I had Lasik surgery a few years ago.
Just before I started this blog actually. I can’t believe I’ve never shared my experience with you guys. It’s a good example of spending a big chunk of money on a want (and need). I say want and need because for some people Lasik can be more of a need due to their line of work, or their severe vision problem.
Plus, there is not one speck of my being that wants the money back, or wants to fool with glasses or contacts again. I often have regrets about my “wants” in life. Not the case with Lasik.
The Lasik Research Process
I was near-sighted and wore glasses and contacts for 15 years. It took me two or three years to get convinced to have Lasik surgery. Every time I would find motivation to start researching the procedure, I would eventually stumble upon the costs and the risks.
They would both scare the hell out of me. I’d say, “I’m going to spend thousands of dollars just to have my eyes end up looking like Kathy Griffin’s? No thanks.”
My Lasik Surgery
Eventually I got around to having the surgery. After interviewing with four different doctors, I settled in on Wavefront-guided Lasik with a doctor at the LasikPlus center nearby. I definitely recommend shopping around to find a doctor you’re comfortable with.
The doctor at my location spent several years performing vision correction with the U.S. Military. I felt comfortable going with the guy who was trusted with working on pilots and soldiers.
I was not impressed with LasikPlus overall though. Each time I went in there was a different physician’s assistant to deal with. And when it was time to talk pricing, the assistant turned an about face right into a heavy sales pitch.
Most Lasik doctors have a similar pitch, but the LasikPlus pitch seemed a little more pushy and chain-like. It was unnecessary.
Despite those issues, I went forward with LasikPlus and had the surgery. Everything went fine with the procedure. I was in and out in 20 minutes. While you don’t feel the pain of the operation, you still feel the cutting…mainly because the blade’s other parts run across your eye. Not to scare you, but just to make you aware…they say you won’t feel anything but pressure, but I felt the actual blade cutting. Weird feeling and difficult to fight through. Of course, there’s no way you’re going to move when it’s happening. So just be ready for it and brace yourself.
I had a couple of small complications after I got home though. First, my eyes started becoming irritated (the local anesthesia wore off quickly), and I felt like I had big grains of sand in my eyes that I couldn’t wash out.
Actually, I remember it being intensely irritating. I finally got to sleep that night, but I remember praying hard with my wife that things would be okay.
I woke up the next morning to no irritation and near perfect vision. I looked over at the clock across the room and could see the time clearly, something I’d never been able to do. It was a surreal moment for me.
Besides a scary, but harmless subconjunctival hemorrhage in one of my eyes, there were no other difficulties with the surgery itself.
Lasik isn’t without it’s lasting side effects though. I wake up each morning with dry eyes. So dry that I can’t really open them without discomfort until I put in lubricating eye drops. But once I do this, I don’t need drops the rest of the day.
My eyes just need a little kick start in the morning. Studies show that this is the most common complaint with Lasik. While the cost of glasses and contacts may go away, you might want to budget for eye drops. I go with the Refresh Tears drops from Allergan which runs me about $7 every 3 months.
The Lasik Value Proposition
So how do you decide if Lasik is worth the cost and risk for you? The Lasik value proposition is simple:
- Costs & Risks: spend anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 on a surgery; 5% chance of being unhappy with the results*; 1% chance of severe complications*.
- Benefits: the convenience and reduced cost of not dealing with glasses or contacts until you need reading glasses.
*thank you, Wikipedia
When you personally get to a place where the benefits outweigh the costs and risk, you’ll decide to have the surgery. If you never get to that point, you shouldn’t have Lasik. Don’t have Lasik because I or someone else says it’s worth it. Do it because you are comfortable doing it.
Paying for Lasik
At the time of my surgery I didn’t have health insurance or an employer that would pay for Lasik. So I had to fork over around $2,500. Actually, I ended up taking LasikPlus up on a 0% interest rate for 18 months deal they were running.
Probably not the best move for most people, but it worked out for me at the time. One thing I should have done that I didn’t was fund a flexible spending account (FSA) at work, and use those tax free funds to pay for the surgery.
If you can’t get an employer or insurance to pay for it, then at least take advantage of your FSA. It takes some planning ahead, but it really helps with the costs.
If you’ve had Lasik, was it worth it for you?