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Should I get LASIK?


This story is sponsored by University of Utah Health. Learn more about University of Utah Health.

If you’ve ever wondered what life would be like without having to wear eyeglasses or contact lenses, you’ve probably thought about LASIK vision-correction surgery.

One of the most common elective surgeries available, LASIK uses precise laser technology to reshape the cornea to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, or a combination of these conditions. It allows many people to achieve up to 20/20 or better vision, it’s quick and painless, and you can go back to work the day after surgery. No wonder nearly 700,000 people in the U.S. opt for it each year.

Still, misconceptions and questions abound.

There are no one-size-fits-all answers, but if you’re considering LASIK, here are some answers to common questions from top laser vision-correction surgeons at the John A. Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah: Amy Lin, MD; Mark Mifflin, MD; and Brian E. Zaugg, MD.

Is LASIK only for people in their 20s? Who’s a candidate?

An ideal LASIK patient is someone with generally healthy eyes, thick enough corneas, and aged 21 to 60 who hasn’t had recent significant prescription changes. Patients with certain systemic diseases or who are pregnant or nursing are not eligible.

Overall, the happiest patients are those who were dependent on glasses or contact lenses before LASIK and wanted more freedom in their daily lives.

Why do advertised prices for LASIK vary so much?

Price and quality go hand in hand. Beware of price quotes that seem too good to be true — because they probably are.

Look for hidden costs. For example, does the quoted price include post-operative visits for a full year? Does it cost more to ‘upgrade’ to a more modern laser?

Ask whether your surgeon has completed fellowship training and whether they are board-certified.

Technology matters, too. LASIK and other procedures evolve, and it’s important to choose a practice that offers up-to-date techniques and technology. The newest machines are faster and more accurate, which leads to fewer complications and improved patient comfort.

Does insurance cover LASIK?

LASIK is elective surgery that’s not usually covered by insurance, but some health plans and employers offer discounts. You can also pay for LASIK with funds from a Flexible Spending Account or Health Savings Account.

I’ve heard of people just having LASIK surgery on one eye. How does that work?

Monovision — correcting just one eye — is common and gives patients one good eye for distance and one for up close. Patients can first try monovision with contacts to see if their eyes adjust.

I’ve seen people who have had LASIK use readers. Is this common?

For the most part, yes. After about age 45, most people begin to have difficulty seeing up close, a condition known as presbyopia. Small print starts to seem even smaller, so patients will need readers in certain situations.

Are there other options if LASIK isn’t the ideal fit?

Absolutely. PRK is another favorite and successful vision correction surgery that requires a slightly longer recovery time and is better suited to people with a tendency for dry eye or with thin corneas.

Fifty percent of patients undergoing vision correction surgery at Moran choose PRK and have had great experiences with it. Outcomes are excellent for both procedures.

What’s the first step to getting LASIK?

Schedule a free screening consultation — and be sure it’s with a qualified surgeon — to get all of your questions answered upfront.

What should I expect at my consultation?

You’ll need to be out of your contacts, if you wear them, for two weeks before the appointment. Your surgeon will give you a thorough eye exam and go over every consideration — the benefits, the risks, your expectations, and what to expect from LASIK. He or she will let you know if it’s right for you.