Since it was approved in the U.S. in 1999, LASIK has been a viable option for people dependent on glasses or contacts to correct their eyesight. Today, it is still considered an incredibly safe procedure with good results, with an 82 percent Worth It Rating on RealSelf and an average cost of $3,325.
As one satisfied person on RealSelf wrote in his LASIK review, “If you are considering this, it’s likely that you’re the perfect candidate … It’s so much nicer to wake up and see the world, and play sports without worrying about my glasses or contacts. I am no longer squinting and I can finally wear sunglasses without contacts.”
That said, LASIK is still surgery and comes with some, albeit very small, risks. Dr. Joseph King, a Seattle-area ophthalmologist, answered some of the most common questions people on RealSelf have about LASIK and safety.
What is the risk of blindness with a modern LASIK procedure?
“The risk of blindness is very low, and although it is theoretically possible, it is extremely unlikely to ever occur,” King says. “Laser vision correction is among the safest of all procedures in medicine. The risk of loss of sight is so low, that patients are more likely to experience visual loss due to long-term use of contact lenses, according to a published study.”
Is there such thing as ‘temporary blindness’ with LASIK? What should patients expect and how should they react?
“The vision may dim during the flap creation part of the procedure, but this will be for only 10 to 15 seconds,” he says. “It is not a cause for concern. Patients should remain calm and avoid jumping or squeezing. After the LASIK procedure, the vision may be blurry, but it usually clears within one day.”
Related: LASIK Q&A
Please explain what ‘flap damage’ is, and how to mitigate its risk?
“Although very rare, a flap can be wrinkled or damaged in the immediate post-op period by a patient’s rubbing his or her eyes,” King says. “Long after surgery, it is possible that a flap could be traumatically displaced by significant eye trauma, but this is extremely rare. If these events ever occurred, a displaced flap can be repositioned, and visual results are usually excellent.”
What is the chance that a doctor might ‘botch’ your prescription?
“It is almost unheard of with the multiple checks that are built into most laser center’s protocols,” he says. “This is extremely unlikely to occur with multiple checks. However, if it were to ever happen, it is likely that the eye could be treated again to correct the altered eyeglass prescription to provide the intended visual outcome.”
If you get LASIK, will you ever need follow-up surgery or glasses again?
“Possibly. Eventually, we all develop cataracts, and as that happens, the vision may change,” King says. “What should a patient expect vision-wise 10 to 15 years down the road? For the vast majority of patients, the vision remains stable throughout the adult years. Although it is impossible to guarantee that a patient will be free of eyeglasses, the vast majority of patients experience freedom from corrective lenses for distance vision. Beyond age 45, most patients with clear distance vision may need reading glasses.”
What are other important safety questions everyone should ask their LASIK provider?
“The most important thing is having a thorough screening and testing performed to screen patients who are not suitable candidates,” says King. “Laser-made flaps are always safer than blade-made flaps, and it is important to ensure that you are treated with a laser-made flap if you want the safest LASIK experience. PRK [photorefractive keratotomy] is also a very safe procedure, although it takes longer for patients to recover from PRK than from LASIK.”