Getting Eye Surgery in the Middle East

I had wanted to get eye surgery for years, but I told myself to pay off debts first and really do my research. So after paying off the student loans and credit card debt, I decided now was the time to get my vision corrected. I thought I could save some money getting the surgery abroad, but I still made sure to thoroughly research the hospital, the procedure, the doctor, and the risks involved. This was my experience.

The procedure I had done is called ICL Visian. It’s basically an implantable contact lens. No laser treatment. Here’s a description from the website:

“The Visian ICL, also known as the Implantable Collamer® Lens, is a type of refractive procedure to help correct the most common visual problem, myopia. Simply put, Visian ICL is a removable lens implant that is an attractive alternative to LASIK and other refractive procedures.”


I chose to get the procedure done after a colleague went through the same thing with good results. I was told the implantable lenses are generally more accurate, safer, and less invasive than LASIK.  It’s also reversible, unlike LASIK.  They could remove the lens if they need to. I had it done at Magrabi Clinic in Al-Khobar, and I chose to get it done here in Saudi Arabia because I thought it would cost about half as much in the states. But after reviewing prices, I’m not sure I actually saved much money, but oh well. I’m just happy to have it over with.

The Procedure:

The first eye went very well.  I was a little nervous, but the nurses were friendly.  They put some drops in my eye, put an IV in for fluids, gave me a mild narcotic to relax me, and rolled me into the operating room.  It was a little frightening at first because the doctors and nurses were all rushing around me, giving me more eye drops, and trying to make jokes and small talk to keep me calm.  The most uncomfortable part was having my eye clamped open, like in Clockwork Orange. The actual surgery took about 5 to 10 minutes and I felt nothing. Maybe a small tickle.  I just stared at a bright light the whole time and I could see some movements and feel the doctor touching my eye.  Then they’d administer more drops.  I was so relieved when he said, almost done.  Then they bandaged me up and sent me on my way.  Unfortunately, the narcotic on an empty stomach made me sick, but other than that it went smoothly.

The second eye, on the other hand, was a different story.  It was the same procedure as before and I got it done more than a month after the first eye because I wanted the first to be healed.  I’m not sure what the difference was, but the second time I could feel him cutting my eye.  It was definitely painful, but it wasn’t so painful I couldn’t sit still and let him finish.  I think part of the problem was they made me wait nearly an hour after administering the drops to dilate my eyes.  I just sat as still as I could while the doctor did the procedure and I kept saying “Almost done? I can feel you cutting my eye!” The second experience was actually pretty traumatizing. They didn’t give me a narcotic the second time, but I still got sick.  The minute I got back to my compound, I walked in the gate, and then vomited, right in front of our security guards.  But they were nice and understanding.  One of them brought me a bottle of water. Despite the second eye being very frightening, I’m glad I got it done.  It’s been so nice not needing contacts or glasses.  I love waking up in the morning and being able to see instead of scrambling for my glasses.

Overall, I’m glad I got it done.  However, I don’t think I actually saved much money doing it here.  It cost about $2,400 an eye, nearly $5000 for the whole procedure.  I imagine in time, it will pay for itself with me no longer needing glasses or contacts.  My main reason for doing it is because I plan on traveling a lot in the future; camping, hiking, backpacking, etc, and I don’t want to hassle with contacts and glasses the whole time.  I totally recommend the procedure, but it might be wise to double-check prices before going for it.


Published by That Hippie Looking Chick

I'm a traveler, adventurer, upcycler, and bus dweller.

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