First off, you’re not alone. If humans didn’t have an innate and powerful reflex to keep their eyes protected, we’d probably not have made it very far as a species. Or at least the timeline would have looked a lot different. It didn’t turn out too great for those sightless fish that live in underwater caves, unless they’re doing fun stuff we don’t know about when we’re not around. Maybe they have a one-eyed fish that is king, and he’s making the best of the situation for them.
Fear of the Unknown
But I digress, no one likes thinking about something happening to their eyes. Even if that “something” is going to make their eyes much better and is safer than contact lenses would be for them. It is hard feeling completely calm in the face of the unknown. And despite marketing making LASIK very well-known, as a procedure, it remains for most people firmly in the “unknown” category. This fact, as it so happens, is the way to make LASIK much easier for patients who decide to move ahead despite the fear.
Sure, Valium is great and it works and we have it available to every LASIK patient who would like to take it. But I promise that even as great as Valium is, it doesn’t help as much as addressing the “unknown” and anxiety-provoking part of LASIK. About 80% of my patients don’t take Valium (but again, they can if they want) because the anxiety goes away when the cause of the anxiety is removed. That cause, the fear of we-know-not-what, is easy to address.
When people — under the influence of anxiety — try to picture laser surgery on an eye, there’s not a coherent picture of what is frightening about it. There’s just a mass of sometimes mutually-exclusive scenarios playing at the same time. It’s impossible to feel calm because there’s no way to abide every worry that can and cannot happen at the same time.
The Simplest Way to Reduce LASIK Anxiety
The solution to this really simple and amazingly effective. It’s just endless chatter from your surgeon. Surgical steps aren’t part of the chatter. We aren’t talking about procedural stuff that may gross you out. We’re assuring you at the start and following up throughout that nothing will happen without you knowing it will happen first.
And it works because none of the things that happen are bad. An eye drop? Sure, no one loves them, but people aren’t anxious over eye drops. So we tell you before an eye drop is placed. A green light to look at? You’ve seen a green light a bunch of times. A noise that sounds like a pitch pipe they use before a barbershop quartet? That’s almost fun, or at a minimum, it isn’t scary. Every step of the procedure is simple and painless. It means the procedure becomes easy when nothing surprising or frightening is going to happen because you’re listening to a rambling story of which thing you’ll notice next.
It’s Okay, Everybody Blinks
There is no “here’s the big moment” kind of moment you’re waiting on. There’s no painful step to get through. And there’s no way for you to mess up the procedure by blinking or moving your eye, because guess what? Everyone blinks and moves their eye! 100% of them. That’s why all of it is designed so that you’re not in charge of how well it goes.
So yes, Valium is available and you can feel free to take it. No one will judge you for taking the medicine that is in clinic specifically for you if you want it. But truthfully, what makes the Valium second best is knowing that you’ll have no pain, no worries about moving or blinking, and — most important by a mile — no surprises throughout the 10 minutes it takes to do you LASIK. Nothing cures anxiety as well as having nothing to be anxious about, and you’d be amazed how reliably that can be achieved.
Author: Joel Hunter, MD is an Ophthalmologist, Refractive Surgeon, and the Founder of Hunter Vision, a LASIK Orlando Clinic in Florida. A recognized and respected specialist in vision correction who has performed a countless number of refractive surgeries, Joel gives lectures across the country and trains fellow doctors in the newest LASIK surgery techniques.