Author: Dr Val Phua MBBS, MMed (Ophth), FRCOphth, FAMS
Photo by: Michael Shannon
People who seek freedom from their glasses and contact lenses are sometimes turned off by the cost of laser vision correction. Add on the potential risks involved in surgery like infection, flap related complications and corneal ectasia (deforming of the cornea over time) and it is a done deal. Why would anyone subject their eyes to such risk and burn a hole in their pocket at the same time? It is just senseless. What is the real cost of laser vision correction and is it worth the risk?
What are you subjecting yourself to by declining this procedure? Consider the following scenarios and see if you identify with them; struggling to see the alarm clock in your sleepy state, challenging yourself to find your glasses without your glasses, repeatedly clearing the fog on your glasses when exercising or playing sports, praying your glasses don’t fall off your face when doing strenuous activities, hoping nothing unexpected will happen on your long planned holiday like breaking your glasses or losing them. Some successfully deal with several of these challenges by using contact lenses and just to be even safer, they use the daily-disposable types. While use of contact lens work for many, the eye is also subjected to on-going risks including severe dry eyes, allergic eye disease, contact lens related infection and even limbal stem cell deficiency. In addition, proper care and maintenance is needed each day if the daily disposable type of contact lenses are not being used. This need for regular replacement of course adds to the cost of contact lens use and over time it may be quite a significant amount.
The price of a box of daily disposable contact lenses can be up to $75. Multiply this by 12, that works out to $900 a year. Multiply this by 20-30 years of contact lens use and the figure is overwhelming. Of course the exact amount spent will range depending on factors including whether they are daily/biweekly/monthly disposable lenses, the material used and how frequently they are changed. Even the option of wearing glasses can add up, especially if better quality is requested for such as high-index, polarised lenses or transition lenses. Some of these lenses can cost up to $700 each time they are changed. Multiply this cost over time and again the numbers can be quite unbelievable.
The average cost of laser vision correction is a one time payment of about $3500. You will also need to factor in some additional amounts for consultations and medications but it is not that much more. The recovery is quick with some even going back to work in 1-2 days time. There is of course the risks associated with surgery itself and one of the biggest fear is that of infection but looking at the statistics, it will only serve to reassure your choice for laser vision correction. In a meta-analysis (analysing data from multiple well conducted clinical trials) published in the Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery 2017, Masters J et al found that the risk of infection after LASIK over time was 3x less than continued use of soft contact lenses. This risk of infection was found to be even higher in patients who used extended wear types of contact lenses. There are other risks involved in surgery that should be taken into account including dry eyes, glare, halos and flap related complications but with the proper selection of potential candidates and steps taken to ensure a successful surgery, the incidence of these remain low.
Laser vision correction may be an option to reduce dependence on glasses or contact lenses and also to save money over time. It has a higher initial cost but many who have gone for it consider it a worthy investment and certainly life changing.