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Is Lasik Surgery Worth The Cost?

By Heather Levin

If someone asked you what the best money you ever spent was, would you know the answer?

I would. For me, the best money I ever spent was on my Lasik eye surgery three years ago. The $2,500 I spent on my eye surgery has paid off a million times over in quality-of-life improvements and not having to buy glasses.

But not everyone agrees. For others, Lasik isn’t worth the investment. The high cost and slight risk for complications makes the price too high.

So, is it worth it? Well, that all depends on you, your values, and your priorities. Certain benefits will carry more weight with you than they might with someone else. Everyone will have different factors driving their decision. So, I’m going to do my best to lay out all the pros and cons, and costs, so you can make the best decision.

Pros

Oh, where do I start with the pros?

1. For me, the biggest benefit to having Lasik surgery was the boost to my self esteem. It might sound crazy to some people, but I never felt pretty wearing glasses. Not having to wear them has definitely increased my confidence and the way I feel about myself. Can I put a price tag on that? No way.

2. I also cannot put a price tag on the luxury of lying down on the couch to watch a movie, something I couldn’t do with glasses because they smooshed into my face.

3. Another major benefit is that you can see. Obvious point, I know, but instead of waking up to a blurry world until you slip your glasses on, you can wake up and just see. In the highly visual world we live in, this is incredibly convenient.

4. Getting Lasik surgery also means you won’t have to buy glasses or contacts in the years to come until you become much older. Of course if you have the procedure late in life, you’ll likely need to purchase reading glasses soon after to complement the surgery. Either way, the surgery could represent significant cost savings for you.

5. Another benefit? Sports. Sports are great after Lasik because you don’t have to worry about your glasses or losing a contact lens. You can also perform much better!

Now, all these “life enhancement” benefits are going to be weighted differently depending on the person. I put the most weight on my self confidence. But for a football player, being able to easily play sports will be the benefit he can’t put a price tag on. We all have different drivers here.

Cons

As with any surgery, there are some potential complications to Lasik:

1. These complications include dry eyes, eye flap complications, over or under correction, infection, and loss of night vision. While many of these complications are rare, they are still legitimate risks that you need to consider.

2. Loss of night vision is one of the more common occurrences. For instance, my dad, my aunt, and my cousin have all had trouble with night driving after they had their Lasik surgery. They would see halos and starbursts as soon as the sun set, and they had their surgery years ago. But according to USA Eyes, this is a relatively common side effect from Lasik that usually goes away within six months.

I experienced this myself. After my surgery, I had difficulty seeing at night. But it cleared up completely within a month, and now I can see just fine.

3. According to the American Journal of Ophthalmology study of March 2006, the incidence of dry eyes from Lasik was 36%. Most experts say that the incidence of severe dry eyes complication is less than 1%.

For many people, that 1% risk of severe complication doesn’t outweigh the benefits. That cost is too high. Personally, I felt the benefits outweighed the risks, so I went for it. Again, this is going to be a highly personal decision.

Cost

According to Refractive Surgery News, the average cost of Lasik in the U.S. is $2,150 per eye, for a total of $4,300. And, most insurance companies won’t pay for the procedure since it’s elective.

To figure out if Lasik will pay off in dollars and cents, you need to break a few things down:

  • First, figure out how much you pay yearly for vision check ups and glasses. This will vary widely depending on whether or not you have vision insurance (many people don’t) and how comprehensive it is.
  • Next, calculate how much you’re likely to spend on vision for the rest of your life. Don’t forget to account for inflation, which averages around 3%.
  • Compare these costs to the one-time cost of the Lasik surgery. Also, you need to factor in the intangible benefits of a potentially better lifestyle and try to assign some sort of value to those benefits. And don’t forget to check out the potential tax incentives and surgery discounts I discuss in the next section.

TIP: Beware of those ads that claim you can get “Lasik for $300 PER EYE!” According to leading industry analysts, less than 7% of all Lasik procedures in the U.S. cost less than $1,000 per eye. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You only have one set of eyes. This is not something you want to bargain shop on.

