Have questions about laser eye surgery?

Most people who opt for laser eye surgery are seeking freedom. They’ve had enough of fiddling with eyeglasses, contact lenses and solutions. They want to enjoy the beach and pool like everyone else, and buy fashion sunglasses on a whim.

And while the procedure can be expensive, many clinics offer payment plans. Plus, you will save on the cost of glasses or contact lenses over the longer term.

Just about everyone knows someone who’s had the procedure done — usually with good outcomes. But when it comes to your own eyes, it’s best to take your time and think it through. That way, you’re more likely to make the best decision possible…for you.

What is laser eye surgery?

Actually, there are several procedures. Three of the most common:

PRK: After the surgeon removes the outer layer of the cornea (the transparent layer at the front of the eye), a computer-guided laser beam reshapes the surface to correct your vision. Healing takes about a week.

LASIK: The surgeon cuts a flap in the cornea and lifts it. The laser then reshapes the cornea and the flap is replaced. Healing is quicker.

Some LASIK surgery also uses Wavefront technology, which creates a detailed map of the eye and corrects vision more precisely.

LASEK: After cutting the outer layer of the cornea, the surgeon loosens and lifts it in a single layer, and then reshapes the surface with a laser. The cornea is then put back in place. Best suited for minor correction, and healing takes about two weeks.

Who decides which technique to use?

Ideally, it should be you with advice from the surgeon. No single technique is good for every type of eye and vision problem.

Are there risks?

Every surgical procedure has risks. While the risks in laser eye surgery are small, they are not zero. Typical post-operative risks range from dry eyes, glare, halos and double vision, which usually disappear within a few weeks or months. Under- or over-correction may require glasses or a second surgery. Complications can also result in loss of vision, but this is extremely rare.

What about side effects?

They can range widely, depending on the type of procedure and your eyes’ sensitivity. You might experience discomfort, blurry vision, reduced night vision, sensitivity to light, and dry eyes lasting anywhere from a couple of days to two weeks. Some side effects can persist.

Do I really need this?

Excellent question! Most people say their vision is greatly improved and they feel a sense of freedom. But if you’re over 40, your eyes will likely continue to change and you’ll need reading glasses even after surgery. You may eventually need glasses all the time! Also, your eyes may not be right for some types of surgery. Some eyes aren’t right for any surgery at all. Investigate carefully. Ask your ophthalmologist if you’re a good candidate.

How do I choose a surgeon?

Ask your doctor or ophthalmologist for a referral. Make sure the surgeon does many of these procedures and doesn’t favour only one. You want the procedure that’s best for you.

Is it expensive?

Generally, $2,000 to $6,000 for both eyes. Your eyes are precious, so be leery of unrealistic prices. Ask about payment plans.

Does insurance cover laser eye surgery?

Some vision insurance policies cover a portion of this surgery, along with eye drops and other medications. You might be able to increase coverage and therefore reduce out-of-pocket expenses.

Remember — ask lots of questions and proceed with care.