LASIK/PRK Surgery in the Philippines: My experience, the costs, and recovery period

I really wanted to put this big, mega-informative post together because when I started researching about my surgery, I naturally went deep into the internet rabbit hole…

and what I appreciated most was reading through other people’s honest, first hand accounts.

These really helped give me the courage to finally do it. And so hopefully, by reading through MY experience, you’re able to get the reassurance you need, and feel more confident in your decision to get the surgery. I really tried to be as thorough as I possibly can, so I hope you find this helpful!

Let’s start at the end…

Imagine this: Now, 4 months after my operation, I can open my eyes in the morning, and the world is instantly clear. I don’t have to blindly feel around for my glasses by my bedside table.

Or what about this? I come home after a long and tiring day, and all I want to do is fall asleep as quickly as possible — and taking out my contact lenses is now one less thing I need to do before bed.

Oh and during my travels, guess what I no longer need to worry about packing (or in my case, forgetting)? Aaaaall of these paraphernalia: my contact lens case, solution, cleaner, my glasses, my glasses’ case, and a few extra pairs of contact lenses just in case it falls out somewhere. Nope. Not worrying about those anymore. I have permanently deleted those out of my packing spreadsheet.

I also no longer need to worry about my contact lenses or glasses whenever I go to the beach! I can swim, I can surf, I can play beach volleyball — all without worrying about getting sand or salt water in my lenses.

And on a much more practical note: I no longer need to spend over Php 12,000+ on quality contact lenses each year (and we all know it’s starting to get even more expensive over time).

These are just some of the many benefits I continue to reap now that I’ve finally went and did the surgery. Seriously — I wish I had done it sooner. Now, if you’re ready, here’s the beginning of a very long and jam-packed post…

TL;DR: A QUICK RUNDOWN OF THE BASIC INFO
(for all you text-skimmers out there)

  • My doctor/hospital: Dr. Emerson Cruz of Asian Eye Institute
    • (I highly, highly, highly recommend Dr. Cruz! He didn’t just make it a super smooth and safe experience; he actually made it a FUN one. Which I never thought would be a word I would use to describe an experience where my eye got poked and prodded at on an operating table, but I promise you, Dr. Cruz is THE BEST.)
  • Cost of initial refractive/Lasik screening & consultation: Php P3200, and that already includes the consultation fee of the doctor. I think the range depends on whether the doctor you choose is a consultant doctor (like Dr. Cruz) or the director of the Lasik service (Dr. Ang).
  • Cost of surgery at Asian Eye Institute: Php 86,000 – 120,000 total for both eyes
    • The cost largely depends on the type of surgery required for your specific eye health/situation, so it’s best to go in for a screening/consult first.
  • Installment plans:
    • During the time that I got the surgery, Asian Eye Institute was offering a 0% 6-month BDO installment payment plan.
    • #adultingtip: I know that the surgery is a pretty huge investment, so I think it’s a very wise move to call in advance to ask what payment plans or Lasik promos they currently offer.
  • Lifetime warranty: YES, IT’S TRUE!
    • You will be given a lifetime warranty by the Asian Eye Institute — but the great thing is, my friends who have had theirs done years ago, have never had to claim it. Yay! But yes, you can definitely go back for enhancements, and that definitely gives me peace of mind.
  • Timeline for my PRK surgery (from consultation to recovery): Around 8 weeks
    • Please note, PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) is a different type of surgery from LASIK. Because of my eye health (my grade was -5.50 for both eyes), PRK was what was prescribed to me — and this specific surgery has a longer recovery time. Recovery from LASIK is said to be much, much quicker!

