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Is LASIK Surgery Worth the Money?

Julia Sonenshein

I’ve had poor vision since the fifth grade — and it’s steadily and steeply declined ever since. Now I see so poorly that driving after dark is dangerous. After spending hundreds of dollars a year on glasses and contacts, I’m considering LASIK. The cost is daunting, but does the one-time expense outweigh the neverending fees I already pay?

Let’s break down the average costs of eye care. Depending on location and your insurance coverage, eye exams run between $50 and $100, and most doctors recommend that you come in every two years. My contacts cost me a staggering $580 per year, and I spend about $100 a year on solution. I buy glasses twice every five years or so, and my last two pairs cost $100 each. So in the last five years alone, I spent around $3,700 on my eyes. Should I live to be 90 and my expenses somehow don’t go up, I’m looking at another $48,100 over my lifetime.

Now let’s look at LASIK.

Prices vary state to state, and the average cost in 2013 was $2,073 per eye, or $4,146 total. For a one-time fix, that seems pretty reasonable, and you can pay for LASIK with a Flex Spending Account if you have one. But keep in mind that the one-time cost of LASIK can be somewhat deceptive. Most people over 50 require reading glasses, and you’ll still need to see an eye doctor in order to get that assessed. Then it’s back to buying glasses every few years — although reading glasses cost significantly less than a regular supply of contacts.

Glasses or contacts don’t carry inherent risks like an operation, and LASIK’s risks shouldn’t be overlooked. It can cause dry eyes, double vision, and astigmatism. In rare cases, your vision can simply go back to its original quality. Some people require a touch-up after 10 years. And $4,000 is a lot to shell out to land back at square one. But if everything does go perfectly, a 30-year-old would save thousands before hitting the post-50 decline and requiring reading glasses.

The bottom line: Yeah, I’m getting LASIK. I may be terrified of having anything near my eyes, but thinking about the massive lifetime savings calms my fears.

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