Is LASIK surgery worth it?

How does the cost compare with a lifetime of contact lenses?

By MSN Money Partner Aug 2, 2011 11:47AM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.


Nearly five years ago, I considered LASIK eye surgery but I never pulled the trigger. It wasn't that I was afraid or concerned, I was just used to contact lenses, they didn't bother me, and I felt that I didn't need to fix something that wasn't broken.


Fast-forward to this year and my contacts are becoming less and less comfortable. On several occasions my eyes have been really bothered by them to the point I keep them out most of the day when I'm working from home. The only times I put them in are when I play sports and when we go out. It's just more convenient.


The most common concern when it comes to LASIK is the price. It's a several-thousand-dollar procedure and, as is the case with anything like that, not something you decide on without some deliberation. Fortunately, a quick analysis shows it's actually not as expensive as you might think. Post continues after video.

Cost benefit analysis

Let's say the typical LASIK procedure costs about $4,500, including all expenses related to the procedure and recovery. That $4,500 sounds like a lot, but when you compare it with the cost of glasses and contacts for the rest of your life, it's actually pretty cheap.


Note: I'm going to exclude the use of a flexible spending account for the purposes of this analysis because you can use an FSA for both the LASIK procedure and for glasses and contacts. I figure it's pretty much even for our purposes.


Cost of contact lenses. I'm 30 years old and if I didn't do LASIK, I'd probably wear contacts for at least another 20 years. I use the Air Optix Night & Day Aqua, which goes for $70 a box retail. One box contains a six-month supply of contacts, so a full year's supply for both eyes is going to cost $280. You can probably find them cheaper, about $50 a box, so the actual price is closer to $200 a year.


Vision insurance. Typical vision insurance through an employer is about $5 to $12 a month for one person, which is balanced out by a $120 contact lens or glasses benefit. In other words, you pay for the insurance and make it back on contacts or glasses. The regular checkups are essentially free. That drops the actual cost of contacts to about $80 a year after insurance.


Glasses. Glasses are a little trickier to calculate because most people don't get new glasses every year. Let's say you get a new pair every three years, and those new glasses cost you $150. Over 20 years, that's about seven pairs of glasses. That's $1,050 in glasses, assuming you don't need replacements sooner.


Contact lens solution and supplies. I used to use Opti-Free Replenish solution, $15 for two 10-ounce bottles. I'd conservatively use one bottle a month, so you'd need about $90 for solution each year. Now I use Clear Care No Rub Cleaning & Disinfecting Solution ($16) and then rinse with Bausch & Lomb's Sensitive Eyes Plus Saline ($5). It adds maybe another $20 (for the saline) to the annual budget. 


To recap:

  • Contact lenses -- $80 a year.
  • Contact lens solution -- $110 a year.
  • Glasses -- $150 every three years.

For simplicity, ignore the time value of money and let's just sum up the total cost for contacts over 20 years: $4,850.


OK, let's not ignore simplicity and factor in the time value of money with an interest rate of 3%. Twenty equal payments of $242.50 (that's $4,850 divided by 20) has a present-day value of $3,607.78. In essence, if you were to do LASIK for $4,500, it really only "costs" you $892.21 -- less than $500 an eye.


I made an appointment to have the procedure done.


More on Bargaineering and MSN Money:


Aug 2, 2011 2:18PM
Wow, this article is a huge ad-fest.  Lots of links to products and services but not one sentence about the health risks vs. benefits.  Any surgery has risks, and you should educate yourself on those risks before running out and getting the surgery done.

This is a promotional article, not a news article.

Aug 2, 2011 2:24PM
I am absolutely amazed at the fact that writers today don't seem to bother to do any research at all.  if you're just guessing and not backing your opinions up with any facts, you shouldn't be earning a living writing.  Lasik surgery can run as low as $2000 in my area.  In fact, that's pretty much the going rate.  Okay, you wear contacts, so you know what they cost, but why wouldn't you take a few minutes to research the cost of glasses?  My last pair (purchased 2 months ago) cost around $350.  I don't think you can get much more than a decent frame for $150.
Aug 2, 2011 2:01PM
I had this surgery done with it was radial keratotomy back in 1994.  I have never for a minute regretted taking that leap.  It was done in Canada because the surgery was not yet approved in the US.  My vision has been great for 17 years - just had to get "readers" from my eye doc - but I am 42.  It is worth any risk.

Aug 2, 2011 2:45PM
This article is kind of lame. I came in here thinking that you would cover more than just the predicted costs, such as the actual risks of LASIK. But you didn't. Ughhh.
Aug 2, 2011 2:58PM

I had it done 6 years ago for about $2500 and it was even less because of my healthcare spending account.


I considered the costs a non-issue. The quality of life is amazing. No worries about contacts, about broken / dirty glasses.  Fogging of contacts or glasses - never again.


