Laser vision correction surgery has been popular since it was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) more than 2 decades ago.
For most of that time, about
LASIK, or laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis, can be expensive. But LASIK is just one type of corrective surgery. Many of these procedures are simply referred to as “LASIK” regardless of the method.
Still, no matter how it’s done, vision correction surgery can cost thousands of dollars. And that’s for each eye.
Find out how much you can expect to pay for LASIK and what to look for in a surgeon.
The cost of LASIK and other correction vision surgeries vary widely.
According to a
The average price in the United States was $2,632 per eye in 2020.
The report put the cost of vision correction surgery as about equal to the cost of glasses or contacts and eye exams for 8 to 10 years.
What affects cost?
The price of vision correction surgery depends on a lot of factors. These include:
- your location
- experience of the surgeon
- what technique will be used
- what costs are included
- your individual eye health or vision problems
Since laser vision correction is an elective, or optional, surgery, very few private insurance companies cover the cost of the procedure.
While you can usually use healthcare programs like a federal savings account (FSA) or a health savings account (HSA), most vision correction surgeries are paid by the person having the procedure.
In some cases, larger insurance companies or private insurance plans may offer coverage for LASIK procedures.
What’s included in the cost of your LASIK surgery depends on who’s doing the procedure.
Some locations offer all-inclusive packages. During your initial consultation, ask about what may be included or added as an extra cost.
A surgeon who offers a low price may add costs later instead of offering a more all-inclusive price upfront.
Some services that may or may not be included in the cost are:
- pre- and postoperative exams
- facility fees
- surgeon’s fees
- medications used during or after the procedure
Make sure the surgery you plan to have is the right solution for your particular vision problem.
Below are some tips for selecting a surgeon and questions you may want to ask before scheduling your procedure.
Visit or contact several local providers. Ask about their experience, procedures, success rates, and patient satisfaction scores.
How do they decide who is a good candidate for a procedure? (It’s very important the surgeon makes sure you’re a good candidate to reduce the chances of complications.)
Ask friends and family members who were happy with their surgery for referrals.
Don’t always go for the cheapest option. The provider could be lacking experience, or there may be costs that aren’t upfront.
What technique will be used? What kinds of results can you expect? Be sure to have realistic expectations. Not every procedure will deliver perfect vision.
Make sure you ask about savings programs, discounts, and payment plans, too. Since very few insurance companies cover LASIK, many providers offer some type of discount on their services.
LASIK is a common name for laser vision correction surgery, but it’s really only one type of surgery. There are several ways to surgically correct vision problems using lasers or surgical blades:
- Conventional LASIK uses a microkeratome blade to create an opening in your cornea that’s folded back while a laser reshapes your cornea to correct your vision problem. The flap is replaced at the end of the procedure. This is one of the oldest and least expensive varieties of laser vision correction surgery.
- Custom LASIK is a more modern approach to conventional LASIK. It adds in corneal mapping tools (think of it as a specific fingerprint for your eye) that allow increased accuracy and precision during the procedure.
- All laser or blade-free LASIK is similar to conventional LASIK, but a femtosecond laser is used in place of the microkeratome blade. This technique has been associated with better results and fewer complications.
- Photoreactive keratectomy (PRK) is a procedure that’s sometimes called advanced surface ablation. With this technique, the same mapping tools and lasers are used as in LASIK, but with PRK, the cornea is removed instead of reshaped. There’s no flap involved. The cornea grows back over time, after PRK has corrected the underlying problems.
- LASIK or epi-LASIK is like PRK, only the cornea is replaced after vision correction treatment.
- Small incision lenticules extraction (SMILE) is a procedure that uses a femtosecond laser to create a grouping of tissue in the cornea that’s removed, therefore improving the eye’s focusing power.
- Refractive lens exchange is a treatment where a part of your natural eye lens is removed and replaced with a vision-correcting lens called an intraocular lens. This treatment doesn’t use lasers.
How often is LASIK used?
LASIK types of vision correction surgery make up 80 to 85 percent of all vision correction surgeries, while PRK accounts for 10 to 15 percent, according to a
Other procedure types like SMILE or refractive lens exchange make up less than 5 percent.
Like most surgical procedures, there’s always a chance that your LASIK or other type of vision correction surgery will need to be repeated, or that you’ll have complications after the procedure.
The American Refractive Surgery Council (ARSC) estimates that about 30 percent of people who have LASIK experience temporary side effects that are considered a normal part of the healing process.
These side effects usually go away in about 3 months. In some cases, side effects can last as long as a year. And for a smaller number of people, these side effects may be long term. Side effects include:
- dry eyes
- problems with nighttime vision
According to the ARSC, less than 1 percent of people who have LASIK experience more serious complications, like infections.
The vision problem that is being corrected plays a big role in how effective your corrective surgery will be.
For example, many people who have surgery to correct presbyopia may still need reading glasses. But
When is LASIK used?
- Nearsightedness. Most people —
80 percent— who undergo vision correction surgery have myopia, or nearsightedness.
- Farsightedness. Hyperopic vision problems, or farsightedness, account for about
15 percentof procedures.
- Age-related changes. Presbyopic vision problems — farsightedness caused by lack of elasticity in the eye that’s more common as you age — make up
a quarterof corrective surgeries.
LASIK and other types of vision correction can be expensive, and they’re not guaranteed to work for everyone.
Make sure you’re a good candidate for LASIK surgery, and be sure to explore a variety of surgeons and facilities before scheduling your procedure.
Vision correction surgery sometimes needs to be repeated, and there may be side effects that can last for months.