Is LASIK Cheaper Than Glasses and Contacts?

LASIK surgeons imply that it's cheaper in the long run to have LASIK than to continue to wear glasses or contacts.

What they may not tell you is that LASIK can result in such devastating complications that patients may spend many times the cost of their LASIK surgery in just the first few months or years after surgery, and that LASIK complications can add up to be the most costly medical expenses of a patient's lifetime. 

Fluctuating vision after LASIK may lead to need for new glasses or contacts every few months, which may never stabilize.  Imagine the cost of several new pair of prescription glasses, prescription sunglasses and contact lenses each year for life. 

Vision problems after LASIK, such as double vision, night-time starbursts and halos may not be correctable with glasses or soft contacts and, instead, may require expensive specialty hard contact lenses.  A post-LASIK contact lens fitting exam may cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars and the special lenses themselves may run several hundred to over a thousand dollars.

Although LASIK surgeons would like for you to think that you'll be saving money on contact lens supplies after LASIK, that may not be true -- in fact, you may be spending more if your LASIK surgery does not live up to the hype!

Annual eye exams may be more important after LASIK than before LASIK.  So, don't be misled into thinking you won't need to see the eye doctor after LASIK.  Patients who suffer from LASIK-induced dry eyes, LASIK-induced visual problems or other complications after LASIK require more frequent trips to eye care specialists than before LASIK. 

The need for reading glasses for LASIK patients who are corrected for distance after age 40 is a certainty.  A LASIK surgeon who says that you'll need reading glasses after age 40 whether you have LASIK or not is being dishonest.  A near-sighted patient over 40 who has not had LASIK can simply remove his or her glasses to read and see up close. 

Treating LASIK-induced dry eye can be very costly. Common therapies to treat dry eye after LASIK include extensive use of artificial tears, ointment or gel for night-time lubrication, use of moisture chamber goggles, commercial eyelid scrubs, prescription eye drops (Restasis or Xiidra), autologous serum drops (eye drops made from a patient's own blood), omega-3 supplementation, plugging or cauterization of the tear ducts, and in-office procedures such as meibomian gland probing, Lipiflow, and intense pulsed light therapy.

Here's a five-year estimate of the cost incurred by a LASIK patient who suffers from dry eyes, fluctuating vision, and night vision problems:

Semi-annual eye exams ($105)  $ 1,050
Annual contact lens fitting ($1,000) $ 5,000
Post-surgical contact lenses every six months ($330) $ 3,330
Glasses - 4 pair per year ($250)  $ 5,000
Contact lens supplies ($35/mo.) $ 2,400
Dry eye OTC treatment ($60/mo.) $ 3,600
Moisture chamber goggles $    200
Fish oil supplementation ($57/mo.) $ 3,420
Total 5-year cost of bad LASIK: $24,000*

*(Estimate does not include cost of punctal plugs, punctal cautery, prescription drugs, or in-office procedures).

If you think glasses and contacts are expensive, ask yourself if you can afford the expense of a bad LASIK outcome. 

Moreover, LASIK results tend to decline over time. Ten years after LASIK most patients will benefit from glasses. If you pay $5,000 for LASIK surgery only to be back in glasses in ten years, that’s $500 per year -- hardly a savings over glasses! Many patients are back in glasses much sooner. And don’t forget to add in the cost of artificial tears.

For patients who suffer a bad outcome from LASIK, the financial burden is secondary to the emotional toll. Imagine living with the regret of a decision that turns your life upside down.  Don't fall for the hype. LASIK is an unnecessary surgery that carries risk to your only pair of eyes!  Play it safe - keep your glasses!

Disclaimer: The information contained on this web site is presented for the purpose of warning people about LASIK complications prior to surgery. LASIK patients experiencing problems should seek the advice of a physician.