My ReLEx Smile experience

I’ve been short-sighted since I was about 9 years old.

I loved to read when I was a child, and because I couldn’t sleep properly at night and the characters in books were my best friends, I would stay up way past my bedtime till 2am in the morning squinting at tiny text while lying down on my back, reading away in horrible lighting conditions. I didn’t know that it would cause me to rely on spectacles for the rest of my life. My family has a history of pretty good eyesight, so I’m quite sure that’s the main reason for my myopia. My short sighted-ness worsened over the years no thanks to continuous bad habits (e.g reading too long without taking a break, doing homework in bad lighting).

Had I known silly habits like that would cause me to have handicapped vision the rest of my life, I swear I would’ve taken better care of my eyes. Up until a month ago, I was living with approximately 600 degrees for both eyes. While it’s not the worst I’ve heard of (I have friends with 900 degrees both eyes), 600 degrees is still bad. I can’t see clearly at all without my glasses, and from the moment I wake up I have to fumble around for them, if not I would likely trip over something the instant I get out of bed. I don’t even take off my glasses when showering because I get insecure when I don’t have clear vision. I always have this theory that people with spectacles would get picked off first in a zombie apocalypse because we’d run, our glasses would inevitably fall off after some action and get smashed then we’d be all helpless and get eaten by zombies. LOL. That’s one of the more dramatic, far-fetched disadvantages of being bespectacled.

The real problem I have with wearing glasses happens on a more day-to-day basis.

I hated how I could always FEEL my glasses on my face. I don’t know if other spectacles wearers feel the same way, but I know some people don’t mind their glasses on their face at all. For me, that was never the case. Even though I’d worn glasses for more than 12 years, I was always conscious of them. Not just of how they look on me, but also how they feel on me. It felt exactly like what it was – plastic on my face. I would feel my eyelashes brush up against my lens whenever I blinked. I would feel the frame slide up and down my nose if I ran or did any exercise. I would have to remove my glasses and wipe them every other hour or so, because they’d get dirty. I would get insanely annoyed whenever I exited a cold environment and entered a hot one, because my glasses would fog up, leaving me visually impaired for 2 whole minutes. I don’t think I look ugly with my glasses – super geeky at most, but it’s not what I would personally consider attractive.

Don’t get me wrong – glasses look hot on some people. Sometimes, it makes a person look smarter or more sophisticated. However, there’s no doubt in my mind that I look much better without my glasses. I don’t apply make up with my glasses on because I feel like it defeats the purpose. All that carefully drawn eye make up hiding behind lenses and a thick frame… why even bother and waste the effort? So, since I was 13 years old, I took the next step and started wearing contact lenses. Yeah, I was a really vain kid. I remember how much my eyes used to sting whenever I’d put my contacts on. I have sensitive eyes that get dry and red very easily, and it took me many years of wearing contact lenses to finally be able to wear them for more than a few hours without extreme discomfort. It used to be only an hour or two of usage before my eyes would turn impossibly red and irritated. I would be torn between looking geeky (insecure teenager) or having my eyes in pain. I’ve even suffered from eye infections before due to improper care of my contact lenses.

One of the worst feelings in the world is being so tired after a super long day out that you forget to take off your contacts before knocking out, and then you wake up a few hours later in horror because you remember you haven’t removed them yet only to find that the contacts are literally glued to your eyeball. It’s so dry that when you try to remove them you feel like you’re pinching your own eyeball out. I could go on FOREVER with my stories about how much I hate wearing contacts and glasses. But let’s proceed with the main point, shall we?

Which is the fact that… I AM FINALLY RID OF GLASSES AND CONTACTS FOREVER!!!!!!!!!!! HALLE-FREAKING-LUJAH. I have close to perfect vision right now, and I’m relying on neither glasses nor contacts – it’s my own natural sight.

I got ReLEx® SMILE surgery done approximately a month ago, and I’m so thrilled to share about my entire experience with you guys. Now most of you have probably heard of LASIK, but you must be wondering: what on earth is ReLEX Smile?

What is ReLEx® SMILE?
ReLEx® SMILE (Refractive Lenticule Extraction, Small Incision Lenticule Extraction) is a new, bladeless, flapless and gentle refractive eye procedure that corrects visual problems including shortsightedness and astigmatism. It is the next generation of laser vision correction surgery that uses only one femtosecond laser for the entire procedure. Like most refractive eye surgery procedures, ReLEx® SMILE aims to reduce your dependency on spectacles and contact lens in order to improve your quality of life.

I went for my consultation at a lasik clinic at Paragon Medical Centre mid-late last year, and I was so excited when I was told that I’m suitable for the procedure!

My nerves were all over the place during consultation because I had so many burning questions in my head. What are the risks involved, what are the possible complications and side effects, what kind of people are best suited for this surgery, how is it different from LASIK, how long is the recovery process…. Thankfully, all my questions were answered patiently and professionally by the kind staff at the clinic. I am a worry wart and I couldn’t stop thinking of all the bad stuff that could possibly happen! I am super paranoid and I am ALWAYS a worst case scenario sort of person, in the sense that I constantly imagine the worst thing that could happen to me in any situation. Here’s sharing the information I’ve gathered with you:

Who is ReLEx® SMILE for?
ReLEx® SMILE is beneficial for those with higher degrees of myopia between 500 to 1000 degrees and astigmatism of up to 500 degrees. An ideal candidate would have to be:

  • 18 years of age and above
  • Not pregnant
  • No significant change in spectacle prescription the last 12 months
  • No significant past medical or eye history
  • No family history of eye disease
  • Myopia up to 1000 degrees and astigmatism of up to 500 degrees

My pupils were dilated (with the help of a nurse) and then I had a series of tests being performed on my eyes to check the condition and whether I was suitable for ReLEx® SMILE. Even though I have thin cornea, I was still given the green light to go ahead with the surgery. Thank goodness! I was made to watch an animated video of what the surgery procedure will be like to better understand exactly what I’m getting myself into.

