Everybody’s talking about Lasik eye surgery, also known as laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis. Lasik is a common procedure used to correct refractive eye errors and can be an excellent alternative to glasses or contacts. Lasik has become hugely popular since it began in the 1990s. In 2015, approximately 596,000 Lasik surgeries were performed in the United States.
How does lasik surgery work?
Refractive surgery is a specialty field in ophthalmology and is used to correct several common vision problems. Have you ever thought about how your eye functions? In a normal, healthy eye, images are focused on the retina. The retina works like the film in a camera. It receives the image that the cornea focuses and turns the image into electrical impulses that are then carried by the optic nerve to your brain. Pretty amazing, isn’t it? Normally the light rays are bent properly to connect with the retinal surface. If the light is not bent correctly, then it is focused somewhere else, and the result is blurred vision. In the past, the blurred vision was always corrected by bending the light rays using prescription glasses or contact lenses. But it is also possible to adjust the way the eye focuses by reshaping the cornea itself. The cornea is the transparent, dome-shaped tissue that serves as the outermost layer of the eye. It plays a critical role in your vision. In Lasik surgery, a special type of cutting laser is used to change the shape of your cornea. The procedure may:
- Smooth irregularities to treat astigmatism
- Flatten the cornea to improve far vision
- Steepen the cornea’s curve to improve near vision
Lasik is an outpatient procedure. You will be at the doctor’s office for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, but the procedure usually takes only about 15 minutes.
Benefits of Lasik eye surgery
- Approximately 96% to 98% of Lasik surgeries resulted in 20/20 vision. Also, 405 to 50% resulted in better than 20/20 vision.
- People who have undergone Lasik surgery generally have little or no need for glasses.
- After surgery, the patient’s vision improves very quickly.
- Patients usually do not experience pain.
- Patients can generally resume their normal routine within 24 hours.
- Usually, no stitches or bandages are required.
- The results are permanent, but the eye prescription may still change over time. If vision has shifted, adjustments can be made.
Are there risks associated with Lasik eye surgery?
Serious complications are very rare occurrences. Some individuals experience minor side effects. However, these usually clear up within weeks or months. Risks of Lasik may include:
- Permanent dry eye.
- Double vision, glare or halos, which can make it difficult to drive at night.
- Vision which is either under or over corrected, so that the patient may need glasses or contacts after surgery.
- Partial or, in some rare cases, total loss of vision.
Are you a good candidate for Lasik surgery?
If you are considering Lasik surgery, your first step is to schedule an evaluation and consultation with a certified ophthalmologist. Factors to be considered include:
Age. Candidates must be at least 18 years old. Patients in their early twenties or lower may be still experiencing changes in their vision. Patients beyond the age of 60 should be checked for other vision concerns, such as cataracts so that alternative treatment options may be needed.
Prescription Severity & Stability. Your prescription should have been stable for at least one or two years. If your vision is frequently changing, the success of the procedure may be affected. People who use glasses or contacts for everyday life will benefit from the procedure more than those who generally manage without glasses or contacts.
General (Eye) Health. Lasik surgery may aggravate some eye conditions, such as past injuries or persistent dry eyes. Individuals who have eye conditions such as keratoconus, glaucoma, cataracts, corneal disease, or other retinal and optic nerve diseases may not be a good candidate for this surgery.
Cost of Lasik eye surgery
You probably see Lasik surgery advertised everywhere and at a wide range of prices. The cost of Lasik surgery depends on many factors. You probably need a vision correction procedure for each of your eyes, and each eye is unique. Therefore, the treatment for each eye is considered separately. There are many different types of laser vision correction, techniques, and technologies that can determine how much a surgeon may charge for a procedure. The experience and reputation of your surgeon may also affect the cost. It is important to remember that despite the upfront investment in your vision, you will probably save hundreds of dollars each year because you no longer need to change your glasses or purchase contact lenses. Some estimates show that over the course of five to ten years, the cost of glasses and contacts can be more than the cost of the surgery.
In 2017, the average price for Lasik eye surgery was $2,088 per eye. If the cost exceeds your budget, speak with your surgeon’s staff to discuss the possibility of financing.
Factors to consider when choosing your surgeon
If you are planning to have Lasik surgery, you are making a big investment in your eye health. Therefore, it is essential to have confidence in your surgeon. You want to choose a surgeon with the experience, skill, and technology to give you the best possible results. According to the American Refractive Surgery Council, there are five important considerations when you are choosing a surgeon for your Lasik procedure:
- The surgeon should have completed the appropriate training and met the highest standards in his or her field.
- The surgeon should be experienced.
- The surgeon should answer all of your questions, but you should not ever feel pressured to have the procedure done.
- Above all, you should be comfortable with your surgeon
It is that combination, the specific skill, experience, and technology, that goes into the price of your LASIK procedure. Understanding your options and having confidence in your surgeon will help you make the best investment in your health and vision when choosing LASIK.