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Three powerful questions to ask your LASIK surgeon

By Joel Hunter, MD | 6/2/17 7:51 AM
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If you’ve ever played 20 questions, you know finding the right things to ask can be hard. It’s especially difficult when unlocking the final answer depends on you asking that perfect final question. LASIK consultations can feel the same. The majority of questions you ask are designed to narrow things down so you can feel confident in your answer to “Should I get LASIK done here?” It would be honest and hilarious if a doctor were to answer that question with, “No way! We have the same laser we used back when everyone had AOL accounts and people still wore pagers.” But that never happens.

There are a few “silver bullet” questions to ask when you’re gauging the trustworthiness of a LASIK surgeon and their staff. How do you know you can trust someone to be your laser eye surgery guide? Here are the top three highest-yield questions to ask at your LASIK consult:

“What makes me a good candidate for LASIK?”

Pro tip for this one: the answer shouldn’t be generic. If the answer sounds like it reads out of a brochure with a title like “LASIK is great!” then it’s likely that not enough thought is going into the decision of your LASIK candidacy. The reasons someone would or wouldn’t do well with LASIK are multifactorial and interconnected. As a result, there should be a specific and individualized way to answer this question. A good answer might be something like, “You have oblique astigmatism. That astigmatism matches perfectly between your refraction and your corneal curvature measurements. This means that with LASIK, we can likely get a better result than you have with glasses or contacts. Here’s how that works…” A bad answer would be, “This will pay for itself after a few years without glasses and contacts!”

“How many LASIK procedures do you perform here each week?”

The key to this question is not that the volume of LASIK procedures determines their quality. It’s completely possible to do a high volume of average-outcome LASIK. But the “per week” bit will shed light on whether LASIK is a key part of the practice, or an “oh and we also do LASIK” situation. If you’ve ever ordered salad from a pizza delivery place that also does salads, you’ll understand why this situation is not ideal.

“What level of vision would mean I need an enhancement?”

Enhancement is the name of the “touch up” procedure that’s necessary if you’re not seeing well enough in the first year after LASIK. First off, if you’re at a clinic where the chances of an enhancement are higher than 10%, you should move on. Unfortunately this fact is hard to sniff out, because no one will tell you the number. I don’t know why. It’s guarded with Illuminati level secrecy. The way to get around this is to ask what level of vision generally requires an enhancement. 20/25 or struggling 20/20 vision is a good answer. If enhancements are only happening at 20/30 or 20/40 level of vision, you might be happier with a place that’s a bit more neurotic. I realize that if you’re legally blind without glasses, the idea of struggling with 20/20 but not needing glasses may sound wonderful. But extra the quality of sharp 20/20 or 20/15 level vision is noticeable—and worth it.

You may have different questions about LASIK that apply to your specific situation. But if you can’t think of your own, the three questions above should be enough to get you moving in the right direction. More than once I’ve been in a situation where someone asked “Do you have any questions?” but I didn’t have enough information to know what to ask. So I usually default to, “How’s your day going?” At least that way they’ll think I’m friendly and a simpleton instead of just a simpleton (I’m looking at you, auto mechanics). It’s helpful to have a few key questions ready at your LASIK consult. That way you can avoid a much longer game of 20 questions.

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