You’ve worn glasses or contacts forever, and frankly, you’re tired of the hassle. You want to see clearly from the second you wake up in the morning till the moment you drift to sleep at night. The most common way to achieve this is by corrective laser surgery, often called Lasik. But if you’re considering corrective laser surgery, you probably have some questions like, “Will I be laid up for days?” “Will it hurt?” And: “What are the odds it’ll work?” Before you go under the laser, here are a few things you should know.
How is corrective laser surgery done?
After your eye surgeon applies numbing drops, they make an incision in the cornea and lifts a thin flap. Then a laser reshapes the corneal tissue underneath, and the flap is replaced.
Who can get the procedure?
Corrective laser surgery is used to treat the common vision problems nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. To find out if you’re a good candidate for the surgery, see an eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam.
Corrective laser surgery can also be used to fix presbyopia—that effect of aging that makes it harder to focus close-up—but you need to have one eye corrected for near vision and the other for distance.
Also know that as you get older, your vision may continue to get worse, so you may need another corrective laser surgery procedure or glasses down the road.
What’s the success rate?
According to the AAO, 90% of corrective laser surgery patients end up with vision somewhere between 20/20 and 20/40.
There’s chance you will still need to use corrective lenses sometimes: Still, 80% of the survey respondents reported feeling “completely” or “very satisfied” with their procedure.
According to the FDA, results are usually not as good in people who have very large refractive errors. Make sure you discuss your expectations with your eye doctor to see if they’re realistic.
What are the risks?
While the thought of a laser boring into your eye may seem, well, terrifying, the procedure is overwhelmingly safe, the risk of problems is about 1%.
That said, it’s important to weigh the risks against the benefits, as the potential complications can be debilitating. The FDA has a list on its site, including severe dry eye syndrome, and a loss in vision that cannot be fixed with eyewear or surgery. Some patients develop symptoms like glare, halos, and double vision that make it especially tough to see at night or in fog.
One thing you don’t have to worry about: Flinching or blinking during the procedure. A device will keep your eyelids open, while a suction ring prevents your eye from moving.
How long will I be out of commission?
You will need someone to drive you home after the procedure, but you can go back to work the very next day.
How much will this cost?
The cost can range from $299 per eye to more than $4,000 per eye. Geography, technology, and the surgical experience of the doctor all factor into the price. Insurance companies don’t typically cover the surgery, but you can use tax-free funds from your FSA, HSA, or HRA account to pay for it.
How do I get started?
Schedule a comprehensive eye exam with your eye doctor to make sure you are a candidate for corrective laser surgery first. Your eye doctor will discuss your options with you and refer you to the best clinic in your area.