The Thought Process Behind a $5,440 LASIK Procedure

If you didn’t know already, I’ve wanted LASIK for a while.

So last Monday, I finally pulled the trigger. That’s right—I got my eyes lasered.

Here’s why I did it and how it went.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. I’m a random guy on the Internet recounting his experience. Please consult a medical professional if you are considering any eye procedure.

Story Time: My Troubled Eyes

When I was 7, I came home from school with the dreaded note:

Please get your son checked for glasses.

“Aiyah!” my parents exclaimed. “Your fault for playing too many video games la.”

The next week, we went to Costco. We bought the most “practical” glasses, aka garbage can metal. Sure, they wouldn’t break, but they weren’t pretty. I then went through all of elementary school googly-eyed.

When I was 13, cooties stopped being a thing, and I got contacts. Things were handy-dandy—you know, if I ignored the burning and itching and dryness that turned my eyes tomato-red.

One time in the 7th grade, I was casually existing when my left contact decided to spontaneously fall apart in my eye. I then went through the rest of the school day wearing one contact and pretending everything was normal. But it was OK, because contacts made me ~~beautiful~~.

And beautiful I was for 10 years.

Then, when I was 23, I started getting bumps on my eyelids. Kind of like little pimples, except they stung when you touched them. “Styes,” the Internet told me.

First, it was one. Then another one. And another one.  

Then I got a humongous one that wouldn’t go away. For three weeks.

“That’s a chalazion,” the ophthalmologist said, “and we should cut that out.”

Many sharp things in my eyelid later, I said bye-bye to contacts forever.

I went back to glasses.

My styes went away, but I had other issues.

Doing push-ups? Need to put those glasses somewhere.

Doing squats? Ha, good luck having good form with frames around your nostrils!

My glasses fogged up.

They slid down my nose.

They got loose.

They got wet.

They got smudged.

But I couldn’t live without them. I was -6.00 with astigmatism in both eyes. One time, I lost my glasses on my desk. It took me 45 minutes to find them because, um, I needed glasses to find my glasses!

When I was 24, I accidentally opened a door… into my face. Yes, I am that stupid.

Why did my glasses feel loose on my right ear? Oh, I cracked the frame.

Would my warranty cover this?

Sorry, the warranty covers lenses, not frames. Also, your prescription expired. You need to get a new eye exam before you can get new glasses, even if your prescription is the same.exact.thing. You won’t be seeing new glasses for another month.

Seriously? I had to pay money and still suffer?

So instead of replacing my glasses like a normal person, I walked around with crooked frames for 5 months.

Hey, it wasn’t so bad! If I grew out my sideburns a certain way, it held them in place. I grew used to the looseness. At least that’s what I told myself.

Then, at 25, I reached the last straw. I was casually getting ready for work when this happened:

WTF?

Super glue came to the rescue. But it was clear I needed to make a change.

The Decision to Get LASIK

To be clear, the decision to get LASIK didn’t happen in a vacuum, and it didn’t happen at once. My mom actually got LASIK in her 30s, and she still sees great today. An older friend got it last year. So it was something in the back of my mind for a while.

For so long, I had accepted glasses and contact lenses as just a part of life. I knew nothing else. I didn’t think I could do anything about them because I, in fact, could not do anything about them. My eyes kept changing until college.

But at 25, my prescription had been stable for a few years. I had options.

I could’ve gotten new glasses, but that option seemed less and less appealing. Contacts were a no-go. I was too blind for Ortho-K. That left me with LASIK and PRK.

I watched about a million YouTube videos about LASIK and its complications. I was unfazed. It was then settled: I was getting LASIK.

Choosing a LASIK Surgeon

The Initial Research

The process to find a surgeon was straightforward. First, I Googled “best LASIK in NYC.” When I went through the first 20-30 search results, I noticed that the same three surgeons came up. They all boasted 25+ years of experience and regular appearances on top doctor lists. This was my starting list.

I then went through reviews on Google, Yelp, and ZocDoc. One surgeon had poor bedside manner and fewer than 4 stars on Yelp. Off the list he went. That left me with two surgeons.

I made initial appointments with both.

A Note on LASIK in NYC

In NYC, everything is expensive, including LASIK. But NYC is home.

The average cost of LASIK in the U.S. is around $4,000 for two eyes. In NYC, I was looking at surgeons in the $5,000-6,500 range. I was 100% aware of this.

There were practitioners in the $3,000-4,500 range. But saving $2,000 meant settling for less reputable surgeons or outdated tech. $2,000 is less than one month’s savings for me. I’m perfectly fine with working another month of my life to ensure the best outcome for my eyes.

I did consider medical tourism. In a cheaper city, you can get the same procedure for less. But in the end, I wanted to be near my surgeon just in case something happened. Given my history of eye problems, having LASIK at home made sense.

Going to Two Free Consultations

At Office #1, my consultation lasted an hour. It was a whirlwind of tests and fancy machines. I stared at a hot air balloon. I looked through a bunch of lenses. I watched a blue rectangle spin in circles. I gazed into a spiderweb twice—once with normal eyes, once dilated.

At the end, I met the surgeon, who took a closer look at my eyes. He was friendly and made me comfortable. He shone a light into my eyes, checked my eyelids, and tested my tear quality. He said I was a candidate for LASIK, but I’d need to follow a regimen of eye drops and doxycycline leading up to the procedure. My tears weren’t as oily as they could’ve been.

At Office #2, my consultation lasted 30 minutes. We did half the tests, and I didn’t even meet the surgeon. I just met his assistants. There was no spiderweb machine. No tear quality check. And it was maybe $200 cheaper.

