About 30 percent of people are nearsighted, and while the causes of the issue aren't completely clear, researchers think heredity plays a role. (Learn more) LASIK is a surgical procedure that can help to correct nearsightedness, but if your prescription is too severe, the risk of surgery may not outweigh the benefits. (Learn more) If you do have surgery, you may still need glasses in time, but most people who have surgery for nearsightedness are pleased with the results. (Learn more) You can expect to pay thousands of dollars per eye for surgery, and insurance may not help to cover those costs. (Learn more)
The Cause and Incidence of Nearsightedness
In order to perceive the things around us with sight, we need light to move into the cornea, through the pupil and the lens, so the image is focused on the retina at the back of the eye. In a normal eye, that light moves through the eye, and it hits the retina at exactly the proper position.
People who are nearsighted have a focal point that is just a bit in front of the retina. The National Eye Institute (NEI) reports that this focal shift can be caused by an eyeball that is too long, and it can also be caused by a cornea that is too curved when compared to the shape of the rest of the eye. Thick corneas can also cause nearsightedness.
Experts aren't quite sure why any of these issues take hold, but they suspect that heredity plays a role. If many people in your family are nearsighted, you are likely to have the same issue. Nearsightedness could also be linked to environmental factors, such as too much time spent in front of computers.
If you are nearsighted, you are certainly not alone. The American Optometric Association reports that about 30 percent of the population within the United States deals with nearsightedness, or myopia. Most people develop myopia in grade school, and typically, the condition progresses until people reach age 20. At that point, people tend to have stable prescriptions, meaning that their myopia isn't likely to get worse. But some people do experience a deterioration in visual acuity throughout life.
When the prescription is stable and variability ends, LASIK could be a good long-term solution. During this surgery, professionals create a small flap in the surface of the eye, and they remove corneal layers beneath that flap. The reshaping of the cornea allows light to move through the eye in an optimal fashion, which permits clear vision without contact lenses or glasses.
While LASIK can be effective against myopia, the surgery does come with some risks and side effects people consider bothersome.
- Dry eyes
- Low night vision
- Blurry vision, requiring the use of glasses
According to Mayo Clinic, if your prescription is strong, these risks may not outweigh the benefits of surgery. While you may not want to wear thick glasses or contacts, the surgery may not completely solve your vision issue, and it may leave you with some troublesome symptoms in addition to low vision. A surgeon may explain these issues to you and suggest that there are other options that would be better to help you see clearly.
The prescription strength a doctor deems too high can vary from professional to professional, but according to one surgeon interviewed by National Public Radio, a prescription of -10 diopters for myopia may not be considered ideal. The amount of cornea that must be removed to correct that level of nearsightedness could leave the person at risk for health issues in time. There is the possibility that one surgery will not fix the issue, and there will not be enough corneal tissue left over for a second surgery.
During an assessment for LASIK, your doctor will measure your sight and determine how much tissue should be removed. Your doctor will also measure the thickness of your cornea, to determine if you can have surgery safely. With those measurements, you can have a frank discussion about whether or not surgery is the right choice for you.In a seven-year study on the effectiveness of LASIK in people with myopia, published in the Journal of Refractive Surgery, researchers found that people who had surgery tended to see their vision deteriorate with time. While they had nearly perfect vision after surgery, they often needed some kind of correction. Even so, a remarkable 100 percent of patients would have LASIK again.
Your vision can change after surgery due to the underlying issue that caused your original myopia, and your vision can change due to stiffness of the lens with age. Those changes can prompt you to need glasses or contacts after LASIK, but those corrections might be small, and you might not need them all the time. As these studies make clear, most people who have surgery for myopia are remarkably happy with the results they achieve, and they would make the same decision again.
The benefits you receive can also vary depending on the machine used in your surgery. Different LASIK machines are designed to handle the surgery in a slightly different way, and some of the surgical techniques possible with one machine are impossible with another.
For example, some machines allow your surgeon to create a map of the surface of your eye and follow that map during your surgery. This intense, personalized form of surgery might give you a better outcome than a standard LASIK surgery that doesn't offer customization.
In a study of LASIK in myopia, published in the journal Eye, researchers looked at outcomes among people that had LASIK surgery with two different types of machines. One machine produced a successful surgery 78 percent of the time. The other was successful 88 percent of the time.
Results like this demonstrate why it is so important to have surgery with a trusted professional using a machine that is right for your eyes and your prescription type. A professional can help to ensure you get the results you are looking for.
While your myopia is a medical condition, LASIK surgery to address it is often not covered by insurance plans. In most cases, your insurance plan will consider the surgery an elective, cosmetic procedure, and that means you will be expected to pay at least some of the cost on your own. According to CareCredit, LASIK surgery can cost between $1,500 to $2,500 per eye.
While your insurance plan may not help you to cover the cost of care, your plan may have connections with LASIK providers. When that happens, you can get a discount for having surgery with a company that has a connection with your insurance provider.
If your insurance provider has no such connections, and you have a health savings account (HSA), you can use the funds in your HSA to help you cover the cost of care. LASIK is considered a medical procedure, and as a result, it is eligible for use with your savings account. This can help you to cover the costs of the procedure without seeing the funds come out of your vital daily budget.
Some LASIK offices also offer finance packages that can help to spread out the cost of care into payments that fit within your budget. This could be a good option for some families.
Is Surgery Right for You?
Corrections you use for myopia can be uncomfortable. Glasses can interfere with your exercise plans, and contacts can require you to spend vital minutes every morning ensuring you can see. If you are ready to think about eliminating these hassles from your life, start by visiting with a reputable doctor for a thorough exam. You will emerge from that exam with enough information to help you make a good decision about LASIK and your future. We can help you find that reputable doctor. Contact us to find out more.
Facts About Myopia. (October 2017). National Eye Institute.
Myopia (Nearsightedness). American Optometric Association.
LASIK Surgery: Is It Right for You? (March 2017). Mayo Clinic.
Your Questions on LASIK Eye Surgery. (October 2006). National Public Radio.
Seven-Year Follow-Up of LASIK for Myopia. (March 2009). Journal of Refractive Surgery.
Variables Affecting Refractive Outcome Following LASIK for Myopia. (May 2007). Eye.
Cost of LASIK and Payment Plans. CareCredit.