If you wear glasses or contacts, you have probably at some point considered whether refractive surgery would be a good idea for you. While it’s a great procedure with high success rates, it’s not for everyone. There is a lot to consider, and if you’re interested in LASIK, the best and most personal advice will come from your eye care professional. But here are some general guidelines that will help you know if LASIK is for you.
Who should consider LASIK?
An ideal candidate for LASIK (Laser In Situ Keratomileusis) is someone who is highly motivated to proceed with surgery to correct their visual acuity. Your refractive error (glasses prescription) should be no greater than -10.00 diopters of myopia (nearsightedness), +3.00 diopters of hyperopia (farsightedness), or +5.00 diopters of cylinder (astigmatism) correction. (That’s right, astigmatism is no longer a barrier to LASIK!) Ideally, you will not have a cornea that is thin, unusual, or irregular in its shape. This is because LASIK, and a similar procedure called Photorefractive Keratectomy, or PRK, work by reshaping the cornea; if the cornea is too thin or misshapen, your results would not be what you hope for. We, together with your eye doctor can help determine whether you are a good candidate.
When should LASIK be avoided?
While LASIK is a safe and effective way to correct some forms of visual impairment, there are certain circumstances where it may not be the right option. You must be at least 18 years of age. Your refraction should be stable—meaning if it’s changed in the past few years, your doctor may consider options other than LASIK. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or are considering pregnancy in the near future, you should postpone laser vision correction as hormones can cause visual fluctuations. Certain health conditions may also disqualify you for LASIK if they impair the proper healing process. Similarly, if you participate in contact sports that involve blows to the eye region (such as boxing, MMA, etc.), then PRK, rather than LASIK, may be the better option for you. These are all considerations that your doctor and your LASIK team will discuss with you when the time comes.
For some, PRK is the better option
Far and away the procedure of choice is LASIK, but for certain people, PRK may be the best path to visual freedom. If you have unusually thin corneas, PRK is definitely the way to go. If you are involved in sports that endanger the eyes, specifically those that involve blows to the eye which can potentially dislodge a corneal flap, you may want to consider PRK. The healing takes longer, but it has just as high a success rate as LASIK. As with all surgical considerations, a full discussion with your eyecare provider can provide insight as to which procedure is right for you.
Finding the professionals
While your surgical team is evaluating you for laser vision correction, you should do a similar evaluation of the team you are choosing. Look for a surgical team who is experienced and knowledgeable in the myriad of laser options available to you. Ask about the Laser equipment and techniques they will be using. Are they up to date? Referrals from family, friends and your optometrist are an important first step. Ask if your surgeon is Board Certified and how many procedures they have done. What is their complication rate? How welcoming and competent does the staff seem? Are they willing to take time with you? It’s important to be comfortable with the surgical team that you’ll be dealing with throughout your experience and that they’ve answered all of your questions to your satisfaction.
When deciding on whether LASIK is right for you, price is an unavoidable factor. Prices seem to vary widely among providers. The vast majority of insurance companies don’t cover LASIK so your costs will likely be out of pocket. It’s good to find the price that fits your budget but beware of the facilities who lure you in with a low price, but then hit you with add-ons. Sometimes those add-ons come in the form of extra charges if your correction is higher (or even moderate) or additional charges if you want them to use either the newer equipment or the more experienced surgeon (most people want both). Other times it’s charges for pre-op and post-op examinations. Make sure you are fully aware of the total costs involved in your procedure.
Laser Vision Correction has progressed in leaps and bounds over the last decades. Most people find that it is an excellent option for them. If you’re considering LASIK, carefully discuss and weigh your options with your eye doctor, make sure you have all the information available to make a good decision based on your lifestyle, and then sit back and enjoy your vision!