Finding The Right Surgeon

Your eyes are some of your most important and delicate assets, so finding the right surgeon and clinic to perform your LASIK procedure shouldn't be taken lightly. One of the primary things to look for is experience. How long has the clinic been in business? How satisfied are the patients?

The Internet can be an excellent resource here, with sites such as Epinions.com hosting discussion forums and opinion boards where you can get commentary straight from patients.

During your initial consultation, pay attention to how business is conducted at the clinic. Is the staff receptive to your questions? Do they seem knowledgeable about the procedure and potential complications? Are the pre-surgery disclosure and informed consent forms detailed and easy to understand? According to the FDA, while there is a very low risk of serious complications from the procedure, there are things that can go wrong, and they should be fully explained.

Something else to consider is what other services the clinic offers. Do the doctors also perform PRK, a less-common procedure used in some cases in which corneal thickness is not sufficient for LASIK, or other services? If a clinic offers only LASIK, there may be more of a push to treat patients who may not be ideal candidates.

On the flip side, make sure the clinic you choose specializes in refractive surgery. There is a lot of money to be made in LASIK and related surgery, and thus some clinics have begun offering it as a sideline to other medical services.

Don't be shy about asking about the background of the surgeons. Find out what training they have had and how long they have been practicing refractive surgery.

How Much Will It Cost?

Most insurance carriers do not yet cover LASIK or other vision correction procedures, classifying them as cosmetic surgery. However, you may be able to use funds in a flex-spending account for tax benefits, and most clinics offer payment plans.

While every major city has eye centers advertising LASIK procedures for a few hundred dollars per eye, according to AllAboutVision.com, less than 3 percent of LASIK procedures actually cost less than $1,000 per eye.

Basically, the worse your vision, the more you will pay. However, prices for the procedure have stabilized over the last two years, with the average per eye sitting at $1,900. That usually includes the diagnostic evaluation, the procedure itself, any post-surgical drops and several follow-up visits.

Other factors can increase the total fee for the procedure. The Intralase all-laser option will cost about $250 more. Also, "custom" LASIK using Wavefront technology to create a 3-D map of the eye's distortions will cost from $200 to $500 more per eye.

In the end, however, it is far more important to choose the right surgeon than it is to get a bargain. Getting two or three price quotes is a good idea, but the reputation and experience of the surgeon must be factored into the final decision.

What To Expect

Your eyes have always been delicate, but after LASIK, they are even more so. It is critical to avoid any impact or shock to the eyes for as long as your doctor specifies. If sports such as football, racquetball, basketball, martial arts or other pursuits are part of your weekly life, you'll need to take a break from them for a while.

For the majority of patients, the results are 20/20 vision or better, according to the LASIK Vision Institute. According to the FDA, there are some common things that may be experienced for varying periods of time after surgery, including:

Light sensitivity:: This may last one to two weeks after the procedure. If it persists, contact your doctor. It is important to wear sunglasses outdoors and to avoid squinting as much as possible.

Hazy or blurred vision: This may occur especially upon waking and after prolonged periods of reading or computer use for one to two weeks after the procedure. Do not rub your eyes! If your vision remains blurred for a prolonged period, contact your doctor.

Dry eyes: This is very common up to six weeks after surgery. Your doctor will likely send home samples of lubricating eye drops and recommend that you use them regularly while awake. It's important to note that artificial tears are not the same as lubricating drops.

Glare or halos when driving at night: For a month or so after surgery, this is not uncommon. The first time you drive at night after surgery, have another licensed driver available in case the glare is too distracting. The problem should diminish over time.