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Does LASIK Surgery Make Financial Sense?

Courtesy of Lahori Danda

If you are one of the lucky ones who have perfect vision, this information might not be that interesting to you. Go on over and read about rental property. If you or a family member wears glasses or contact lenses and have wondered if you should have your eyes corrected with LASIK, keep reading for a brief overview about good candidates and if surgery makes good financial sense.

Who Are the Best Candidates for LASIK?

  • People who are nearsighted and/or have astigmatism- When you have LASIK, your cornea is altered with the LASER. Essentially, corneal tissue is removed. With nearsightedness (can’t see far away), your eye is too long, so it is easy to flatten your cornea. With astigmatism (can’t focus adequately far or near) your eye shape is more oval than round, and the cornea can be reshaped. If you are farsighted (trouble focusing, mostly at near, but can also be in the distance), your eye is too short. It is much harder to reshape into a steeper cornea , and the results are more variable. Farsighted people can have LASIK, but should really to do their homework in finding a good surgeon. If you are presbyopic (need reading glasses over age 40),  this condition affects the lens in your eye, so LASIK on the cornea does no good.
  • People with stable prescriptions- If you want to have LASIK, make sure your vision hasn’t changed for a couple of years. You don’t want to shell our for surgery and find you need glasses again in a year. This is why surgeons won’t operate on teens or nursing mothers, too much change going on.
  • People without extreme prescriptions- If you have a very high prescription, over 8 units of nearsightedness (your prescription will say -8.00 or higher as the first number) or 3 units of astigmatism (xxx-3.00x ???, the middle number of your prescription), your results might not be as accurate or your cornea might not be thick enough to get a good correction. It can possibly be done, but needs more research.
  • People without eye disease-If you have glaucoma, high eye pressure, dry eyes, keratoconus, uncontrolled diabetes, or any other out of control systemic disease, you probably  are not a good candidate.
  • People between ages 21-40- This might be a bit controversial, but in my opinion, have LASIK as soon as you can. Patients over 40 will be experiencing presbyopia, and LASIK could make your near vision worse. If you have always been nearsighted and read without correction, when you suddenly find yourself needing reading glasses after surgery, it can be very disheartening.  Everyone who is not nearsighted WILL need  reading correction at some point, whether you have LASIK or not. LASIK does not cure the need for reading glasses if you are over 40. Having surgey at a younger age gives you more time without glasses. If you are over 40, want to have LASIK, and don’t want readers, there is an option called monovision. It corrects one eye for distance and the other for near. Please ask your doctor to let you simulate monovision with contacts before you permanently alter your eyes. Some people love it, and it drives others mad.

Does LASIK Make Sense Financially?

If you are a good candidate, then figure out your annual cost for eye care products. Let’s say you get contacts annually and glasses every three years. Costs can vary greatly, but we’ll say you average $200 a year. Many LASIK surgeries come with a warranty that is voided if you don’t see your doctor for an exam once a year. We will assume you still care about your eye health and will get an annual exam.  Exam costs are excluded in the following example.

A good ball park for LASIK would be $3000. LASIK centers are very agressive in advertising, and you might see the $299 per eye in bold letters on a billboard. If you read the fine print, that price is usually for prescriptions under -1.25 units. If your prescription is under -1.25 units, you probably don’t need surgical correction.  While it is fine to get recommendations from your regular doctor or friends and shop around a bit, never pick your LASIK surgeon based on price. Make sure they have done over 10,000 procedures and have statistics of their complication rates available. I also can’t stress enough how impotant it is to have a regular doctor who knows your history. Surgeons want to do surgery, but your doctor who has your eye history will know if you have the right prescription and disposition to undergo LASIK surgery. I know some people assume optometrists don’t want anyone to have surgery because we will “lose money.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. One, LASIK patients aren’t “done” with eye care. Two, if you don’t feel that you have a relationship with your doctor that is honest and in your best interest, find another doctor.

At $3000, it would take 15 years of not needing glasses or contacts to break even. If your contacts are very expensive, obviously, you’d break even sooner. Not to burst any bubbles, but in reality, throughout my twelve years of private practice optometry, most LASIK patients have gotten about five years before their eyes change and they need some sort of correction again. That being said, it is usually a lesser correction than they started with, or it is for a different purpose, usually reading.

Quality of Life After LASIK

Cost is not the real reason most people have LASIK. People have LASER vision correction because they want to improve their quality of life. If you can’t walk through your house without some sort of vision correction, it is really liberating to be able to wake up and see. Although glasses or contacts offer good acuity, the optics are never as good as not needing a prescription. Maybe you had “Coke bottle” glasses and were teased as a child.  Getting rid of glasses can boost self esteem, making you more positive and productive. If you are a good candidate, can afford it, and it makes life better, having LASIK is worth it.  However,  if you look  at LASIK surgery from a purely financial standpoint, it almost never pays off.

What is your experience with vision correction? Would you consider LASIK surgery?

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. I’m very fortunate in that my eyes are just fine. However, if I were to ever develop anything, I think I would get Lasik.

