When you’ve worn eyeglasses or contacts for a large portion of your life, you’re probably not attracted to the thought of LASIK eye surgery by its cost. It’s an expensive procedure just like other medical procedures are. But the value of waking up each morning, not having to put in your contacts is priceless.
Let’s look at whether LASIK eye surgery is worth it from a financial standpoint and also weigh the pros and cons. Then you can decide whether it's something that you want to pursue or not.
Understanding LASIK Surgery
Before jumping in, let’s take a step back to understand what LASIK eye surgery is. You probably know the basics of how it uses lasers to correct your vision. But let’s dive a bit deeper.
What is LASIK?
LASIK eye surgery is approved by the FDA and used to correct a number of vision problems that include nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. The procedure is very quick and can be completed in 10 minutes or less per eye. You’re awake the entire time but given numbing eye drops so that you don’t feel pain during the procedure.
How Does LASIK Eye Surgery Work?
To correct your vision, LASIK works by reshaping your cornea. Your eye is carefully cut so a flap can be folded. This allows the laser to do its work of reshaping the corneal tissue. Once this is complete, the flap is returned to its place. It takes up to several months for your eye to fully recover.
How Much Does LASIK Eye Surgery Cost?
NVision estimates the average cost for LASIK eye surgery to range between $1,000 and $3,000 for each eye. You may end up paying more than that if you have a more sophisticated type of procedure.
The cost also varies by location. As you visit different clinics you will probably see that price variation exists. This is usually due to the techniques the surgeon uses in the procedure so a less expensive option doesn’t necessarily mean a lower surgery quality. Still, you will want to be sure to spend time researching your clinic options.
It’s not common for a health insurance plan to cover the cost of LASIK eye surgery. This is because insurance companies generally label it as an elective procedure.
There might be benefits through your insurance coverage to help you with your out-of-pocket costs, however. Some clinics offer financing and other options to help with the expense.
LASIK is also less expensive in countries outside the United States. For example, the average cost in Russia ranges from $418 to $1030 per eye. Of course, you have to consider the cost of a flight, hotel, food, and other related costs. If you’re an avid traveler, perhaps its more like hitting two birds with one stone.
Discounts can also make help make LASIK more affordable. Some clinics run specials or deals on the procedure that lower the cost. In fact, it’s not unheard of for people to find a Groupon deal.
How Does the Cost of LASIK Surgery Compare to the Cost of Wearing Glasses and Contacts?
To estimate the lifetime cost of wearing contacts or glasses is a bit challenging. There are many factors that go into how much you end up spending that your cost will look very different from someone else’s.
One such factor is the age at which you started wearing contacts/glasses. What is the frequency that you get a new pair? How often does your prescription change? The price you pay for new frames/contacts can also vary each time.
Let’s use some estimates from Zennioptical to get an estimate:
The average adult will go through one pair of glasses each year
Children will go through two pairs of glasses each year
The average cost for a pair of eyeglasses is $268
Now let’s assume that you started wearing glasses at the age of 12. Over the next fifty years, you will go through at least 56 pairs of glasses and spend at least $15,000. Contacts and contact solution will cost you even more. A year’s supply for lenses runs between $220 and $260. Then you need to add on an additional $150 to $200 for contact lens solution.
If you’re one of those who wear both contacts and glasses, your lifetime costs will be higher. Is your estimated lifetime cost higher than getting LASIK eye surgery? If so, at least from a financial standpoint, it might be “worth the cost” to get it done.
Advantages of LASIK
There’s more than just the cost factor on whether LASIK is a worthwhile procedure to have done. It’s important to look at the pros and cons based on what others who had LASIK surgery have had to say about it.
High Success Rate
The outcome of LASIK is overwhelmingly high. 99 percent of patients experience a 20/40 vision or more and 90 percent have a result of at least 20/20. For someone who had vision problems since childhood, the surgery can be a highly positive result.
The results you want are very likely if you decide to undergo LASIK eye surgery. That should make you feel better about making the monetary investment.
The Convenience Factor
Many of those who have undergone LASIK have talked about how freeing it is to be able to see right after waking up. Those who wear glasses can find it discomforting to have them slipping while working out or in hot, sunny weather.
If you enjoy playing sports like basketball, running in 5Ks, or going swimming, glasses can be a nuisance. And no one who puts in contacts talks about how much they they enjoy doing that every day.
Boost Your Self Esteem
If you wear glasses, it can sometimes feel that they somehow take away from feeling confident about yourself. Going out for a night out with friends where you get dressed up for, you might feel like they are somehow taking away from allowing you to look your best.
No more Glasses/Contacts
You no longer have to spend money every year on getting a new pair of glasses or forgetting to order your disposable contacts. Aside from the cost, it’s one less thing that you have to be concerned with keeping track of.
Disadvantages of LASIK
There are Side Effects
Just like with other types of surgery, there are complications that come with getting LASIK eye surgery. The most common of these is dry eye. You might need to make a routine of using eye drops for a while.
Other complications include eye flap issues, over or under correction, and infection. These side effects are generally rarer, but you need to be prepared if they happen to you.
A more common complication is the loss of night vision. That will make it more difficult to drive at night so you may need to adjust your schedule accordingly. This side effect usually lasts for six months after LASIK.
Results Don’t Last Forever
You can still have age-related problems with your vision later in life after getting LASIK. Cataracts and glaucoma are examples of common conditions that affect your eyes as you age. If you get LASIK later in life, you will still probably need to get reading glasses.
Not Everyone is a Candidate for LASIK
LASIK eye surgery isn’t the right fit for everyone. If you have extreme levels of myopia or other conditions, you might not be a good candidate. Other reasons that LASIK might not be the right solution for you include the following:
• You’re not in good general health
• Pupils dilate over 7 millimeters in the dark
• Currently suffer from dry eye syndrome
• Have fluctuating lens/glasses prescriptions indicating unstable vision
• Are taking certain prescription drugs
• Pregnant or nursing
Remember, LASIK is not the silver bullet to perfect vision. There’s still a possibility that you’ll need to wear glasses/contacts for certain activities. Make sure your expectations are realistic if you’re considering LASIK.
Is LASIK Worth it?
LASIK can be worth it from a financial perspective in some cases and especially if you needed corrective lenses as a child. You can look at it as an investment in your future against what you expect it to cost for glasses/contacts for the rest of your life.
The older you are when considering LASIK, the less likely it will make sense financially. But ultimately, whether LASIK eye surgery is worth it is going to depend from person to person.
Some of us feel more inconvenienced, dislike how glasses look on us, etc. than others. You might completely feel uneasy about how the procedure is done which is enough of a reason not to get it. Ultimately, you should consider how the pros and cons affect your opinion of LASIK to determine what’s the right answer for you.
The cost of LASIK can range between different geographic locations and the level of sophistication used in the procedure. You can find various ways to make the procedure more affordable by looking for discounts, going to countries where the cost is cheaper, and benefits through your insurance provider.
LASIK isn’t going to correct your vision forever and you may still have other problems with your vision that happen later in life. Make sure to manage your expectations regarding the potential side effects and weigh the benefits you believe that LASIK will have on your life before deciding whether LASIK is worth it for you.
About the Author
Anjana Paul is a banking professional who is passionate about helping others make better choices when it comes to money. In her spare time she is a freelance writer with years of expertise in the financial industry. She primarily writes about topics such as student loans, building credit, budgeting, retirement and other personal finance topics.