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Is Lasik Surgery Worth The Cost?

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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.

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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 writer with over 15 years experience covering personal finance, natural health, parenting, and green living. She lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina with her husband and two young sons, where they're often wandering on frequent picnics to find feathers and wildflowers.

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