How Popular Is Laser Eye Surgery in America?

Laser eye surgery is a procedure that uses a high-powered precision laser to cut away or vaporize layers of the patient’s eye and reshape the cornea. This reshaping can correct the patient’s vision to the point where he or she no longer needs to use glasses or contact lenses. The procedure can be very beneficial to those who undergo it, but nonetheless it is a major operation with benefits as well as drawbacks. Some people choose the procedure while others are content to correct their vision through more traditional means.

Who is Eligible?

Studies show that only 7% of people eligible for laser vision correction have undergone the procedure, and approximately 80% of the adult population of the United States is eligible. Eligibility requirements vary with practitioner, but in general prospective patients must be in good optical health, with no glaucoma, cataracts, severe dry eye, etc, be over 21 years of age, have stable vision for one year or more in the time preceding the procedure, are not pregnant or nursing, and do not have a degenerative or autoimmune disease. These eligibility requirements are in place to ensure that the procedure is as successful as possible while remaining open to as many people as possible who may benefit from it. Researchers suspect that the primary reason that 93% of eligible patients choose not to have this operation performed is due to fear, though financial burden is also a factor. There is little need for fear, as minor side effects present in 3-5% of cases and more serious side effects in less than 1%. There have been no known cases of blindness as a result of laser eye surgery. The procedure itself is quick and painless, often taking less than 15 minutes from start to finish.

Who Actually Gets It?

Despite the general availability of the procedure and the public’s widespread eligibility, relatively few people actually undergo the operation. One reason for this is that many people are perfectly happy to continue wearing glasses or contacts and see no real need to have this operation. Another reason is that the procedure is generally not covered by insurance companies as it is seen as an elective operation. A case may be made for certain professions such as military servicemen, firefighters, etc, that the operation is necessary, but for most people the cost will need to be paid out of pocket. The last reason is perhaps the most common and least defensible reason, which is fear. In its early days, when technicians and technology were not nearly as advanced, laser eye surgery began to get a bad reputation. Now, it’s come leaps and bounds in terms of safety and efficacy, but public opinion has not followed suit. There is a lot of misinformation and speculation surrounding various aspects of the procedure that can be assuaged by simply talking with those who have undergone it already. In reality the procedure is simple, quick, and causes only minor discomfort. Recovery is quick, with most patients returning to work within a few days, and the results are excellent.