Seeking credible and accurate information on LASIK and vision correction procedures can be a tricky and even scary task for some. For most, an internet search is the usual “first step” and instantly returns page upon page of web links for review.
Rather not type or read? Okay then – just ask Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri or Google’s Assistant your questions. Try “Tell me about LASIK?” or “Is LASIK safe?” and “Where can I get LASIK?”. Each app is primed and ready and answers your LASIK questions promptly or delivers a list for review – “Have a look!” While these days’ conversations with apps seems normal and downright personal, how can you trust that the information retrieved is credible? Factual?
For example, is the first LASIK center returned in the “Where can I get LASIK?” question the right surgeon for you and your eyes? Does the high-profile celebrity who had LASIK really know what they are talking about when it comes to vision correction procedures? Is your co-worker the expert on why you should or should not to have a LASIK procedure? What about those “$250 an Eye” ad campaigns, or the limited time Groupon’s offered by the local eye docs? Are these even real, or just a bait-and-switch tactic? What do you know about the people who wrote the ad or pitched the Groupon? How do they know if you are a candidate for LASIK? And who forwarded these to your email anyway? Do you even know the person’s name or is it just that you fit the demographic?
While few of us have an ophthalmologist on speed dial, we all have to do our fair share of “shopping” the information out there before settling on an appointment with a LASIK surgeon (or two – to compare notes) to see if we are a candidate and to discuss expectations and options.
Before you go, here’s what you need to know.
- Medical Doctors: Refractive surgeons are ophthalmologists, medical doctors (MD) who have completed 4 years of medical school and an additional 2 or 3 years of training specifically in surgical procedures for eyes including refractive, cataract and other laser vision correction procedures. Ophthalmologists don’t just perform eye surgery; they treat all forms of eye disease. They prescribe glasses and contact lenses and perform annual or biennial vision exams.
- Private Practice: Ophthalmologists usually practice in a private office setting and have an ambulatory surgery center (ASC) in their office. Some share out-patient facilities or use the local hospital for their surgeries. Ophthalmologists often employ optometrists (OD) and certified ophthalmic technicians (COT) who assist with vision testing, pre-op and post-op tests, glasses and contact lenses fittings etc. Ophthalmologists will often “co-manage” their patients who live in neighboring cities or rural towns using the local optometrist so patients do not have to travel to the ophthalmologists for a routine check-up or vision check.
- Experience: A refractive surgeon should have a significant experience with the various vision correction procedures available today. Practices dedicated to refractive surgery often perform anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred, refractive procedures each month. It is not uncommon to meet refractive surgeons who have performed 10, 30, or 50 thousand refractive procedures over the course of their career. Keep in mind, however, that procedure volume is not everything. Plenty of excellent refractive surgeons perform 250 refractive procedures in a year. You should feel very comfortable with your surgeon and they should answer all of your questions.
- Not everyone is a candidate: Make sure you discuss which types of patients are not candidates with the ophthalmologist and why. Certain medical conditions, eye health, and age can rule out a candidate for vision correction procedures.
- Fee or Free: Don’t consider only the “Free Evaluation” to determine if you are a candidate for refractive surgery. Paying a reasonable fee for a thorough eye exam – which can last 60 minutes or up to 2 hours in some centers – most often determine the best vision correction procedure for you – if any. Most surgeons will credit the evaluation fee toward the surgical fee if you are a candidate for surgery. If you are unsure, ask!
- Fact or Fiction: If it sounds too good to be true, be wary. While LASIK remains the safest and most commonly performed vision correction procedure, there are limits to every surgical procedure. Your surgeon should discuss the risks and benefits of a having vision correction procedure.
- Research: As with any surgical procedure, do your research. Talk with family and friends. Ask for referrals from people who have had the procedure at the practice you are considering.
- Consider Your Age: Finally, having LASIK will not stop your presbyopia from developing at age 45 to 55. Presbyopia is the hardening of the natural lens inside of the eye and part of the natural aging process. What LASIK can do is give you 10 to 30 years of little to no dependency on glasses and contact lenses. LASIK does not wear off – it is a permanent vision correction procedure.
In short, vision correction procedures such as LASIK have an extremely high satisfaction rate among patients having FDA approvals for safety and effectiveness for the correction of nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Vision correction procedures such as LASIK permanently correct the visual defect. Glasses and contact lenses provide a temporary fix when they are worn.
Interview your LASIK surgeon. No question should be left unasked. Vision correction procedures like LASIK are a surgical procedure requiring a medical doctor (MD) to perform the procedure. Seek out ophthalmologists that make your final vision check their priority and is exactly where you discussed it would be prior to having the procedure.
You probably have a price range and location in mind. Watch out for misleading advertisements that promise LASIK at a “low, low price” only to find that the “low, low price” covers only one part of the procedure and not the pre-op visit, post-op visits, the drops, or an enhancement should you need one (if your final vision is not exactly where you discussed it would be after surgery).
Go with your gut. If you meet with a doctor that you trust and feel that they have your best interests at heart, go for it! Physicians of the Refractive Surgery Alliance work towards bringing the benefits of refractive surgery to more people and are committed to offer the best service to their patients.
Talk to a doctor to see if you too can see the world with perfect vision.