Ballpark Estimate: $2,000 to $2,500 per eye
Do you envision a future without needing to wear your glasses? If so, you’ll certainly want to explore some of the latest Lasik options that may allow you to give up your corrective lenses.
The Lasik Advantage
There have been many advances in vision correction over the past few decades, including the development of Lasik surgery. Many professional athletes, actors and other public figures have relied on this approach to correct their vision and to end their dependence on contact lenses and glasses.
If this sounds especially appealing to you, it’s worth learning more about this elective procedure and finding out how it can be used to help you see more clearly.
Types of Laser Eye Surgery
Many people use the term “Lasik” as a general way to refer to laser eye surgery, but in fact, there are several different types of procedures that fall under this category. While most of them achieve similar effects, the method used will vary a little, depending on what one you select.
Here are a few of the many popular choices that exist:
- The standard Lasik process works by making a tiny flap in the cornea, then directing a very specialized laser beneath it in order to expose the tissue and reshape this layer and smooth out any bumps. The flap is then repositioned and allowed to heal without even needing to be stitched. The entire process takes a few hours, including pre-operative preparation and post-operative monitoring. Improved vision can result immediately, although there may be some blurriness for the first 24 hours.
- Lasek (with an “e”) or Epi-Lasek, is a similar type of eye surgery that works in the same way as Lasik, except that the piece of corneal tissue that’s cut to make the flap is much thinner than in the traditional process. Alcohol is often used to temporarily move the flap out of the way, so that the tissue can be reshaped, and then the flap is put back in place.
- LTK is another option that works in a similar way to Lasik and Lasek, except that instead of cutting the cornea tissue, the heat of a laser beam is used to shrink and reshape the cornea. This makes the approach less invasive than the other options but the results are also much more short-lived. Within about two years of completing the surgery, your vision problems could return.
- PRK is an older procedure that achieves results similar to Lasik and it also involves working with a flap in the cornea, but while the flap is repositioned in the newer forms of surgery and heals back in place, in PRK it’s not used again. Instead, the cornea is covered with a special lens for the first few months following surgery to protect it through the healing period. This adds another step to the process and makes it necessary to do just one eye at a time. It also results in a much slower improvements in your vision. These factors make this a less appealing method, but in certain situations, it may still be the best option.
What to Expect
Most forms of Lasik surgery are typically performed as an outpatient procedure. You can usually expect that an eye drop will be used to numb the eye area and prepare it for what’s to come (you may also need a mild sedative if you feel especially nervous).
Once you’re prepped for surgery, if you’re undergoing the traditional Lasik technique, the surgeon will prop open one eye at a time so he can mark the cornea and determine exactly where to create the flap. Then he’ll use a laser beam to send direct pulses of light to the eye in order to reshape the corneal tissue and achieve the desired vision correction. The flap will be set back on the cornea to serve as a makeshift bandage until it heals back into place. Some people may feel some mild discomfort and need a low dose of pain medication for the first 24 hours afterward, although you could be fine without any extra help.
(You may have other variations on these specifics, depending on exactly what method your doctor performs, but this is a very general idea of how things could play out.)
Regardless of the logistics, you’ll also need to have someone drive you home after the surgery, since your vision can take a day to adjust.
Possible Side Effects
Most people hope to obtain 20/20 vision following Lasik surgery. While this is certainly a reasonable goal, it’s important to understand that the results of laser eye surgery don’t always achieve the same quality of vision that you might get wearing contact lenses or glasses. There’s also a chance that you could experience a variety of side effects, such as halos, starbursts, sensitivity to light, dry eyes or other inconveniences. Usually these problems are short lived, but in some cases they may linger indefinitely. Keep in mind that these risks are relatively small compared to the potential benefits of Lasik surgery.
How to Find
You’ll need to find a licensed ophthalmologist who has extensive experience in performing this procedure and is also using lasers that have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) . Make sure that anyone you’re considering using is certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology, American Board of Eye Surgery, and/or the Council for Refractive Surgery Quality Assurance (CRSQA). You can visit the websites of these organizations to find qualified doctors to perform this procedure. Or, you can go to a variety of other online resources, such as Allaboutvision.com and the US Lasik Directory to find surgeons in your area.
What It Costs
If your doctor performs an eye exam and determines that you’re a good candidate for Lasik surgery, you’ll probably want to know what the procedure will cost. Exactly what technique you have performed, how experienced the doctor is and where you live can all play into the price tag. In addition, how much vision correction you need may be another factor considered in the cost.
You can expect that most forms of Lasik surgery will cost between $1,500 and $3,000 for EACH eye (or $3,000 to $6,000 for both). Many people tend to spend somewhere in the middle of the range.
This price usually includes all of the associated costs and follow-up visits, but always ask up front so you know exactly what you’re agreeing to spend and whether you need to be prepared for any additional charges.
A Word of Warning
Keep in mind that you can also find some doctors with questionable backgrounds who might be willing to perform Lasik surgery for much less. However, when considering investing in a surgical procedure like this, you don’t want to let price be the driving factor. It’s usually well worth the extra expense to pay more and feel completely confident that the health of your eyes is in the hands of a highly qualified expert.