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.
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?