Published: Feb. 11, 2010
Updated: Feb. 12, 2010
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Reprinted with permission from Durham Magazine. Download the original article (PDF, 8.32 MB).
Five tips that could spare you money and complications when considering corrective eye surgery.
By Lisa Rossi
Durham Magazine, February/March 2010
More than 8 million people have undergone LASIK surgery, which uses precision lasers to reshape eye tissue and improve vision, usually making glasses or contacts unnecessary.
Despite its popularity, many people still have misconceptions about the surgical procedure that can cause them to either overestimate or underestimate the implications for their vision, comfort, and bank accounts. On average, it costs $2,035 per eye, according to Market Scope, a St. Louis company that tracks ophthalmology trends. It usually is not covered by insurance. In the Raleigh/Durham area, 303 out of every 100,000 people had LASIK in 2009, higher than the national average, Market Scope estimates.
The popularity of LASIK has waned with the recession, but Market Scope analysts predict a 15% growth in the number of LASIK patients in 2010 over the estimated 780,000 surgeries done in 2009.
That’s half the number of surgeries done in the peak year of 2007, when 1.4 million people opted for the procedure, Market Scope says.
Though serious complications are rare, there can be downsides to LASIK. If you are not the right candidate, your vision could be harmed. Patients have reported severe dryness, night vision difficulties and ghost or double images, among other difficulties. In response, the FDA is studying just who exactly experiences adverse affects from the procedure. Phase 3 of the study, a clinical trial on the quality of life following LASIK, is expected to end in 2012.
Here are tips from top area ophthalmologists on how to get the safest and most effective LASIK surgery.
LASIK has come a long way
Then: Before LASIK, the eye surgery to correct nearsightedness was done with a blade in the procedure called radial keratotomy (RK). It was used throughout the 1980s and 90s. Alan Carlson, with the Duke Center for Vision Correction, said RK was a good procedure, but was effective on a much smaller number of patients.
Now: “We’re moving into a realm of precision that is simply unmatched by the best of hands, the best of surgeons,” Carlson says. He says that each pulse of the laser removes less than 1/100,000th of an inch of tissue, done in a fraction of a millionth of a second.