Thursday, March 08, 2007

Is LASIK worth it?

Every once in a while I wonder if I should spend the money to get LASIK surgery on one of my eyes. One eye might be enough, as I'm much more nearsighted in one eye than the other. My eye doctor doesn't do the surgery, and still doesn't feel comfortable recommending it. She's actually so laid back she never really tried to get me to wear contacts either-- it's kind of nice to have a doctor who doesn't seem to make any effort to make more money off you!
But I find contact lenses to be kind of annoying... and lenses and glasses cost money too. And I'm vain enough to wish I could wear glasses less often, like many other women who I'm sure are tired of telling themselves they're "working that sexy librarian thing." So surgery is in some ways an attractive option.

Another item from Women's Health magazine:

Average price of LASIK surgery (per eye): $1,956
Average price of Visian ICL/Verisyse surgery (per eye): $3,981
According to the article, there is a new procedure in doing LASIK called "wavefront analysis" that can make the surgery more successful-- better night vision and fewer problems with glare/ halo effects. Also, people who were previously considered bad candidates for corrective surgery, because they were very nearsighted or had large pupils or thin corneas, might now be able to take advantage of new techniques called Verisyse and Visian ICL, which involve implantable lenses. These leave the cornea intact, and allow for a much quicker recovery time. The other technological advance is something called an eye tracker, which makes sure any slight eye movement won't cause problems with the surgery. That aspect of it always freaked me out-- the idea of being told "ok, don't move your eye or else something really bad will happen" and worrying that I wouldn't be able to do it!

It's starting to sound like vision correction surgery might be worth looking into...especially if I can save money by only doing one eye. But it's a tough call as to whether $2-4,000 is "worth it." I have bought new eyeglass frames 3 times in the past 10 years. I've also bought 2 pairs of prescription sunglasses. I might have also just gotten new lenses in existing frames one time. I also got two pairs of soft contact lenses that I rarely wear-- they may need to be replaced soon, but I'm not sure how long they're supposed to last. This all adds up to maybe $1500-$2000. So if I figure I spend an average of under $200 per year for glasses/contacts, it would take at least 10 years for the surgery to "pay for itself." Maybe that's not so bad, when you factor in the intangible benefits of not having to wear glasses. Either way, it's not something I'm going to do anytime soon, given all the money I've been spending in other areas. But I will be keeping it in mind for next year.

17 comments:

The Travelin' Man said...

I am pretty sure that you can use FSA or HRA money to do this. That is one way that I am considering pay for the surgery, myself. My employer contributes $60/month into an HRA for me, and I rarely go to the doctor and have no regular prescriptions. It has just been accumulating - and earning interest. If I decided to do it, I might plan to start a FSA and have the money deducted from my paycheck bi-weekly, but they fund your account up front - all with pre-tax dollars.

You might look into this - especially if you can use pre-tax dollars or money that was never yours to begin with!

Q.McFarlan said...

Hey MadX --

I had Wavefront LASIK done in Windsor, Ontario last February. It was $2500 for both eyes, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

The local opthamologist I see says they have been doing in longer in Canada because the FDA took a long time to approve it for use in the US.

These are the people that did my eyes: http://www.lasikmd.ca/
and like I said, I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

- Josh

Handygal in St Paul said...

I had my eyes "done" with Lasik five years ago and it cost me $1400. It was one of the best decisions I've made in my life. I was far-sighted with a prescription of 4.5-5 in each eye and a bit of astigmatism in my left eye. I did have a touch-up done a year later at no extra cost. I feel it was a brave thing I did (having your eyes messed with IS scary) but the benefits have been SO worth it! I'd do it all over again.

Wendy said...

What happens when you get older and get more far-sighted? I'm in my mid-40's and am at the point where I have to take off my glasses to see things up close. Would you just have a few years where you wouldn't need glasses only to have to carry around reading glasses to read anything as you get into your 40's?

Wendy said...

What happens when you get older and get more far-sighted? I'm in my mid-40's and am at the point where I have to take off my glasses to see things up close. Would you just have a few years where you wouldn't need glasses only to have to carry around reading glasses to read anything as you get into your 40's?

Lynn said...

I second "Handygal in St Paul". Do it if you can. I got LASIK about six years ago and it was the best thing I've done for myself. It was like you were given a new life. Mine costed a little more than 3K in SoCal.

BillyOceansEleven said...

I had LASIK about two years ago to correct nearsightedness and it is one of the best decisions I ever made. I paid $2500 for both eyes in Baton Rouge, LA. As noted, this should qualify as reimbursable from a flexible spending account.

Leticia said...

This is interesting that you brought this up. My cousin and I are extremely nearsighted (as we can't see far worth a damn) and would have loved to get Lasik. But one, our eyes are not yet "old enough" and as you said, we aren't qualified candidates because we are nearsighted. My cousin works at a local eye doctor, who is my eye doctor as well. The two doctors who work there DO NOT recommend Lasik for people with nearsightedness. Apparently, Lasik is better or made for people with farsightedness. And as we age, even if we were to have our vision corrected, our eyes wouldn't be able to see close (i.e. reading glasses). So, until something much better or advanced comes along we're all s.o.l.

hazygrey said...