  2. Wow, I didn’t realize that you may still have to go back and get another corrective surgery in a matter of 5 years…that’s not very encouraging.

    My wife has been contemplating getting Lasik for a few years and I’m hoping we have the funds to do it. However…we’ll have to do some more research because I didn’t realize she’d have to do it again down the road. That stinks!

    • She could be one of the lucky ones that get longer. Most people don’t go back and have a second procedure for a variety of reasons. If her prescription is strong, she might be Ok if it creeps back a little bit. You just have to ask yourself if you would still be happy with a slight correction at some point or if that would disappoint you.

  3. I had the same prescription for the first time ever at my last doctor visit! I have already decided I am getting LASIK as soon as my prescription levels out. I’m 27 right now and been wearing glasses for about 20 years.

  4. I’ve thought about getting Lasik for some time. I just have not bit the bullet yet. I’ve worn contacts/glasses since I was about 13, and just hate dealing with them. On the other hand, I only have one set of eyes and don’t like the potential risk of something happening. I know that might be somewhat unfounded, but just where I am at right now. I do have 2 years til I hit 40, so the near future would be the right time if I am going to get it done I guess.

  5. My dad is an optometrist and scared the shit out of me about LASIK when I was younger and it was still a very new procedure (in the mid to late 90’s). Because of this, I’m too scared to even think about it as an option, but it would be nice to live without contact lenses!

    • We get to see the good and bad. Most are good, but the bad ones are REALLY bad. I wouldn’t have LASIK myself, but my prescription isn’t that bad either.

  6. I LOVE the baby with the glasses!!!!
    I would get LASIK if I ever need to have glasses, I think!

  7. I’ve contemplated lasik on and off over the years but haven’t made the plunge yet. I had my teeth straightened a few years ago as an adult and that was $8000 or so. I need a few more years of saving before another giant expense I think.

    • I had braces at age 30. It was a big hit, but what can you do? I’m from Kentucky and we aren’t known for good teeth anyway. Didn’t want to contribute to the stereotype.

  8. About a decade ago I unknowingly convinced my dad to get this surgery done. The cost of the surgery vs. the cost of glasses over a lifetime….it was simple math to me. So he got it done. But now he needs glasses again. I’m sure the medical side of it has improved in the last ten years and blah, blah, blah, but for him, it didn’t pan out the way everyone thought it would.

  9. Ooh, someone I can geek out with and talk about eyes! I was an Optometric Technician at my previous place of employment. I loved it. I have weird vision needs. I’m 31 and have needed reading glasses since I was a little girl. I’m a +1.50, but I also have an astigmatism that’s almost as high! Basically, it evens out to give me 20/20 VA, but as you can probably guess–I get major headaches! I’m just not a really fantastic candidate for lasik unfortunately, but at least my vision is good enough that I can see distance just fine, read just fine as long as it’s not too dim or really fine print for a long period of time, so it’s all good…for now. The thing is…I know that I’m 31 now, but that at 40-45 it will be a WHOLE NEW GAME. Basically, I might be one of those people that goes from “I don’t need glasses, but I sometimes wear them” to a full-time wearer! That’s just life, I guess. 🙂

    • That is a big blow to lots of people. They really almost get depressed if they make it to 40, then need glasses. I’m sure you saw your share of those. I just try to tell them there are far worse things in life than needing glasses. It’s almost better to get them when you’re a kid, then you never know the difference.

      • Oh yeah, I’ve seen the tears! The craziest crying fit I’ve ever seen? This little 8-year-old girl needed glasses, and her parents just flipped out! They were looking at each other and crying and wondering what they did wrong to deserve this! Neither of them needed glasses, so they didn’t know who was to “blame.” It was all so weird! They’re just glasses, people! The mom said to the dad “you mom wears glasses. Do you think it’s from her?” *smile* Yep, that was the craziest crying fit ever…

  10. I don’t think I’d be a candidate – I think I’m a negative 0.5 and I’m pretty sure they’re still getting worse, sadly. *Sigh* Oh for the days when I had 20/15 vision!
    But at least I’ve gotten used to wearing glasses over the last couple of years, and now people associate me as a person who wears glasses. They’re kindof part of who I am – so I don’t think I’d want to get LASIK even if I were a good candidate.

  11. My wife really wants to have lasik done, but she has terrible vision. I know that is she gets it done once she most likely will need a second and the cost just starts to outweigh the benefits.

    • I’d for sure check out what the results for her prescription are. The surgeons can give you a chart of their results with certain groups of prescriptions, so you can see how likely she would be to end up at 20/20.

  12. My wife can’t wait to have Lasik! She’d have it tomorrow if she could. We will build up our HSA for a few more years and then she’ll get it.

    • HSA money is a great way to pay for something like that. You’re always thinking, DC.

    • I seriously CANNOT wait to get lasik. Having glasses since I was in 1st grade is a little annoying, especially since I can’t even see my alarm clock, next to my bed, without putting on my glasses first. Love that you talked about Lasik being good for people with astigmatism. Didn’t even think about that, because I have that too! GREAT post! Thanks!

