We hear it every day: “Doctor, what about that laser surgery to correct vision?”
If it were cheap and always perfect, and if it didn’t deal with body parts so near and dear to you, the decision might not make you think twice.
“But you know, Doc, these are my eyes we’re talking about here!”
When it comes to releasing your most precious sense into the hands of technology, you need sound, trustworthy information – it’s your closest ally.
Most people considering laser vision correction have many questions. Let’s answer the most common ones. The answers will help you better understand the procedure and help make your decision a more informed one.
Does it hurt?
No. Numbing drops are used before the procedure to insure a pain-free experience. In LASIK, a dry or gritty sensation is not uncommon afterwards until full healing takes place. Long-term dryness is rare, but should be considered a possible complication. In PRK, healing is slower and discomfort greater during recovery.
How much does it cost? Is it covered by my insurance?
You can finance your 2-eye procedure for well under $99 per month, with no money down. The total fee varies somewhat from center to center and it is “global.” That means it covers your pre-op evaluation, facility fee, surgeon fees, post-op meds, one year of follow-up care (which guarantees the availability of your doctor in the case of an emergency) and any re-treatments as needed. Only rarely do insurance companies cover the cost. However, the fee is eligible for reimbursement through most employer’s flex-spending plans and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).
What are the risks? Is it safe? Can I go blind?
There is a certain degree of risk to almost anything – like driving a car or even wearing contact lenses. The risks of laser correction are known and any problems arising are generally solvable. Serious complications (those which result in some degree of uncorrectable blur) are less than 1%. Multiple millions of laser procedures have been done worldwide in more than 50 countries in the last two decades, and the first patient treated in 1987 is still 20/20. No one has ever gone blind from laser treatment. With an experienced surgeon, LASIK is considered a safe procedure and complications, should they arise, are manageable.
What kind of result can I expect? Will I see 20/20?
A guarantee would be nice, but we can only say that most patients with mild to moderate prescriptions will end within a line or two of 20/20. That means you won’t have to depend on glasses or contacts for most tasks. Rather than thinking in terms of 20/20, think in terms of having the vision to enjoy the things you like to do – without the dependence.
Will I ever need glasses again? Are the results permanent?
The laser reshapes the surface of the eye – permanently. Any residual prescription is usually very slight, but some patients may notice it enough to use glasses or contacts part-time. It allows clear distance vision but will not eliminate the need for reading glasses beyond the age of 40. And also, having the procedure done will not stop your eyes from slowly changing their power needs over time, just as they would have done without the surgery. A small percentage of patients may see their vision regress over a few months, enough to cause unenjoyable blur. They may be retreated at no extra cost (at most reputable centers).
When can I return to work or sports?
Most LASIK patients see pretty well the very next morning and can return to work in only 2 or 3 days (4 or 5 days with PRK). Rest on the first day and normal light activities the second day is the norm. Full and unrestricted activity can be resumed by the end of the first week. For the first 3 months, you should stay away from eye irritants as much as possible and always wear eye protection when exposed to potential trauma.
What is the difference between LASIK and other procedures on the market?
One similar procedure is laser PRK. Both LASIK and PRK use the same laser. PRK treats the outer surface of the cornea while LASIK treats deeper, after a surface “flap” is moved aside. The flap is then laid back down after the laser is applied. LASIK yields better comfort, quicker visual recovery and lower risk of infection than PRK. But LASIK requires a higher level of surgical skill and carries the potential for greater surgical complications.
Another procedure gaining noteriety is one which utilizes minute arc-shaped implants which are positioned in the periphery of the cornea. These “Intacs” change the shape of the cornea and allow a much clearer focus. Perhaps the most charming feature of Intacs is that they are reversible – they can be removed or altered, if desired.
For those very unfortunate souls who have been “blessed” with unusually high amounts of nearsightedness, a new procedure called intra-ocular lens implantation has shown great success. This is done by afixing a small, firm “contact lens” right inside the eye exactly in the line of sight. Since this is a procedure that requires an opening into the inside of the eye, it is a little more involved than the other procedures and uses anesthesia, meaning the cost is greater. But for those who can barely see their hand in front of their face (you know who you are), it’s the most wonderful thing since hi-def TV.
Other still newer procedures are still “in the pipeline” and will be introduced to the public as development allows. Stayed tuned to our site and we’ll keep you up-to-date!
What is the difference between laser centers?
Although cost is an important factor, experience is the most important consideration. With a highly experienced surgeon, complications are fewer and those that occur (and they do) are better managed. Typically, a specialty laser center is best. Such a center does not have a divided focus but has only one clear priority – the most exacting visual outcome for every patient. The most advanced technology, the most highly trained staff and financing options will also be found there. Also, a center associated with other centers or surgeons is preferred due to the advantages of shared knowledge. Look for “global” fees and beware of add-on costs and charges. Are there extra fees for pre-op and post-op care, stabilization exams, pre-op and post-op meds and even retreatment, if necessary? A simple example: Extra fees for a single after-hours emergency episode can run to several hundreds of dollars.
How can I get started?
Dr. Annis has taken hundreds of hours of special training in laser correction and is a qualified associate of several specialty laser centers. He is qualified to conduct all of your pre-op care, arrange scheduling with the surgeon, and follow up your procedure with a series of follow-up exams beginning 24 hours after your procedure is completed. He is ultimately the one to judge how good a candidate you might be. If you’re interested, just ask him!
Of particular interest is that Dr. Annis also gets to see the results from many laser centers with which he is not affiliated. Regrettably, many of these results have been less than stellar. He encourages all laser surgery prospects not to be misled by prices which seem too good to be true. The happy, “successful” laser patient you know may have achieved an even better result by selecting a more conscientious provider.
Also be aware that many people contemplating laser vision correction might instead do extremely well with breakthrough contact lens technology now being introduced. Lenses are now able to deliver up to 6 times more oxygen to your eyes than conventional lenses. This revolutionary technology helps make uninterrupted contact lens wear possible and comfortable for up to 30 days! The unique lens surface repels protein and debris, the buildup of which can cloud your vision. Your lenses stay comfortable and your vision crisp and clear for up to 30 days at a time. And then there is the convenience of not having to remove and clean your lenses every day. This breakthrough in contact lens technology is now available through our office. And many are considering it a viable alternative to laser correction – without the inherent risks and irreversibility of a laser surgery procedure.