A bird’s eye view of the timeline (from screening/consultation to 20/20 vision):

    • FEBRUARY 5: Consultation + screening: 3-4 hours
    • FEBRUARY 5: Release of results: Immediately after my screening, they already shared my results with me, and prescribed me with the kind of surgery that was best for my eyes.
    • FEBRUARY 5: Choosing my surgery date: I was also able to choose a date/schedule for my surgery right after they gave me my results/the go-signal.  The surgery date I chose was pretty immediate: they had an open schedule the following week, so I took it! (If you choose to reserve a schedule on this day, this is also the step where you pay the fee, so it’s best to come prepared!)
    • FEBRUARY 13: The surgery: The surgery itself only takes 10-15 minutes, but overall, on the day of the procedure, I was there for about 2 hours. This covered the waiting time, pre-surgery preparations, and then my post-surgery session where they explained all my eye drops and medication to me.
    • Recovery time for PRK: In general, I was able to resume normal activities after 6 days. There was VERY noticeable vision fluctuation (blurriness towards the end of day) and extreme dryness during the first 2 weeks post-surgery as my cornea continued to heal, but my vision was almost at 20/20 after only 2 and a half weeks.
    • 20/20 vision: My vision continued to improve over time, and I really felt the crystal clear, super sharp vision kick in after 4-5 weeks.

 

So those are all the most important information you need to know about my surgery.

If you want more details, read on – because this will be a MONSTER post, where I will be as thorough as possible. So grab a drink, maybe some snacks; and get ready to scroll.

Before we dive in, here’s an overview of what I will be sharing in the rest of this post. I know it’s long, but I promise to make it worth your while — by the end of this post, I really think that you’ll feel better equipped to make the decision whether to go for it or not! (Spoiler alert: YOU SHOULD)

Overview of My PRK Surgery Experience

  • Why I decided to get Lasik
  • How to know if you’re qualified to get Lasik
  • What to expect during the screening and consultation
  • PRK vs. LASIK
  • How to prepare for the surgery
  • What to expect during the surgery
  • What to expect after PRK surgery, aka. a play-by-play rundown of my recovery experience
  • Is it really worth the investment?

 

Why I decided to get Lasik (which turned into PRK)

There were several reasons, and it was the combination of all of them that finally pushed me to do it:

  1. I recently had 3 friends who got the surgery, and they could NOT stop raving about how it changed their life.
    • I’ve always had Lasik at the back of my head for almost 10 years now. I’ve been wearing my contact lenses for almost 20 years, and I would always tell myself, okay, this is the year I finally get Lasik!
    • But then I’d get scared because I don’t know anyone who’s done it!
    • And then thankfully, my friends started getting the eye surgery done — finally, I now have people I know and trust who can give me their firsthand experience! I asked them a lot of questions: did it hurt? How much is it? What hospital do you recommend?
    • The consensus was: It’s safe. It’s worth it. It’s life-changing. Hearing that from people I trusted was the push I needed.
  2. Contact lenses are bad for your eyes in the long-run
    • I got a major blindness scare back when I was 20 (contact lens related infection): and my eye doctor back then told me that I needed to lay off wearing contact lenses because I’ve already been wearing it for over a decade, I would always wear it for long periods of time during the day, and it’s just not good for the eyes long term.
    • That’s when he explained to me that actually, the cornea does not have any blood vessels. Which means, it gets its oxygen from the air. And so when you slap a contact lens over your eye, then it largely blocks your cornea from getting the oxygen it needs — especially cheaper lenses, which often have very poor gas permeability. It can really cause long-term eye damage, injuries, or infections.
  3. I live an active lifestyle (and I plan to do so for decades to come!)
    • You’d think that all those reasons above would just convince me to stop wearing contacts, right? But noooooo. #shepersisted
    • I live quite an active lifestyle: I love practicing yoga, doing high intensity workouts at the gym, and would often be at the beach. It’s a lifestyle I really enjoy, but it’s also a life that’s kinda challenging to enjoy when you have to wear glasses. (In fact, I broke a pair of glasses while doing inversions in yoga.)
  4. Work/vanity
    • My work requires me to do a lot of public events, as well as be on camera a lot. And because my glasses are very, very thick (-5.50 for both eyes), and I don’t know… I just feel more confident without them!

