Joel Hunter, MD Refractive Surgeon, Hunter Vision Updated 09/30/19 3:30 PM
We hope to clear up a few LASIK myths out there. That way you can avoid worrying about problems that don’t exist, or avoid experiencing those that do.
LASIK happens to be one of those technologies almost everyone knows about, and almost no one understands. Like any popular but somewhat incomprehensible subject, people will often hear and share misunderstandings about LASIK with an odd amount of confidence. I don’t mean for that to sound snobby. I happen to know a lot about LASIK, but it is at the exclusion of being an expert on pretty much anything else. I don’t have even the most rudimentary understanding of how my car works. Society would grind to a halt if we all had to take the time to understand the details of each technology that benefits us.
We all need to have a source of truth on subjects that matter to us even when the details don’t. As an example, my ignorance about spark plugs and zoom boolers and fizzle crimps makes me susceptible to believing myths about car repair. This could have led to me spending enormous amounts of money on zoom boolers before finding out those aren’t even a thing that cars have. My hope is this article will clear up a few myths about LASIK. That way you can avoid worrying about problems that don’t exist, or avoid experiencing those that do.
1 | LASIK can’t fix astigmatism
This myth exists for the same reason that people are incorrectly warned that batteries in electronics die quicker if you don’t let them fully discharge the first time you use them. It used to be true, but technology evolved and it isn’t true anymore. In the case of the latter, newer lithium ion batteries don’t have the “memory” that older nickel cadmium batteries had. For the former, LASIK has been able to fix astigmatism really well since the mid-2000s. For LASIK as it exists today, astigmatism can often be corrected better than it can contacts or glasses.
2 | A LASIK flap never heals
This one drives me crazy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard of someone’s friend’s cousin who had a roommate who had something terrible happen to their eye because the LASIK flap never heals myth. They were just eating cereal and the front of their eye fell off.
Now, it’s true that there are cases of traumatic injury to an eye after LASIK where the flap was involved and required surgery. It was much more likely back when LASIK used a blade instead of being all-laser, but even then, it was exceptionally rare even in cases of eye injuries. And it always involved an eye injury that would be serious enough to require an ophthalmologist’s intervention whether or not they’d had LASIK.
In modern, bladeless LASIK, the flap heals so perfectly that it is almost impossible to have an injury cause a flap complication. In around 100,000 post-LASIK patients, I’ve seen a flap complication from injury happen exactly once. I’ve seen post-LASIK eyes that have taken hard falls wakeboarding, eyes that were punched, elbowed, kicked, scratched, or taken shots from tennis balls or basket balls or soccer balls with no complications. And the one complication was an injury that would have lacerated the cornea with or without LASIK. I did a five-minute, in office repair and the patient was 20/20 in that eye the next day. Of course it heals! It’s living tissue. Bones don’t stay broken, cuts don’t stay cut, and LASIK eye flaps don’t lay draped uneasily on your cornea.
3 | LASIK will ruin your reading vision
If the “never heals” myth drives me crazy (and boy howdy, does it ever), the reading vision loss myth is one I’m kind of grateful for. If someone heard this, it means that either a friend or eye doctor told them to avoid LASIK that they worried would take away reading vision. That kind of LASIK was the only choice for a long time, and is still the main choice at many LASIK facilities today. In those situations, you get LASIK and wear readers.
With blended vision, we don’t have to sacrifice reading vision anymore. It is an option to keep reading vision while gaining glasses free distance vision. I personally believe so strongly in not ruining reading vision that I won’t perform LASIK on patients that will only achieve good distance vision. If your LASIK is going to take away your reading vision, it doesn’t mean this myth is true, it means you’re not a candidate for LASIK.
4 | LASIK can’t fix reading vision
This one neatly follows on the heels of the previous myth. It is a step up from not ruining reading vision to doing LASIK in order to fix reading vision that is already bad. Accordingly, the requirements for candidacy are more stringent. It’s crucial to make sure the right question is being answered in deciding if someone is a candidate to fix their reading vision with LASIK. That question isn’t whether you could do LASIK, but whether or not you should do LASIK. In cases where all the requirements are met, LASIK to fix reading vision — which it is absolutely capable of doing — is one of the most rewarding procedures in refractive surgery. People who’ve had their reading vision restored with LASIK are some of my happiest patients.
5 | Expensive LASIK is for suckers
This myth tends to show up on forums where people are asking for advice on where they should go for their LASIK procedure. There are always a couple answers from people who confidently — and completely incorrectly — assure the questioner that LASIK is going to be the same “because it’s the same procedure” so it is better to save their money. It’s just not accurate.
The facets of LASIK that make it more expensive include the competence and size of the staff, the access to the surgeon who performs the procedure, whether a blade is used or not, the quality and tech specs of the excimer laser that does the treatment, the level of diagnostic imaging and testing involved in determining LASIK candidacy, and the list goes on from there.
Even from a purely business-related perspective, this all makes sense when you consider that no business decides, “let’s be as unprofitable as possible by offering an identical product for a tenth the cost of our competitor.” Yes, savings are being passed on to you at inexpensive LASIK clinics, but do you really want have LASIK at a place that saved a bunch of money by going with the cheapest option for staff and technology? This myth hits home as a false statement when you replace the word “LASIK” with “parachutes.” I doubt anyone has ever uttered the phrase, “Expensive parachutes are for suckers.” If anyone did, they probably didn’t get to do it a bunch.