There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting to buy a new phone and a newer model gets released a few weeks later. Two fundamental truths jump out at me from that fact. The first is that we live incredibly fortunate lives. Such frustration from the idea of a missed chance at a larger phone screen means that life could be worse. The second truth, though, has equal accuracy: getting something worse than what you could have gotten is incredibly frustrating. This is true no matter what level of necessity you’re dealing with. We’ve got feelings about fairness and missed opportunity cost deep in our genes, and it’s silly to ignore it. But it is important to know of a “something better” out there when it comes to permanent vision correction with LASIK.
The answer to the question of whether there’s a newer vision correction technology than LASIK is more complex than “yes” or “no.” A comparable question would be, “Is there an antibiotic better than amoxicillin?” If you’re a kid with an ear infection, then the probable answer is “no.” But it’s not hard to think of a dozen other scenarios where there are lots of better antibiotic choices. What we need with antibiotics isn’t superlatives that treat every problem the same. We need knowledge and details on the selective cure for each type of infection. The same is true of vision correction. A cure for your vision problem either already exists or is in development. But the nature of what will work best depends on the type of problem you’ve got.
It’s true that LASIK is the selective cure to the most identified reason for needing glasses or contacts. That’s how it became a household name. If you think about it, it's impressive that something as obscure as a type of laser surgery for the eyeball is a familiar concept to most people. LASIK earned that spot in our vernacular. This is because it is the best way to cure most people who have needed glasses since they were kids. Lasers have gotten faster over the years, but they still do the same thing for LASIK candidates. They change your status from “need glasses or contacts to see” to “I see great without glasses or contacts.”
The important point about newer LASIK is it has widened the net for who is a candidate. Once you’re in the net, it’s unlikely that waiting for a different, newer procedure is going to be helpful to you. As an example, I was a good LASIK candidate 14 years ago. I got LASIK at that time. Even knowing a lot about the evolution of LASIK since then, there’s no chance I’d choose to wait if I could go back in time. I’ve had better than 20/20 vision for 14 years. If a reputable LASIK surgeon can explain why you’re a good LASIK candidate, then you’ve arrived. You can proceed with vision correction knowing the odds are enormously high you’ll end up like me. That is that you’ll still be glad 14 years later you didn’t choose to wait and see what’s coming.
There are people who aren’t perfect LASIK candidates, though. In some cases, LASIK will work, but comes with a caveat of some downside like a known limited duration of effect. In other cases, LASIK is flat-out dangerous and so it’s out of the question. For both of these groups, there's a different answer to the question about a newer and better (for them) procedure than LASIK. The outcome they’re looking for may be found with a different procedure. And that procedure may already be here, or it could be on the way.
Implantable collamer lenses and refractive lens exchange help many who can’t get LASIK. So there is hope that your better alternative to LASIK is a car drive away instead of a decade away. The key to finding out if your procedure is here or still in development is to find the right type of eye surgery practice, where knowledge and honesty are of equal importance. And the best way to avoid a missed opportunity is to find out what opportunities are out there. You may get good news or “wait longer” news. Either way, it’s a nice difference from having to guess when the next new phone is coming out, to be able know which options exist now and in the future. Sometimes the one you would have waited for is already here.
Author: Joel Hunter, MD is an Ophthalmologist, Refractive Surgeon, and the Founder of Hunter Vision, a LASIK Orlando Clinic in Florida. A recognized and respected specialist in vision correction who has performed a countless number of refractive surgeries, Joel gives lectures across the country and trains fellow doctors in the newest LASIK surgery techniques.