I also had lasic 6 yrs ago and it's the best thing I've done. I had glasses since I was 11 and contacts since I was 18, and it was so fabulous not to have to look for glasses first thing in the morning or not to have blurry vision to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Just make sure you go to a doctor who's done many, many surgeries - that is meant to be key for lasic success rates.

Anonymous said...

One thing you might want to ask your doctor/optometrist, is how long it will last. My optometrist advises that by about 45 (possibly 50 at the latest) I'd most likely be back to wearing reading glasses and/or contacts again. She simply doesn't recommend Lasik to anyone in their early 40s.

Anonymous said...

I had LASIK surgery on both my eyes in 2005. It cost $2400. I used doc-pay--which means 0% interest and pay it off in 12 months.

My vision was 20/400 in my GOOD eye.

I now see 20/20 in one eye and 20/30 in the other.

Was it scary, yes.

Would I do it again -- WITHOUT A DOUBT.

Worth every dime and then some. My quality of vision and life has improved so much.

Imagine opening your eyes in the morning=----and being able to SEE--not fumbling to find your glasses.

P.S. I am 44 years old and I have MS.

Jeremy said...

My bet is that you actually are working the sexy librarian thing. Trouble is that sometimes doesn't work for men that intimidated by intellect.

Anonymous said...

I had Lasik done about 4 years ago. My vision improved dramatically right away. I was really pleased. About 6 months later I needed to have an adjustment.. Once again I saw great. The only thing was, and they had told me so, that my sight for reading was going to get worse and I would need reading glasses. I figured that was better than wearing regular glasses for over 30+ years. Well now my vision is bad again. There is nothing more that they can do to fix my problem. One choice though is to have lens implants at $8,000.00 I don't think so, or to wear either bi focal or tri focal glasses. I was so hyped up when I could see but now I am downin the dumps. Glasses again.. That sucks.

Tim said...

i'd recommend it. I had PRK done and my wife had lasik done. i'd have gotten lasik done if i could have. with that said, go to a reputable place and don't skimp on cost. after all they are your eyes.

we opted for the laser incision (added $600) and custome wave (which added $1000) for my wife. total cost was $2500 per eye, but the place that did it was top notch and was primary researcher for the local major university. I had done my research on all the places locally. don't be lured by the $99 lasik, which is basic plus does not cover pre and post op visits. you'll want one that does a years worth of post op as well as the pre op and surgery included in the cost. moreover, the cost will also normally include any adjustments needed during the year. we went through carecredit to finance although we didn't need to do so. However, carecredit offered 0% interest for 12 months. check with the doctor to see which credit plan they offer. many do offer 0% for 12 months.

you are correct about custom wave, which takes measurements and uses the laser in several different locations to prevent the starring and halo effects of the older procedure which only used laser in one isolated location. It isn't the newest technique out there. It is worth getting, although it costs extra. I'd also recommend getting the laser incision rather than scalpel incision. It costs extra, but hey anything that increases probability of success and reduces error when your eyes are concerned is worth the extra money.

there are a bunch of risks and caveats in lasik you should be well informed about. one is what anonymous wrote about above. personally, it sounds like the place anonymous went to should not have done the procedure in the first place.

anonymous, the lens implants as well as some other new procedures, i'd definintely wait on for longer term studies. you might opt to see a different doctor and wait until your vision stabilizes. it sounds like you had an astigmatism that wasn't really stable to begin with. however, with that said, lasik may require an adjustment, that is why you need to do follow ups for a year. your vision may improve greatly but then settle and need adjustments as in your case. it takes 6 months for your vision to stabilize after the surgery, which your doctor should have informed you about. it isn't necessarily assured that you will need reading glasses in the future, but it is a possibility once you get older. if you haven't gotten a second opinion about your eyes, i'd seek one. it just sounds like your doctor is trying to push you on newer things to spend your money.

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StyleyGeek said...

I've always heard that the two biggest issues with it is that (1) most people are still left with a small problem, so have to wear glasses occasionally or weaker glasses than usual and (2) they predict most people's eyes will continue to degenerate so you will need to go back to glasses or have the surgery repeated eventually.

If it's cost you are concerned about, it may not "pay for itself" if you end up having to continue to wear glasses sometimes/later on.

Ami said...

I think it really depends on how bad your eyesight really is. I have/had about 20/1200. I'm in the middle of having my eyes fixed with the Verisyse lenses right now. Verisyse is not a quicker recovery period than LASIK. It is longer, in fact. Right now I have sutures in my left eye. Visian has a faster recovery than Verisyse, but they both fit eyes differently so one may be better for you than the other.

In my opinion, it should not be viewed as an investment, but you should take the dollars you spend on it very seriously.

I'm going to second Tim and say research the doctors in your area doing the procedure. Choose one who is conservative in their approach. If you do this, don't skimp on it. Your eyes are very important and are one of the most delicate parts of your body.