 20 years or so (but in that case I’d have the surgery again)

      I believe that if the doctors recommended the surgery for you, then you are a good candidate and there is little risk. If you’re having second thoughts perhaps go to another doctor and have the tests done again. If another doctor also advises LASEK, it may make you feel more comfortable.

      Good luck and please let me know how your operation goes!

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