Men's Health: Guide to Getting Lasik

ByABC News
June 27, 2001, 3:58 PM

June 28 -- With Lasik getting more popular and much cheaper, it pays to look hard at the man behind the laser.

This year, approximately 1.8 million people are expected to get it done and lower prices also encourage more people to see the light. A couple of years ago, Lasik surgery could run up to $5,000. But now, it can be had for as little as $499 an eye, and the guy behind the laser may still be working his way through the owner's manual.

"The dark side of Lasik is that in some cases it has moved from a surgical procedure, which should always be carefully considered and researched, to an impulse buy," says Dr. Roy Rubinfeld, the ophthalmologist in Chevy Chase, Md., who operated on my eyes.

For the most part, Lasik is a safe procedure, resulting in about 98 percent of patients with 20/40 vision or better. The procedure entails using a microsurgical instrument to create a corneal flap that's approximately a quarter of the cornea's depth. Then, a laser beam is used to gently reshape the cornea. When that's completed, the surgeon puts the flap back into place on the eye.

However, the remaining 2 percent have problems. Some get better with a follow-up procedure, but some don't, resulting in permanent vision impairment or loss.

How to Chose a Doctor

If you're considering Lasik, here's a three-step plan to help you become a satisfied customer.

Step 1

Realize that Lasik isn't for everybody. Rubinfeld says you're not a candidate for Lasik if:

You have extreme near- or farsightedness, or severe astigmatism. Doctors consider that your vision impairment is "extreme" if you can't see clearly even with glasses or contacts. The worse your vision is to start with, the lower the chances of successful surgery.

You're under 21. Your vision continues to change as your eyes mature. If you have Lasik at 18, you'll almost certainly need follow-up surgery in your early or mid-20s.

You're over 40 and just want to avoid wearing reading glasses. Middle-aged men generally need help reading small type. The good news: Two pairs of drugstore reading glasses will set you back only 10 bucks.