Joel Hunter, MD Refractive Surgeon, Hunter Vision Updated 10/31/18 12:12 PM
Full disclosure: I may have some bias on this topic. Since you’re asking this question to a LASIK surgeon (at least unintentionally by reading the title) you can safely assume that I think LASIK is pretty neat. Does that mean I hate glasses and contacts? By no means! The same way an orthopedic surgeon doesn’t boo when he sees crutches, or a bridge builder doesn’t loathe boats. I’m assuming about the bridge builders. I’ve not had the privilege of meeting one personally.
An orthopedic surgeon knows better than anyone when crutches are needed, and is usually the one to prescribe them. But their job is to help their patients regain full function so those people can do the activities they love without the need and impediment of crutches. For bridge builders? Gosh, I can’t say exactly because I don’t know any, but I imagine they build bridges because it’s inconvenient needing a boat every time you want to cross a river without swimming. What I’m getting at is that there are ways to cope with a problem and ways to solve them. And a problem solved is always better than a crutch to work around it, whether that crutch is literal or figurative.
Because poor vision is so incredibly common, we get used to the idea that it’s somehow not a big deal. Really, that’s both understandable and, with a few seconds to consider it, amazing. We either need glasses or know a lot of people who need them. The idea of needing glasses, or maybe more often contact lenses, becomes familiar in a way that other medical accessories never do. If your friend started wearing hearing aids because of a sudden loss of hearing, there would be a lot of concern and emotion over the loss of something so important. And there should be! That’s true even despite the fact I’ve never met someone who said their hearing is more important than their sight.
Now imagine if that friend, with his new hearing aids, said, “The ear doctor said I could have perfect hearing restored with a 10-minute, painless procedure. But the way I see it, I can hear just fine with these hearing aids so I’m just gonna stick with this option.” You’d have even more concern and emotion at the idea that maybe your friend had gone crazy. “But you have to wear hearing aids and you can’t hear without them. Wouldn’t it be better if you just got your hearing fixed?” you might say to them. It’s no use. He just replies, “Nah, that’s not for me. I’m kind of used to these hearing aids. Once I put these on my ears, I can’t even feel them. Plus, my hearing is really important to me.” Well, that explains it. He’s probably worried that he could end up worse. Maybe you’d ask if it’s a risky procedure. If you did, he’d tell you, “Nope! It’s actually one of the safest procedures in modern medicine. Apparently, it’s less risky for my hearing than wearing these hearing aids for the rest of my life. Anyway, where should we go for lunch?”
This is how I feel every time I talk to someone who wears contacts and decides they don’t want LASIK even if they’re a candidate. There’s a part of the body (the eye) that could be changed from disabled to better than ever, and it’s responsible for something we use and depend on way more than our hearing or our legs. But we’re wired to habituate to our circumstances. So, a cure for someone who was suddenly unable to hear or walk without help would be a medical priority. But for someone who can’t see without glasses or contacts, the cure for an inability to see is regarded as some kind of luxury item. The difference certainly isn’t which one is more important or life-changing, it’s only that we’ve had time to “get used” to being blind.
I started with the full disclosure as kind of a joke, but now that it’s all out there, I’m glad we started with that. I realize I’m probably biased since I get to talk to people every day that once needed glasses and contacts, but now have eyes that work to their full potential. They’ve become biased on the topic too, because on the other side of LASIK, it usually hard to look back on glasses and contacts with nostalgia. All that to say, I’m genuinely sorry for the one-sided argument. If you want to come in for a consult to bring some opposing points to the table, I’m very open to hearing them. In spite of my bias, or maybe because of it, I’m still curious what I’m missing.