Say Goodbye to Glasses

Make a splash lens-free after LASIK, PRK surgeries.

Natalie Corley is a survivor of childhood cancer. Her experience sparked an interest in working in the health care field.

Natalie Corley & her daughter.

Natalie Corley & her daughter, Addy

“I wanted to be a doctor and help people,” Natalie remembers. “But when I got to Chemistry 2 in college, I realized that medicine really wasn’t for me, so I switched gears and started raising money to fund research. I thought I could make a difference and help people that way. I worked in nonprofit fundraising for 10 years after I graduated college.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic evolved this year, Natalie opted to leave her job and stay home with her children, ages 5 years and 20 months. As she managed being a stay-at-home mom, she also dealt with an evolving vision condition that began in childhood and disrupted routine activities as an adult.

“I’ve been wearing glasses for nearsightedness since I was 11 years old,” Natalie relates.

Nearsightedness, or myopia, occurs when the shape of the cornea causes light entering the eye to bend incorrectly so that images focus in front of the retina rather than on the retina. As a result, objects nearby are clear but those far away are blurry. It can be corrected with glasses or contact lenses.

“My vision got progressively worse each year until I couldn’t see two feet in front of me without glasses or contacts,” Natalie recalls.

But Natalie eventually tired of wearing corrective lenses and recently decided to get a permanent fix through vision correction surgery. A friend recommended Florida Eye Specialists & Cataract Institute, and Natalie scheduled an appointment with cornea specialist Priya M. Mathews, MD, MPH.

“Dr. Mathews is extremely intelligent and well-qualified, and she made sure we chose the best procedure for me,” Natalie recalls. “She selected LASIK® vision correction surgery.”

“LASIK, or laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis, is a surgery performed on the cornea to correct the glasses prescription,” Dr. Mathews explains. “To be eligible for LASIK, the patient’s corneas must be perfect, for example have a minimum thickness, no abnormal curvature or irregular astigmatism and meet other qualifications. Natalie’s corneas met all the specifications to undergo LASIK safely.”

“After LASIK surgery, I went from not being able to see the big E on an eye chart to having 20/15 vision, which is better than perfect.” – Natalie

Laser vision correction surgery reshapes the cornea to refocus light and clarify vision. In performing LASIK, two lasers are used, Dr. Mathews notes.

“The first laser is used to create a flap, and the second is the treatment excimer laser that reshapes the cornea,” she informs. “During surgery, first the flap is created and lifted, then the cornea is treated with the second laser, and the flap is put back into place.

“The flaps are made in the anterior part of the cornea, and their depth is determined by the laser. The flaps used to be created manually, but since we switched over to the femtosecond laser, we achieve very precise flaps that have a lower risk of dislodging following surgery.”

Natalie recounts: “Dr. Mathews took time to explain LASIK surgery to me and answer all my questions. The LASIK procedure was truly simple, and my surgery only took 15 minutes. Afterward, I walked out of the office and could see.”

“People who have a stable prescription for the past year and no other significant eye issues are good candidates for laser vision correction,” Dr. Mathews points out. “Patients who have had cataract surgery but want better distance vision are also candidates.”

Contact Conflicts

As a military child, Danielle Brawner called several places “home” before finally settling in South Florida.

Danielle underwent PRK surgery when she tired of the hassle of contacts and glasses.

“My father was in the Air Force,” Danielle shares. “I was born in California, and we lived in Germany for a while. We moved to Florida when I was 5 years old, and I grew up in Homestead, near Miami.”

Today, the single mother of a 6-year-old lives in Lakeland, where she has a career she loves.

“I’ve been working in broadcast advertising for almost eight years,” she relates. “My job is to buy retail ad space for television. I got the job after I was laid off from an area hospital, where I did payroll for four years. I like working in advertising more than doing payroll because I enjoy dealing with people and being involved with the media. And I genuinely like the environment with the crew I work with.”

Like Natalie, Danielle suffered with a progressive vision disorder since childhood, and it affected many of her everyday activities. After years of grappling with glasses and contacts, Danielle decided to have her vision corrected through surgery.

“I was nearsighted and wore glasses since I was 12 years old,” Danielle recounts. “My vision was pretty bad. I couldn’t see to drive or even walk around without glasses or contacts. But I got to the point where I was over wearing contacts and just wanted to be done with them. I didn’t want the hassle anymore. When the chance came around to have my vision corrected, I jumped at it.

“A friend who works at Florida Eye Specialists & Cataract Institute told me they were running a special on vision correction surgery, so I grabbed the opportunity and ran with it.”

Like Natalie, Danielle also met with Dr. Mathews, but in Danielle’s case, the cornea specialist suggested a different surgery: photorefractive keratectomy, or PRK.

“PRK is a laser refractive surgery that is typically recommended when the patient’s corneas are thinner,” Dr. Mathews states. “Evidence shows that if LASIK is performed on people with thinner corneas, they can develop ectasia, a further thinning and protrusion of the cornea that can cause additional problems.

“Sometimes, even if a patient is eligible for both procedures, they may elect to have PRK because they engage in activities with a high risk for impact to the eyes, which can dislodge the corneal flap that is created during LASIK surgery.”

“The best thing about having PRK surgery is getting clear vision and not having to wear corrective lenses of any kind.” – Danielle

“Danielle was a not candidate for LASIK based on her corneas but was a great candidate for PRK, so that’s what I recommended.”

With PRK, one laser is used. During the procedure, the eye’s outer layer of tissue, or epithelium, is removed, usually with a special brush or alcohol. Then treatment is performed by the excimer laser directly onto the cornea, and lastly a bandage contact lens is placed over the eye.

“PRK takes slightly longer to heal, which is why some people prefer LASIK because the vision can be very good the next day,” Dr. Mathews observes. “But the end result is the same for both surgeries. There is no difference in the final visual acuity.”

Danielle recaps: “Dr. Mathews is very knowledgeable and answered all my questions. She described the PRK procedure very clearly. The procedure itself was quick and effective. Dr. Mathews has an excellent team with her. They did a great job.”

At First Sight

Natalie and Danielle underwent different procedures but ultimately achieved the same outcome: clear vision without glasses or contact lenses. But their experiences immediately following surgery differed slightly.

Natalie Corley & her daughter wading in a pool.

Since undergoing LASIK surgery, Natalie no longer needs to wear glasses or contacts when in the pool with 20-month-old Adeline.

“Coming out of LASIK, everything was a bit blurry at first,” Natalie recalls. “But that night, when I woke up with my baby, I noticed I could clearly see the time on the alarm clock. And I could see perfectly fine walking to the baby’s room. I didn’t walk into anything in the hallway.”

Danielle reports: “Immediately following PRK surgery, my vision was excellent. I could clearly see my friend and her daughter, who brought me in for the procedure, and they were sitting across the room from me. But two or three days later, my vision became a little blurry. Thankfully, everything cleared up a few days later and I could see clearly again. Within a month, I had perfect vision.”

Natalie and Danielle agree that since undergoing laser vision correction surgery, they are seeing better than ever. And both are happy to have rid themselves of the hassles associated with glasses and contact lenses.

“After LASIK, I went from not being able to see the big E on an eye chart to having 20/15 vision, which is better than perfect,” Natalie reveals. “Many people take their vision for granted, but I certainly don’t, not anymore. I think my corrected vision is wonderful.”

“My vision now is 20/20,” Danielle reports. “The best thing about having PRK surgery is getting clear vision and not having to wear corrective lenses of any kind. I absolutely recommend PRK, Dr. Mathews and Florida Eye Specialists & Cataract Institute to anyone thinking about vision correction surgery.”

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