How do I know if I’m qualified for Lasik?

Not everyone can just go in and immediately get Lasik done. I was actually pretty scared that I wasn’t going to qualify, since, as I shared earlier, my previous doctor already told me that I had some scarring in my eyes due to sleeping with my contact lenses on.

First of all, you need to be over 18 years old. But more importantly, you have to undergo a battery of tests to figure out if you’re actually a good candidate for the surgery. This is where they check for your overall eye health, the thickness of your cornea, the dryness level of your eyes, among other things.

What to expect during the screening and consultation

  • Important! You need to stop wearing contact lenses for 2-4 weeks before you go in for your screening/consultation.
    • This ensures that they get the most accurate results. Thankfully, I didn’t have any events or talks during that period, and I was mostly just in the office. (I did, however, had to workout with glasses on.)
  • Choose a reputable hospital for your screening.
    • While doing my research, one of the things I read was that some commercial optical centers were mainly, well… commercial — and so they aren’t very strict when it comes to their screening/consultation process. The more patients, the better, right?
    • And so I really asked a LOT of people for their recommendations and experiences with different hospitals. At the end of the day, the resounding recommendation was Asian Eye Institute in Manila, Philippines. They have several branches, but I went to their main office in Rockwell, Makati.
  • Call to schedule your appointment in advance.
  • How much is the consultation/screening? At Asian Eye Institute, the initial consultation for Lasik surgery costs Php 1,500.
  • Prepare to take half a day off work. You will go through A LOT of tests. This can take anywhere from 3 to 5 hours, so don’t expect to be in and out in an hour. Bring snacks and earphones (there will be lots of waiting time in between tests as well).
  • Bring a jacket. Machines used for they eyes/eye surgery need to be kept at a very cool temperature; that’s why these eye centers tend to be FREEZING COLD. I know it’s not related to the surgery, but still a very helpful tip all the same! 😉
  • Is the screening/consultation painless? Yes, don’t worry, it won’t hurt! The only slightly uncomfortable test was when they tested for my eyes’ moisture level. There was discomfort, but not pain.

PRK vs. Lasik

Now, my doctor can totally explain this WAY better, but here’s what I understood (and how I feel about it):

  • PRK and LASIK lead to the same destination, same results — but what sets them apart is the methodology used, and the recovery time.
  • Recovery period: With your destination being 20/20 vision — LASIK recovery is like taking a plane, PRK is like taking a car.
  • LASIK involves cutting a flap in your cornea; PRK doesn’t. Instead, the outer layer of the patient’s cornea is removed, exposing an area for the laser to treat.

As I mentioned earlier, after running me through a long battery of tests, Dr. Cruz determined that even if my cornea was thick enough, and that my eyes weren’t too dry — he still thought it best to perform PRK surgery on me because my eye grade is pretty high (-5.50 for both eyes).

PRE-SURGERY:
What do I need to do to prepare for my Lasik or PRK surgery?

They’ll give you a whole briefer document that you can take home, but basically, these are the 3 big things you need to remember:

  • Don’t wear your contact lenses for 2-4 weeks prior to your surgery.
  • Do not wear any eye makeup or any eye creams or perfume the day of your surgery.
  • Arrange for a ride home. Get a friend or family member to pick you up after the surgery, as your vision will still be blurry and I mean… you just had very delicate surgery done ON YOUR EYES. Just like any surgery, you will need time to recover!

DURING THE PROCEDURE: Does it hurt?!

I was on the operating table for only 15 minutes — and it felt like even less! After both my eyes were done, I was like, “THAT’S IT?! I have to stand up now?! I was just getting comfortable!”