      • Sounds like you deserve it. I didn’t get glasses until 5th grade. 1st grade is pretty young. You’ll have to tell all about it when you don’t need those glasses anymore. They usually have a clock across the LASIK room, so when you first sit up, you can read the clock. It amazes people.

  13. Holy crap! $3000!!?? Man am I glad that my eyes are AOK and I don’t need glasses. My wife has talked about laser eye surgery, but it’s always in passing. I think when she reads this post she’ll have a coronary just seeing the freaking price!

  14. Here’s what’s funny: I love what lasik did for many of my client’s quality of life. However, I was in the money management business, where looking older and nerdy was a definite plus! So, I’ll keep my glasses…. 😉

  15. Anyone considering LASIK can make a contribution to their flexible spending account. Using pre tax dollars to pay for the surgery saves far more than people realize.

    An average person has to make $4,500 in gross income in order to have $3,000 to spend after tax on the surgery. Or they can use $3,000 in pre tax dollars. Most people can’t deduct the expense because of the AGI hurdle of 7.5%, but can get first dollar savings with an FSA.

    Contribution amounts will be limited to $2,500 beginning in 2013 – too bad for the optometrists.

  16. My friend’s Lasik lasted 10 years & now she’s back in glasses full time. I guess it’s a very personal decision as to whether or not it’s worth the money so I like how you broke it down in terms of figuring it out!

  17. Strangely enough, I have never thought about the savings that could be made on contacts. Personally, I don’t wear glasses/contacts but I would definitely consider the surgery!

  18. While I don’t wear glasses, your article was very informative and interesting. I didn’t know, you might need surgery again after 5 years…i learned something new!

  19. I got LASEK done in Korea for $1600 for both eyes. I am able to my yearly check up there for free for the rest of my life! (Saves a bunch if you don’t have insurance!)

    I recommend anyone who wants to get Lasik done to just fly to Korea (~$900), get them done ($1600 – this is for the higher end fluent speaking doctors, if you’re daring you can get it down to $1200~ depending on eyes), then go on vacation ($500). It’s the same price as getting them done here AND you get a trip out of it!

    • That’s a thought for sure. Is the place where they do the surgery really posh and they pamper you? I’ve heard of people doing this for plastic surgery.

      • I wouldn’t call it Posh. It was just comfortable to know that you can communicate with the doctors well. They had little gimmicks like an full cafe for free while you are waiting, and socks, and gift cards to little stores.

        People do a lot of plastic surgery here, but most of it takes over a week to heal, so you don’t really get to enjoy your vacation. For LASIK I think it’s one day of immobilization and for LASEK, it’s about three days.

        I would recommend the same thing for uninsured people to get their wisdom teeth pulled out to. It’s only $25 per tooth $25!! Can you believe that?

  20. I have needed corrective lenses since the 7th grade. I have astigmatism and two very different eyes. I can barely see out of my left eye, whereas my right eye is almost perfect vision. My optometrist told me if I ever wanted to get LASIK done, it would only need to be on the right eye. My prescription has been quite stable the past few years. For me, it is just a matter of setting aside the money to pay for the procedure.

    My reasons for wanting to get laser eye surgery done: I HATE wearing glasses. I am quite active and outdoorsy, so its a pain when dust and dirt get in your eyes. It’s also annoying having to take them out when I want to go swimming and not really being able to see as well while swimming. haha.

    • That’s really tough when your eyes are so different. It is usually really hard to wear glasses because of the optics difference between eyes. Bright side, though, if you do get LASIK, it would be half price.

  21. Lasik is the treatment now which is trending like there was a trend of contact lenses over glasses like this lasik is in trend especially in India. People are waiting that when they would be eligible for lasik.

  22. I had Lasik when I was 24, and went from -6.5 (plus a little astigmatism) blind as a bat to 20/15 – I loved it! Well now I’m 32 and I can’t read far away. I’m only -.50 and -.25 at this point, but it’s soo frustrating to have been blind all my life – and then able to see for a few years of awesomeness, and now need something again to read the addresses on buildings… I don’t think it’s worth doing lasik again, although for $299 x 2 maybe… in 2004 it cost me $2400. I don’t miss the contacts game, but maybe I’ll be back in contacts yet again…

    • 8 years is pretty good for the lifespan of LASIK. It is disappointing to know you can’t see as well as right after the surgery. Good luck with whatever you choose to do. Thanks for commenting.

  23. I had LASIK in 2011. If I could go back, I would NOTTTTT do it again. Something went wrong during the first procedure & I had to get a second surety on my left eye a few weeks later. Horrible, horrible recovery for me. It took me from July-November to be fully healed. I had awful light sensitivity, pain, blurriness, etc. I went to a reputable facility in my area as well. I haven’t worn contacts or glasses since but the recovery and my experience was horrible. If my LASIK ever wears off it’s back to glasses for me!

  24. I think it makes a great sense of financial sense. The amount of revenue one spends on glasses and contacts over a lifetime far exceeds the amount spent on LASIK surgery done once. This of course if applicable if everything works out well during the procedure.

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