For me, one of the surprises of LASIK is how often it is performed on people who don’t wear glasses. When I was deciding on becoming a LASIK surgeon, I never imagined people would benefit from LASIK if they didn’t wear glasses. It seemed like being an obstetrician and wondering about delivering babies from people who aren’t pregnant. There’s a prerequisite to the type of patient you can help.
What is annoying vision?
What I know now—that I didn’t know then—is there is a very specific subset of visual impairment that doesn’t require glasses. Since there isn’t a great medical name for it, I just call it “annoying vision.” Every time I use the phrase with a patient, I explain that it isn’t an actual medical term. And every time, they look at me like I’m a doofus—the same look they’d give if I said, “eagle eyes just means good vision. It doesn’t mean you have the actual eyes of an eagle. No, just for starters, those are quite small.”
Annoying vision is a condition I end up talking about more than I ever thought I would. You expect people with thick glasses and terrible vision since youth to come in and see if they can get their eyes fixed. And they do. That describes the majority of patients we see. There are, however, a lot of people that can see well enough to drive and do their work and watch TV—it’s just not clear. None of it ever looks nice and sharp. They have annoying vision.
Most commonly, this is the case for people who have a mild to moderate amount of astigmatism. They aren’t near sighted; they can see across the room just fine. They aren’t farsighted; they can read without glasses. They have astigmatism that makes whatever they’re viewing across the room or reading in their hands a little blurry. All of it. It’s a kind of Rime of the Ancient Mariner for eyes. Vision, vision, everywhere. Not a spot that’s clear.
The reason LASIK is appealing and very helpful to those with annoying vision is precisely because they won’t wear glasses. It’s like if I gave you hearing aids and said, “I know you hear fine, but this will make you hear things 20% better when you wear it.” You’re not going to wear hearing aids all day. The only time you might ever use them is some specific situation where a boost could be useful, like trying to watch TV with the sound turned down so you don’t wake someone up. It’s the same reason folks with annoying vision might only ever wear glasses to drive at night.
So folks with annoying vision deal with a constant blur, but they don’t wear vision correction because the blur is slightly less irritating than having to deal with glasses and contacts. It can be baffling to people in glasses that anyone who doesn’t need glasses would get LASIK, but that’s only because people in glasses never deal with mild, detail-attenuating blur. They’re either blind (no glasses), or they see pretty great (glasses).
LASIK helps both groups.
For those with glasses and contacts, they are freed from needing them. For those with annoying vision, they can finally walk around with clear vision like their friends with glasses have. They just have to avoid telling people with glasses about it, because no one begrudges people who don’t need glasses more than people who do. Maybe just point them towards this blog instead. It’ll explain annoying vision, and also eagle vision in case they’ve wondered about that too.