How is ReLEx® SMILE done?
ReLEx® SMILE is a single-step, all-in-one laser procedure that takes about 10 minutes to perform on one eye. The actual laser process takes only about 30 seconds to complete. The entire ReLEx® SMILE is performed with gentle, low suction such that vision is preserved with no “black out” phenomenon, unlike other laser refractive procedures.

After my consultation, I had my surgery date scheduled less than a month away… In the waiting room I met with other bespectacled patients who were all too excited to finally attain that perfect eyesight they’ve been dreaming of their whole life. No one there looked as nervous as I was. Most people I talked to were pretty much like, “Hey, don’t worry, it will be over in a jiffy. There’s nothing to fret about.”

And they were right.

I didn’t have anything to worry about – it was all over before I knew it. The anticipation is the worst part of it. The actual procedure was bearable. Numbing drops were applied. I was taken in the surgery room and told to lie on the surgery bed. My eye area was cleaned, eyelashes taped back, and eyelids held open by this metal device. In a matter of a minute or two, the machine was over me, and I heard the words: Suction On. I felt pressure on my eye, and then I saw flashing lights, which I believe was the laser working its magic. I could feel the pressure in my eyeball building up but it was bearable. Not what I’d describe as pain, just discomfort. You’re told to focus on one area, not to move your eyeball around too much and breathe slowly. I think I forgot to breathe, though. In about 30 seconds, the machine gets moved away and the doctor works on my eyeball. I could actually see and feel my lenticule being removed. I repeat, there was no pain. When he’s done removing the lenticule, he applies some eyedrops and says, “we’re all done with one eye, now on the next one!”

I let go a huge sigh of relief and thought to myself, “Hey, this isn’t so bad. Just remember to keep very still and listen to what they say.”

My doctor does the second eye. I was in and out of there within 15 minutes. The nurses held my arms and led me into the waiting area, and they explained to me how to take care of my eyes the following 2 weeks. Could I see immediately after the surgery? Yes, but it was blurry. I’d say I had about 30% of my normal vision, it was not clear and my eyelids felt extremely heavy. I just wanted to go to sleep. When the numbing eyedrops eventually wore off after an hour, the discomfort was more prominent but still bearable, it just felt like soap got in my eyes. I was just SO DARN HAPPY it was all over and done with, now I just have to deal with the recovery process!

I slept in the car ride back, had dinner and then popped the sleeping pill which they prescribed and went straight to bed. I slept like a baby for more than 10 hours, and when I woke up the next morning for my next day review, I was elated to find that the discomfort had reduced 80%! I still couldn’t see properly, but better than the day before. I was given lid care wipes, eyedrops and eye shields to wear to protect and take care of my eyes. Some after effects I endured after the surgery include fogginess, starburst vision at night and an inability to focus properly for 1-2 weeks after the surgery, which is part of the process. By the third week I was seeing pretty clearly already! I went back for my review, and apparently my eyes are healing extremely well, better than the average patient.

It’s been close to a month since I’ve had my ReLEx® SMILE done, and it’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.

I have been recommending it to all my friends who’ve asked me about my experience. There was literally almost no pain involved, and I’m blown away by how easy it was for me to go through the whole procedure. Like I’ve said before, the anticipation is the worst part of it, the rest was a breeze for me go through. Even though I was advised to get plenty of rest the first week, I was out and about having fun with my friends the very next day after the surgery! My starburst problem is slowly but surely reducing, and even though my vision still fluctuates (it will completely stabilize in a few months) I can see very clearly for the most part. I’m told my vision is close to perfect (OH MY GOD ;_;) and despite having slightly dry eyes before the surgery, it’s not worsened after ReLEx® SMILE. I was dependent on eye drops only for the first two weeks and I only apply them whenever I feel it’s necessary now. My vision was gradually get better.

I try to take breaks whenever I’m using the computer nowadays as I don’t want the chance of having myopia again.The chances are extremely low, but of course, dependent on individuals and their lifestyle habits. For the first two weeks, I would fumble around for my glasses when I woke up in the morning, only to realize that I can actually see. I am so grateful towards the staff at the lasik clinic because they were amazingly gentle and patient with me, even when I was being the annoying overly worried patient who kept bombarding them with questions. The people were so nice there and I believe I went through the best possible experience because their concern felt genuine and sincere, which helped put my mind at ease. I feel like I’ve been given a second chance at life, to see the world how it was meant to be seen. I dunno about you, but the world looks different through contacts and glasses, and it definitely looks different with my own eyes. Everything is ultra-HD mode. It’s amazing. My new favorite hobby is taking long bus rides, where I plug in earphones, listen to good music and just stare outside, watching the world pass me by. Looking at faraway things – who knew such a simple activity would be so enjoyable?

If you’ve always wanted to get laser refractive surgery done, don’t hesitate! Everyone I know who’s been through it agree that it’s completely worth it. It’s been such a life changing experience, in the littlest and biggest ways. I don’t miss my glasses or contacts A SINGLE BIT.

  • Rohan

    Shibany, you mentioned you had thin corneas. If u don’t mind telling what was your cornea thickness?