Safe Ways to Save

  • USA Eyes reports that some insurance carriers contract with specific Lasik surgeons; if this is the case, you can get your Lasik at a reduced rate through your insurance company by going to those specified doctors. Before you choose a doctor, make sure you check with your insurance company first to see if they offer discounts.
  • One way you can make the price more bearable is through the use of a Flexible Spending Account. That way, you can save up for the surgery through the year and then use those tax-free dollars to fund the procedure.
  • You may also be able to write the expense off on your Federal taxes (make sure you ask your financial advisor or research your specific situation).
  • Ask your doctor if they offer any discounts. For instance, the Lasik doctor I chose offered discounts to teachers, public service professionals (like police officers and fire fighters), and members of the military.

Last Word

Have you ever had Lasik surgery? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience. Was it worth the investment? Do you wish you’d done it sooner? Or, conversely, did the high cost not provide you with the benefits you were expecting?

I think this discussion would be really helpful for those considering Lasik surgery, so please chime in! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

(Photo credit: ^@^ina)

Heather Levin
Heather Levin is a freelance writer based in Detroit, MI. She's passionately committed to living green, saving money, and helping others do the same in their life.

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  • http://www.frugalapolis.com Frugalapolis

    I had Lasik in 2002 in my young 40′s, and it made my vision 15/20 (better than 20/20) for about a year . Then it gradually faded so that now its about 200/20 and I need glasses again for seeing great at concerts, sporting events and driving. I enjoy not having to wear glasses all the time now, but wish my vision would have remained good after the surgery. I have thick enough corneas to do it once more in my lifetime and I’ll wait a few more years, but yes I’ll do again. With my cheap zenni.com glasses I can get by.

  • http://everydaytipsandthoughts.com Everyday Tips

    I had Lasik 11 years ago, and it was the best investment EVER. I was so sick of glasses and contacts. I was finally able to see for the first time in my life without any assistance! My eyes are a little drier, but no big deal.

    I paid 4200 dollars way back then. I know I would have paid a lot more than that on contacts/glasses/cleaning solution over that same span of time.

    Lasik rocks!

  • Kendra

    I also had Lasik in 2004. I am so glad I did. I financed the procedure with a 0% interest loan. I also have the occasional dry eye. But I keep drops in my purse so no big whoop! Best investment ever!

  • http://www.howisavemoney.net Lulu

    I had LASIK three years ago and it was the best money I ever spent. I paid a lot for mine but I went to one of the very best doctors and I did not have any complications. I followed his directions for recovery to the letter and had a good time.

    I love waking up and being able to see!!!!!!

  • Amy T.

    I had LASIK in February. We put money into our FSA expressly to pay for it, and our insurance company did have a special negotiated rate. It is the best money I have spent (other that on hospital bills for the deliveries of my two children). I would recommend trying to use a doctor who is affiliated with a hospital, and has more of a medical perspective (fewer patients, more time with each patient), than one who is maybe more lifestyle oriented. I was very pleased with the whole process, and the little amount of dry eyes is very easy to deal with (especially when I can score cheap or free eye drops at RiteAid or CVS!!)

  • Anissa

    When I worked at a University they had a deal where staff could get LASIK done for ~$2000 and by very good doctors. I did have it done and I went from 20/2400 to 20/25 in a half hour. It was amazing as I had glasses or contacts from elementary school on. It did pay for itself if you factor in the cost of disposable contacts, cleaner, appointments and drops, though glasses are cheaper in those ways.

    The downside is I do have the night vision issues. I can see at night but reading street signs in the dark is hard (but that’s what GPS units are for).

    I love being able to roll over in the morning and see my clock or get to the bathroom w/o feeling my way. I love not needing an overnight bag full of solutions and such if I go somewhere. I love swimming or going to the beach and being able to see! And I love not having glasses fog up when I walk inside in winter. Are any of these things major? No, but they add up and make me happy!

  • Heather Levin

    Wow, I’m so happy that all of you have had great experiences with Lasik! It’s such an amazing technology. And it’s incredible to wear glasses your whole life and then, half an hour later, be able to see and experience the freedom of not wearing glasses or contacts. Yay!

  • Eric D

    I’m glad I stumbled upon this article. Thanks for writing it. I am 37 and have always wanted LASIK. Now I am able to afford it so I am scheduled to have surgery in two days!! My surgery costs $4500.00 and I do not have insurance to cover so it will be out of pocket. I am so excited to be able to wake up and see!!

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