  • Is the procedure painful? This was my main worry before going in. (My initial imaginings of eye surgery was that the doctor will be coming in with a knife to my eyeball. And blood. Lots of blood.)  So yes, I was worried that it was going to really, really, really hurt. But there was no pain (or blood!) whatsoever. They will put anaesthetic drops on your eyes.
  • What sensations will you feel? (Just as a heads up)
    • The biggest thing I felt was a topical pressure – understandably, because something was touching my eye – but again, NO PAIN. I was very (happily) surprised.
    • They’ll have a contraption to keep your eyes open, so don’t worry about blinking all of a sudden (haha) – you won’t be able to.
    • They will pour water on your eyeball several times, which is kind of a funny/weird sensation to be honest, because it feels like the doctor is giving your eyes a bath. No pain, it just felt funny!
    • You need to keep your eyes trained on a point of light. This was hard at the beginning, but I got used to it pretty quickly.
  • What if my eyes or my head move involuntarily during the Lasik surgery?
    • Yeah, I worried about that, too. What if I lost sight of the red light, or if my eyes roll too far back? But it was explained to me by my doctor that the machines they use in Asian Eye Institute are very smart and top of the line. They have this “eye tracker” kind of feature that scans your eye, automatically monitors its position, and is able to adjust the laser to compensate for any involuntary micro-movements your eyes might make during surgery.
  • The most disturbing thing I smelled…
    • (Yep, smelled, not felt) … was a slight burning smell. Not gonna lie, I panicked* just a little bit when this scent wafted in the air, but it passed in a jiffy — and again, there wasn’t any pain. DON’T WORRY — your corneas are not burning! (It’s just the smell of carbon atoms being released into the air as the laser breaks down your collagen molecules.)
  • You know what helped keep me calm?
    • The entire time, Dr. Emerson Cruz was talking me through it. He would let me know what was happening, which I really appreciated, and at the same time, he would ask me questions and even crack jokes that would make me laugh and forget that there was a medical contraption right on my eyeball.
    • (Until now, I still can’t believe that I was able to have a FUN time during a medical surgery on my eyeballs. Haha)

And so… if anything else, my #1 tip for you is to find a doctor who is not just experienced, and really good at what s/he does —
but someone who you jive with, and has a light personality (vs. a serious and somber one!). It really helped me feel way less anxious.

AFTER THE PROCEDURE:
How long is the recovery time after the surgery?

Again, my surgery was PRK (not Lasik), and this type of surgery has a longer recovery time than your usual LASIK. Many LASIK patients are said to experience improved vision immediately following the surgery, and are able to go back to work 1-2 days after.

Wish it were the same for me, but alas! I needed the PRK. But no regrets, just 20/20 vision 😉 Okay, here goes my diary of my recovery period:

  • Day 1-2, post surgery:
    • I spent 3 days in bed: I had my curtains drawn, I was wearing shades, and was EXTREMELY light sensitive.
    • I also experienced major itching in my eyes, but unfortunately! I couldn’t scratch – or even squeeze them! It was excruciating not being able to do anything to relieve the extreme itchiness, but I was prescribed a bunch of eye drops, so those really helped.
    • Looking at screens was pretty uncomfortable, my eyes would start to water after 3 minutes of looking at my phone. So I mostly just laid in bed, listened to podcasts and audiobooks.
  • Day 3, post surgery:
    • My vision was mega blurry, and my eyes got so dry, so quickly. I had to use my eye drops every 15 minutes. Still super light sensitive, can’t even read a book. Thus, more naps.
  • Day 4-5, post surgery:
    • Vision still not back to normal. The best description I have for the sensation I was feeling: it was like having sand all over your eyes… but you can’t do anything to rub it out! So frustrating. Again, this itchiness is something you only experience if you undergo PRK. Lucky Lasik ducks.
  • Day 7, post-surgery:
    • I went back to my doctor to remove the “bandage” lens over my eyes (which is basically a grade-less contact lens to protect my cornea as it healed).
    • Hoooooly moly. This was a HALLELUJAH moment! All of a sudden, the sandy feeling was gone: No more itching! My eyes felt like they could finally breathe. I was so incredibly happy.
    • Update on my healing at this point: My right eye was 95% healed, my left eye was 85% healed.
  • Day 14, post-surgery:
    • My eyes are still healing, but I don’t feel the need to wear sunglasses all the time anymore.
    • But my vision was still fluctuating at this point — it would go from super clear in the morning, to blurry in the afternoon (this is because the corneal cells were still healing themselves) — and I still experienced difficulty looking at my laptop screen for long periods of time.
    • Again, this is just part of the more gradual recovery time from PRK. I totally expected it, and I was absolutely loving the feeling of seeing very, very clearly the moment I opened my eyes in the morning.
  • Day 15, post-surgery:
    • I felt safe enough to go back to working out (yoga and circuit training). I just took extra care to not get sweat in my eyes.
    • I also felt safe enough to apply eye makeup for a work event.
  • 5 weeks, post-surgery:
    • We were driving through Puerto Rico one weekend, on our way to the beach, and I casually read off a small street sign from very far away. It took about five seconds for it to register in my head – and I was like, OH MY GOD. My vision is perfect.
    • What then ensued was a Road Sign Read-Off between me and my boyfriend. Spoiler alert: I won. BOOYAH.

But seriously: it was an emotional moment. I have had bad eyesight for over two decades, and I never, ever thought that it would be possible to get my 20/20 vision back again. It felt like a life miracle.

Which brings me to my final point…

 

Is Lasik or PRK surgery really worth it?

100% YES. In fact, my only regret is that I did not do it sooner. I could have enjoyed the benefits of 20/20 vision earlier.

I know it’s an expensive investment… but it’s a lifelong one. You’re investing to improve one of your five major senses. An organ that you use every single day. The very tool that helps you experience the world in a richer way.

And if you’re a creative like me — and you’re into photography, videography, art, design — your eyes are your creative workhorses. It’s one of the most important tools in my toolbox.

Just a tip: There are some things in life that you can scrimp on… but NOT THIS!

Make sure you go to a very reputable doctor for this very delicate procedure. You don’t want to choose a place just because it’s the cheapest — these are your EYES you’re risking here!

I decided to get my surgery at Asian Eye Institute after many convos with friends and readers, and I’m so glad I did.

I really felt like every person who I came in contact with in that hospital knew exactly what they were doing, I was given thorough information every step of the way, everything felt top of the line, and it helped relieve any anxiety I was feeling. Most of all, it felt like a legit hospital with legit doctors, and not very flashy, gimmicky, commercial, let’s-Groupon-this-deal kinda service. (Haha!)


And that’s it! Now, 4 months after getting the surgery, I could barely remember my life pre-PRK surgery.

My boyfriend still teases me sometimes, slyly commenting before I go to bed – “Hey, don’t forget to take out your contacts!”

And of course, as a reflex built over 18 years, I would reach for my eyes, making a motion to take out my contact lenses… until he starts laughing. 😛

If you’ve read through my entire account/diary and you made it all the way here – congratulations! You must be a relative. Just kidding. If you’ve made it all the way to here: then you must be REALLY considering it. And if you need more reassurance, here are the only three things I have to leave you with:

It’s painless.
It’s life-changing.
It’s worth the investment.

If you’re in the Philippines, I highly recommend booking a consult with Dr. Emerson Cruz of Asian Eye Institute (as I cannot speak about the experience with other centers or reliability of other doctors; I can only speak about mine!). I’ll post the details below:

Asian Eye Institute ROCKWELL (Main Clinic)
9th Floor, PHINMA Plaza
Rockwell Center, Makati City
LANDLINE (02) 898.2020
MOBILE 0918-898-2020
EMAIL eyehelp@asianeyeinstitute.com

Set an appointment online: https://asianeyeinstitute.com/set-an-appointment/