If you are interested in getting Lasik in the near future or are scheduled for one already, you should definitely read these key factors to consider before getting Lasik. These are your EYES we are talking about, and you want to be fully informed of what you are getting yourself into! I don’t mean to scare you, but really, you should be very cautious and do your research before making such a decision. Lucky for you, I have been through all those hours of agonizing research, doctor consultations, and have even spoken to a laser technician - and I’m very much willing to share it all! Here they are, the most important factors to consider before getting Lasik eye surgery.
1. Are You a Candidate?
Finding out whether your eyes are okay for surgery is the first step, and what the first consultation is for. Let’s say you find an eye clinic that you saw advertised online and visit the doctor there. And then she tells you that you are perfectly fine to go on with the surgery. Hooray! You should go ahead and schedule it right away, right? Nope, think again. The doctor might be right, but to be safe, make sure to get a second professional opinion. It’s just another hour or two of getting your eyes checked out. This is very important if you have a history of eye conditions or high prescription. High prescription means that your surface eye layer (called cornea) may to too thin (about -10.00 is the highest prescription that these lasers can fix). Eligibility is the first and one of the most important factors to consider before getting Lasik.
There are so many other key things you should consider besides cost when choosing your doctor or clinic, but let’s be realistic. Lasik can be a little pricey. And when deciding whether or not to get Lasik at all, it may be helpful to know that the procedure costs anywhere between $1,000 - 3,000 per eye, the probable ballpark being about $2,000 without discounts. If you’re on a tight budget at the moment, maybe you want to wait until later. Also, I know it can feel a little scary to get discounted Lasik, but promotions are okay - just keep in mind that it might mean more people or more waiting time at the clinic. And if it seems strangely inexpensive, make sure to read the fine lines and check what is and is not included in the price, such as free lifetime follow ups and vision enhancements.
3. Chain or Private Practice?
Corporate chains can have doctors just as qualified as private practices. But keep in mind that many large chain companies use more marketing strategies to attract customers and may have fancy info videos, brochures, and such to sell their services. I’ve also heard that some doctors there receive bonuses based on the number of procedures. Although this is only an assumption, I wouldn’t be surprised if the surgery results don’t exactly "stick" to a corporately employed doctor’s name or reputation as much as those of a privately practicing doctor. In my case, I’ve been to two large company-owned clinics that told me I was eligible for vision correction and a third, privately held office whose doctor told me I absolutely should not get Lasik. I was inclined to listen to the third.
It’s good to know which laser will be used for your Lasik procedure. If the doctor or clinician doesn’t tell you, ask them what machine they use. Wavefront technology is used nowadays – but there are several machines that do the job, such as the VISX Star S4 and the Allegretto Wavefront Optimized lasers. Make sure to do some research on the machine – check the laser company website and the FDA website. I’ve found that the Wavefront optimized lasers are newer, but this also means that it hasn’t been in place and standardized for long. Don’t get caught up in fancy names, and when someone says something like "it’s customized for your eyes," know that’s pretty much true with any modern laser used nowadays – it may not be as special as it sounds!
5. Doctor Who?
Out of the three practices I’ve visited, the first clinic did not mention the name of the doctor who will be performing the procedure. Yes, the machine does a lot of the work, but this is information that the patient needs to be informed of without having to ask. And you guessed it - it was one of the nationwide chain companies. I’m not necessarily saying you should only look for private locations, but you should know who will be taking care of your eyes and how experienced he or she is.
As much as I’d like to keep this post light-hearted, we need to talk risks so you know exactly what you are in for. Most doctors explain the risks to you, but they don’t always tell you all the details. Look them up. If you have high prescription or a thin cornea there may be a higher risk for corneal thinning post-procedure, which can be devastating. Your small amount of left over tissue disappears and could require you to get a transplant. Remember that your eye tissue, once zapped away with laser, cannot be restored. One of the benefits of Lasik is that you barely need any recovery time, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be cautious. Your eye "film" that you replaced after Lasik can even slip and cause problems.
7. Other Options!
If you are not a candidate for Lasik, it’s not the end! You might have other options. PRK is a procedure similar to Lasik that requires a much longer period of recovery spanning months for complete vision restoration, and might be a possibility if your cornea is not thick enough. ICL is another option in which instead of using laser, a doctor implants a lens into your eye. It can be done on patients with much higher prescription, but is more invasive with increased possibility of infection.
And so, some of you might have guessed already - in the end, I didn’t go on with any vision correction. At first, I thought I had only wasted my time, but it’s not so bad when I think of the worst possible scenario had I unknowingly decided to get it done. Who knows, there may be new technology on its way! Maybe you are better off crossing your fingers and waiting, just like me. I’d like to wait for a more advanced laser to be released. You should really think about whether Lasik is worth the risk for you. If your eyes are healthy and the risk factor is very low according to several professionals - go ahead with it! After all, Lasik is generally a highly successful procedure. And imagine the benefits! No contacts, glasses – likely for the rest of your life. Have you considered Lasik before or have received the treatment? If you have, how was your experience?