After these consultations, I was comfortable going with #1. The tests were more thorough, the tech was more advanced, and I was able to meet the surgeon without paying money. I booked a procedure three weeks in advance.

Surgery Day

I arrived an hour before the procedure. I went through a bunch of tests to double-check that everything was OK. Then I was led to a waiting room with massage chairs (!), where I sat until it was time.

My honest experience was that LASIK was uncomfortable, but not painful. I was fully awake. I could’ve taken a valium, but I turned it down because I wanted the FULL experience (ha!). My surgeon did give me a stuffed football to hold, so that was something.

First, I got three sets of numbing drops in my eyes. Here’s 1 drop… close your eyes for one minute. Here’s another drop… close another minute. My eyes felt a little sticky and heavy when this was done.

Next, my left eye was taped shut because my right eye was first.

The surgeon numbed my eyelids with a gel, then placed a device to hold them open. I couldn’t blink, but I didn’t need to because of the drops.

Then came the most uncomfortable part: the suction ring. This kept my eye still. This didn’t hurt, but I did feel pressure. Imagine someone pushing on your arm. Now imagine that person pushing on your eye. Seriously, it pressed hard enough that I could no longer see! Maybe that was for the better, because apparently a laser cut a flap in my cornea at this point. I wouldn’t know because I didn’t feel or see anything.

The surgeon removed the suction ring, and the pressure was released. My eyesight was hazy, but I could see a yellow blinking light. My surgeon told me to focus on the blinking light.

I focused, and what sounded like an automatic gun fired away. I didn’t see or feel anything happening.

“Don’t be alarmed if you smell smoke, it’s not your cornea burning,” my surgeon assured me. To be honest, I didn’t smell anything because I was too focused on not screwing up! (Which was a non-issue—the laser would adjust to my eye movements.)

This went on for a few minutes before the surgeon removed the device from my eyelids, and we repeated the whole process for my left eye. The whole procedure took 15 minutes for both eyes.

The surgeon took my hands and helped me off the table. At that moment, my eyes were hazy on the sides… but I could see. My surgeon’s face was clear. And I could walk to the recovery room.

I wore sunglasses, and Mr. Boyfriend called a Lyft home. In the car, my eyes started getting watery. It felt like there were tiny dry spots in my pupils, and my eyes were trying to compensate. Not painful, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open.

I got home, took sleeping pills, then took my doctor-prescribed nap (the BEST part). Four hours later, I woke up to perfect vision and zero wateriness. Ta-da!

The Aftermath

I had a follow-up the next day. It was real. After 18 years of glasses and contacts, I had 20/15 vision. I couldn’t believe it.

There is a recovery process. I’m using prescription eyedrops for the next month. I have some red spots on my eyes, which should fade within the next two weeks. I also see small halos around lights, which should also subside.

But my eyes feel great. There’s no pain. My surgeon warned me about possible dryness post-LASIK, but I don’t even feel that. I just put drops in now and then. I’ve experienced contact lenses, and trust me, those were 100x worse.

The Cost

In total, LASIK cost me $5,440. This included the initial consultation, the procedure, and a year of unlimited post-op checkups. (This did not include prescriptions, which were separate. I paid $30 for mine.)

While I had no interest in cheaping out on my eyes, I did a few things to optimize the expense:

  • I considered only surgeons with free consultations. Any surgeon worth their salt should offer this.
  • My insurance had a LASIK discount plan. I went to a surgeon who honored this. This knocked 15% off the sticker price. (The procedure was originally $6,400.)
  • I paid for the procedure in full. I had savings earmarked for LASIK. Some people take out high-interest loans for the procedure, which I don’t recommend.
  • I put the charge on my new Chase Ink Business Preferred (affiliate link), which I paid off the next day. The Chase Ink Business Preferred has a sign-up bonus where you can earn 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points if you spend $5,000 in three months. That’s $1,000+ toward travel. I don’t normally charge $5,000 in three months, but hello LASIK. (Note that I was able to pay for this in cash. I do not recommend using credit cards to buy things you can’t afford.)

I Won’t Break Even with Glasses, And I’m OK with That

If you wear both contacts and glasses, LASIK might save you money in the long run. I don’t think that’s true for me.

Post-chalazion, I stopped wearing contacts. I wore glasses exclusively. And these days, you can buy a pair from Warby Parker for $125.

I prefer to think of it as an investment in my happiness. Which is worth something.

The quality of life upgrade truly is amazing, even one week out. Every day, I notice another little thing that has changed for the better:

I wake up and can see.

I can do burpees without swinging frames in my face.

My face feels lighter. (My lenses were thick.)

I can lie on my side in bed, video chat with Mr. Boyfriend, and not have glasses dig against my ear.

No more droplets blocking my view when it rains.

No more nose pads marking my face.

No more dust or smudged fingerprints.

No more fog when I drink soup.

No more objects sliding down my nose when I look down to tie my shoes.

No more slipping in the shower because I can’t see where I’m stepping.

No more objects randomly cracking on my face and ruining my life for months.

All this for less than two months’ savings? Sounds like a good trade to me.


Have you ever considered LASIK?

Did I overpay?

LASIK or not, have you ever spent a lot of money to dramatically improve your life?

[Featured photo: Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash]

2 thoughts

  1. It sounds like a decent price for your location and the level of service you were getting. LASIK for PiC’s eyes a few years ago cost us $7000 (we didn’t have any insurance coverage for it) and he had good care from the specialty place. Welcome to the world of good eyesight 🙂

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s