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Have you thought about getting LASIK eye surgery, but don’t know what the pros and cons are? Many patients ask me about this on a regular basis. I put together this guide to help you decide if LASIK is right for you, and what the alternatives are if you aren’t a good candidate. As a LASIK patient myself, I will also tell you about my firsthand experience with this procedure!
Before I jump into the guide, I just want to put this disclaimer out there. Though I am a licensed optometrist, this guide should NOT be taken as medical advice. It cannot be substituted for a visit to your eye doctor! The guide is meant to give general information, but every person’s eyes are different so your situation may vary. I recommend scheduling an exam with your optometrist or ophthalmologist if you need specific medical advice. If you would like more information, click here.
What Is LASIK?
LASIK stands for laser-assisted in situ
For the purposes of this article, we will be referring to Bladeless (Femtosecond Laser) LASIK as opposed to Traditional (Microkeratome) LASIK. This article is a great reference if you are interested in learning more about the differences. In my professional opinion, I recommend Bladeless LASIK for its superior visual outcome and reduced risk of post-surgical complications. It is more expensive than Traditional LASIK but well worth the cost. Do not skimp on quality when it comes to your eyes!
Here are some LASIK pros and cons to help you make a decision.
Pros of LASIK
- No more glasses or contacts! You won’t need to worry about eye irritation from contacts or the feeling of having glasses on your face all the time. I find these are the two biggest reasons patients get LASIK!
- Save money in the long run. Yes, LASIK can be an expensive procedure. Where I practice in Los Angeles, the average price for Bladeless LASIK is around $5,000 for both eyes. But, if you add up the cost of glasses and contacts over the course of about 15 years, you may already be spending about that amount. Think of all the money you could save on glasses and contacts!
- LASIK is a quick, outpatient procedure. It only takes about 20 minutes, and you get to go home right afterward! You will not be able to drive that day, so arrange a ride home!
- Fast recovery time. You can even go back to work the next day (which is what I did)! PRK is another type of refractive surgery that requires a longer recovery time in which you will experience more pain and a longer wait for the vision to clear up.
- Immediate improvement in vision. You can already start seeing better in the few hours following surgery. In fact, many patients are already seeing 20/20 or better when they arrive at my office for their follow-up the next day.
- The instrumentation has built-in safety mechanisms. During surgery, if the laser senses any sudden eye movement from the patient, it will automatically shut off to prevent injury or error.
- LASIK is considered a very safe procedure with minimal side effects. Again, this is where you want to do your research and find a reputable surgeon who uses the latest technology for Bladeless LASIK.
- A touch-up LASIK procedure is possible. If your vision changes in the future or your vision is slightly undercorrected after your first round of LASIK, it is possible to go back and get a second round done. However, this is dependent on the amount of corneal tissue left and other risk factors the surgeon needs to consider. For example, if the surgeon feels your corneas may end up too thin after the touch-up LASIK, you may not be eligible.
- LASIK can correct some higher prescriptions and some astigmatism. This is a common question
patientsask because they think they are not a candidate for LASIK due to their prescription. In fact, LASIK can potentially treat about -11.00 diopters of myopia, +6.00 diopters of hyperopia, and 6.00 diopters of astigmatism. Of course, this is still not a guarantee you can get LASIK. A surgeon will still need to evaluate you.
Cons of LASIK
- LASIK is not permanent. I always make sure to tell patients that they should not expect to be free of glasses or contacts for the rest of their lives. On average, LASIK may keep your vision relatively stable for about 10 years, but this only a rough average. There are many factors that can affect how long your LASIK results will last, including your starting prescription, age, health condition, or how much reading or computer work you do. When most people reach their mid-40s, they will start to experience presbyopia. Basically, this is when you start having trouble seeing up close and need to get reading glasses, contacts, or a second surgery just to correct your near vision.
- Not everyone is eligible for LASIK. Some reasons people may not be able to get LASIK include: your prescription is too high, your corneas are too thin, your vision hasn’t been stable for at least a year or so, your eyes are extremely dry, you are currently pregnant, you are taking certain medications (like Accutane), or you are under 21 years of age. If you have any pre-existing eye or health conditions, this may also exclude you from getting LASIK. Older patients who need reading glasses or who may be developing cataracts may not be ideal LASIK candidates either. Your surgeon may recommend an alternative surgery such as PRK or an intraocular lens implant.
- There are some potential side effects. Some of the more common side effects include dry eye and haloes or glare around lights. Other side effects include difficulty seeing at night and sensitivity to light. However, less than 1% of patients experience any extreme complications such as vision loss. This a good study to reference if you’d like to know more. I will add that these side effects tend to improve or may completely subside in the 3-6 months following LASIK surgery. Generally, the higher the prescription, the more the risk of potential side effects.
- The corneal flap created during surgery can be dislodged with trauma or high-impact sports. If you participate in these kinds of activities, let your surgeon know as you may not be an ideal LASIK candidate.
- Mild myopia may not be worth getting LASIK for, in my opinion. When I have a patient who is mildly nearsighted (under -2.00 or so), I always advise them that their near vision will change around 45. If you are still nearsighted at that age, you will be able to read well up close without any glasses or contacts. You will, of course, still need glasses to see at a distance. However, if you get LASIK, you will find that you need reading glasses around age 45. You are essentially trading your distance vision with your near vision! You can still get LASIK with a low prescription but please keep this tip in mind!
My Experience With LASIK
Overall, my experience getting LASIK was very positive. Prior to LASIK, I had a rather high nearsighted prescription. The surgery was quick (about 20 minutes) and I experienced no pain, only some pressure on my eye when the surgeon cut the corneal flap. Right after surgery, I was already able to see the clock on the wall in the operating room! Before surgery, I couldn’t even see the big E on a standard eye chart.
My eyes experienced a significant burning sensation as the anesthetic drops wore off (but it’s normal). It feels like you’re putting onions into your eyes! I also felt extremely sensitive to light on the way home. You will be given some shades to wear, but I still had to cover my face with my jacket…that’s how sensitive I felt! Just go home and take a nap. Do not try to read your phone or do work on the computer!
By the next day, I felt much better, and my vision was nearly 20/20 already. As I mentioned earlier, I went back to work the next day! My eyes did feel quite dry even with the lubricating drops. I would say the dryness feels similar to when your contacts dry out and feel stuck on your eyes. This improves with time, but may never completely go away.
My eyes still feel a little bit dry during the day, but I do use lubricating drops about four times a day. I recommend staying on lubricating drops even after you are done with your medication drops post-surgery.
Since my prescription was rather high, I did see significant haloes around lights. I didn’t feel very comfortable driving at night for the first few days for that reason. After about 2 weeks, my haloes already improved by about 70%.
After about 4 weeks, my vision improved to better than 20/20 in each eye, so I am pretty happy about that! The haloes no longer bother me very much and I can see well enough to drive at night.
LASIK Can Be Life Changing
All in all, I do recommend LASIK for the right candidate. I think it’s a safe procedure that can be very life changing. I can’t describe how amazing it is to wake up and see clearly without having to put on glasses or contacts!
It’s important to weigh all the LASIK pros and cons before you make a decision. And most importantly, consult your eye doctor to see if you are a candidate!
If you have questions or would like to share your experience with LASIK, please leave a comment or contact me here! I’d love to hear what you think!