When this blog topic came up, I knew straight away I should be the one to write it. It had my name in the title—that’s how I knew. It is easy to come up with a Top 5 List of complaints about glasses and contacts. More difficult was the task of explaining at the outset that I didn’t write the title. I have a pathologic fear of being thought of as one of those guys that would refer to himself in third person as Dr. So-and-so. It’s only one step away from being one of those docs who wears a white coat in public for no purpose. Strictly speaking, it does serve at least one purpose by letting you know to avoid chatting with them unless you want to have a conversation about their intellect and/or sports car. I’m not generalizing. I’ve spent a lot of unfortunate hours with these guys.
On to our topic at hand: what are people talking about when they're explaining why they want to be done with their contacts and glasses? The general categories are pretty easily narrowed down to the following five quotes.
#5. “I can’t see as clearly as I want.”
This one ranks in at number five because, while it is super motivating for people with this problem, it isn’t terribly common. When people don’t see as well as they’d like in contacts, they usually wear glasses instead. Glasses usually do a pretty good job of correcting vision. And when they don’t, it’s quickly remedied by getting new glasses or a new optometrist. For that reason, most people I meet see well in their contacts or, failing that, in glasses. There remains, however, a solid chunk of the populace who can’t see very well in contacts and simply refuse to wear glasses. At least once a day I’ll meet someone who has vision about 25% worse than it could be because they only wear contacts. For those haters-of-glasses, the refrain is often that they can’t see as clearly as they want to see.
#4. “I’m tired of buying new contacts and glasses.”
Not every time, but close, someone who says this has their most recent contact lens or glasses prescription with them at their LASIK consult. Something finally gave way and it’s just too painful to spend another several hundred dollars for the umpteenth year in a row. They’ll sometimes continue to clutch the prescription in disgust like it’s a parking ticket for a while after we’ve already scanned it for our records. For them, the main attraction to LASIK is a way out of a rigged system. It is a one-time payment to shake off the annual “poor vision tax” they’d otherwise have to pay for the rest of their lives.
#3. “It’s annoying doing (fill in the sport) with them.”
The number of patients I see who have hobbies like parasailing, or scuba diving, or rock climbing made me believe for a long time that people must exaggerate on their pre-operative history. Everyone wants to sound cool, after all. Then over the years, people well on the other side of LASIK have come in for post-op exams; they talk about how LASIK made their various cool-sounding sports easier. Now I’ve realized I’m just kind of a boring person. There are a lot of super fun and exciting people that actually do the things I see in health snack commercials. One detail I’ve noticed about them: even though their complaint isn’t the most common glasses complaint, people who get LASIK for this reason are almost always the most excited about their new eyes. It makes sense. Cliff diving is probably a much different experience without glasses.
#2. “I hate these stupid things.”
Nearly 100% of the time, this quote is uttered by someone holding up their reading glasses in disgust. I’ve written about this disdain for reading glasses before, but there’s no way to write with enough emphasis about how much some people hate their reading glasses. It’s because many of them lived a life free of glasses for four whole decades. Then, one horrible day while trying to read a menu, a friend let them borrow their reading glasses for the first time. How insulting. That friend may as well have handed them hearing aids. Even worse, it was like they put them on as a joke and found out they genuinely needed the hearing aids now. Everything was so clear! The whole thing feels like a chapter out of Paradise Lost. If the extreme athletes are the happiest about their LASIK, the “I hate reading glasses” crowd is the most motivated. They almost always get LASIK if they’re a candidate. After a successful restoration of reading vision and a few post-ops, everyone silently agrees to never speak of this again.
#1. “I need my eyes for my job.”
Number one quote by a mile. More people say this than every other reason on this list combined. It’s of course completely accurate, and at the same time, it completely fascinates me how often I hear this. I can only think of maybe two jobs where eyesight isn’t used. There’s being a certain kind of monk or being a member of The Blind Boys of Alabama. And I just paused and had to think for five full minutes to come up with those two. It’s very difficult to imagine a job where having good eyesight won’t be a huge help. No matter what you’re doing, seeing the subject of your work is essential. And while it fascinates me—the clarification of needing to see for their job specifically—it also fills me with optimism and a kind of pride. We are what we do, to a certain degree. The emphasis on enabling our minds to build and design and create with our own two hands means we want to do things that make the world better. As a doctor, I feel the same way, and I let people see that when I wear a white lab coat in public.