Getting Laser Eye Surgery

LASIK is a popular eye treatment to fix near and farsightedness. Learn more about getting laser eye surgery, side effects and average costs.

Laser eye surgery is used to treat medical issues relating to your cornea. The cornea is the central part of your eye that focuses on light, creating an image in your retina. Based on the shape of your cornea, you may be unable to properly filter light, which can cause images to appear blurred. This typically happens when you are looking at objects at select distances, with either close or further images appearing blurry. One of the ways to manage these vision issues is with glasses or contacts, but these do not solve the issue.

If you want a permanent solution, you can get laser eye surgery. While there are a few different types of laser eye surgery available, the most common treatment is Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis (LASIK). LASIK permanently reshapes your cornea using a specialized excimer laser. Listed below is everything you need to know about correcting your vision through laser eye surgery.

Preparing for Laser Eye Surgery

Before you can get LASIK or any other treatment, you must have a consultation with your surgeon. During the consultation, your surgeon examines your eyes to determine whether you are a good candidate for surgery. This also gives them the opportunity to decide how to reshape your cornea to best improve your vision. This is done by measuring your eye using an advanced wavefront scanner.

Laser Eye Surgery Procedure

There have been many technological developments since laser eye surgery was first introduced. Not only have these advancements made the procedure safer and less expensive, but it also reduces surgery time. With most patients, LASIK and similar procedures are completed in less than 30 minutes. Unlike other surgeries, you are not put to sleep during the procedure. This greatly reduces the risk of complications from the surgery.

Before the procedure begins, numbing drops are placed in your eyes. Your eyes are also held open by a medical device. While it is not required, some surgeons administer medication to help with anxiety. The first part of the procedure involves cutting a small ring underneath your cornea. During the surgery, your doctor has you focus on a point of light. After the first cut, your vision may blur or your eye may feel tight, but these are normal reactions.

Your surgeon makes a second incision around the front of your eye, which allows your cornea to be reshaped. The bulk of the operation involves using the laser to remove cornea tissue. Once the shape of the cornea is corrected, the surgeon seals the initial cut.

After the Surgery

Laser eye surgery is quick, but it typically takes two to three months before you notice the results. This is because your eye needs time to recover. Following the surgery, your eye may feel itchy or watery. Blurred vision is also likely. Some patients experience minor pain following the surgery, which can be treated with medication or eyedrops. Some surgeons also recommend wearing a shield over your eye at night for the first month or two.

You will need to schedule several follow up appointments after the surgery. The first occurs a few days after the surgery. This is a general checkup, so your doctor can monitor whether your eye is correctly healing and ask if you are experiencing any side effects. Barring any issues, you typically meet with your doctor monthly for the next five or six months.

Level of Success

LASIK and other procedures cannot guarantee perfect vision. Each patient responds differently to laser eye surgery, but over 80 percent of patients experience a significant vision increase. In most cases, you will no longer need to wear glasses or contacts after the surgery. LASIK has the best result when it is used to treat nearsightedness. If you have farsightedness or astigmatism, your vision will improve, but there may still be some minor blurring.

Side Effects

There are several side effects associated with laser eye surgery. The most common side effect is dry eyes. As your body is healing from laser eye surgery, you produce significantly less tears, which leads to dry eyes. This can also make your eyes feel uncomfortable and itchy and temporarily cause increased blurriness. You can treat dry eyes using eye drops. There is also a specialized procedure to install plugs in your tear ducts, which prevents dry eyes. However, this is an expensive process and only recommended if you have other medical conditions which would worsen because of dry eyes. Dry eyes last longer than other side effects, anywhere from three to six months on average.

For the first few days after your surgery, your eyes may be more sensitive to light. This can lead to seeing glares or halos, or even having double vision. This normally ends after a few days, but some patients experience these symptoms for two to three weeks.

You are more likely to experience side effects from laser eye surgery if you have an autoimmune disorder or a weakened immune system. If your pupils are larger than average or you have a thin cornea, you are more likely to experience irritation after your surgery.

Costs of Laser Eye Surgery

On average, laser eye surgery costs between $2,000 and $3,000 per eye. Because laser eye surgery is considered a cosmetic surgery, it is not commonly covered by insurance. There are select situations where you can use your insurance, such as correcting an error caused by a previous surgery, or if your doctor recommends LASIK after your eye is damaged.

Because it is an expensive procedure, most surgeons allow you to setup a payment plan, paying off your surgery in monthly installments. There are even LASIK financing companies. Your interest rates and required down payment vary depending on the financer. Based on your credit score, you may be able to waive the down payment entirely. Many laser eye surgeons also offer discounts on procedures. The majority of surgeons provide free consultations before you even decide to get surgery.

Another way to save money on laser eye surgery is using a flexible spending account (FSA) or Health Savings Account (HAS). These accounts allow you to store a portion of your salary in the account, which you can use on medical expenses. Money in your account is not taxed. How much you store each month and whether you use the full amount on your surgery is up to you.

Finding a Laser Eye Surgeon

Laser eye surgery has become a more common procedure, making it much easier to find a surgeon. One of the ways to search for a certified surgeon is through the American College of Surgeons (ACS). The American Academy of Ophthalmology and American Society for Cataract and Refractive Surgery are also excellent resources. If you do not want to go through a directory to find a surgeon, consider asking your eye doctor. You can also get recommends from friends or family members.