It is a liberating procedure (provided it is successful). It changed my life and allowed me to enjoy activities without stress over vision. Also, the ability to wake up in the AM and see is worth it on its own.

Aug 2, 2011 2:47PM
Had mine done and now I can't poop right.
Aug 2, 2011 4:41PM
I started wearing glasses at 5 years old!  Hated them, but I could SEE.  I had astigmatism also.  My eyesight was really bad.  Could not see without glasses.  I wore hard contacts from age 12.  I tried to switch to soft but could not see as well.  Finally, my eyes started bothering me all the time and switched to gas permeable.  After awhile, I couldn't take the dryness.  By the time I got home from work I had to take out my contacts.  I finally, after several years had the lasik surgery.  Because I was in my 40s already, we decided to do mono-vision.  While I couldn't see the smallest (and I do mean smallest of print), I could see everything else and read perfectly fine.  That was 13 years ago!  I am now 59 and still do not have to wear ANY glasses.  I can still read, I can still drive, watch TV, work on the computer, etc, etc.  I have not had any adjustments either.  Am I a lucky one?  Maybe, but I had an excellent doctor and it's been perfectly fine and at my last exam (less than a year ago), I still don't need to change anything.  Freedom!  I wouldn't change it for the world!
Aug 2, 2011 4:30PM
Lasik surgery 3 yrs ago was the best decision I ever made! I'd put it off for 10 yrs, & am kicking myself for having done so. I had perfect vision from day 1 of surgery, & have never looked back. I get very emotional whenever I think back to that day, marveling at the miracle. From the moment I open my eyes each day & am able to read the clock, to no longer getting startled by something out of the corner of my eye (it's just the edge of my frames!), to not getting blisters on my cheeks every summer where the frames fell down because of sweat, the benefits are endless. If I had two more eyes, I'd do it all over again. I went with the lifetime coverage, so won't hesitate to do it again if needed. God Bless the inventor of Lasik & all the other Angels who continue to perform this miracle!
Aug 2, 2011 4:07PM
I had lasik done about 4months ago and it was absolutely the best decision i have made.  I had horrible vision minus 6 on both eyes, blind as a bat, i have been wearing glasses since i was a freshman in high school. I started wearing contacts when I started college but then after i had my son something happened and I couldn't wear contacts any longer, i was at the eye doctor every couple of months because I kept getting eye infections.  I never wore my contacts overnight, I always cleaned them and followed the directions but my eyes just weren't the same.  I was tired of paying $80 for a tiny bottle of antiobiotics so i could get rid of my eye infections.  So I finally met with an opthamologist and did the surgery 4months ago.  I don't know where this writer got his #s I had mine done in Shreveport, LA at a very well known Dr and he charged $1500 per eye if you wanted to finance through a plan called care credit or if you paid yourself without financing it was $1200 per eye of course I paid myself no sense in paying an extra $600.   4months later I am extremely happy with the results.  The night of the surgery it was pretty uncomfortable my eyes itched and burned a lot but I didn't touch them as you're not supposed to, then I woke up the next morning and I could see perfect and my eyes didn't hurt at all.  AMAZING that's all i have to say.  Forgot to mention my doctor's name just because he was awesome Dr. Shelby at Pierremont eye institute  :) 
Aug 2, 2011 3:10PM

I had mine done last year.  It is so awesome to be able to see.  One time I dropped my glasses out in the rain and it was dark.  I was crawling around in the cold rain getting muddy and I thought to my self " I am that guy that cant see!"  Now after the surgery I get up dont have to fumble for glasses and can look outside without having my glasses on.  On hot days you come in out of the heat and dont worry about glasses fogging up either.  It really is a blessing to have this technology. 


Aug 2, 2011 2:58PM

For the record, my eyes were steadily getting worse. I was legally blind without my glasses. I spent at least $120 a pair and that was as of 2001. I was forced many times to get new frames with the new lens due to frames no longer carried. Due to my occupation lens were scratched and chipped if I didn't wear additional eye protection, which meant looking thru two sets of lens. The lens weight left painful dents on the bridge of my nose. I gave myself the Lasik as a Christmas present in 2001. I wore glasses since 1966. Aside from needing reading glasses now (I am an old fart after all) I still see 20/20. I paid $1700 an eye, $3400 total. If it lasts to 60, it paid for itself in money. In personal comfort and ease, it paid for itself in 3 days. To never have to find/feel for my glasses in the AM, to see my face to shave in a mirror. To drive with sunglasses, swim and see the pool edge. Thank God for Lasik.

Aug 2, 2011 6:34PM
OK, let's throw those costs out the door. I'm 57. I started wearing glasses at age 5. I started contacts as a sophomore in HS and wore a combination of glasses and contacts until 6 years ago when I had lasik. Twice. 6 years later, I wake up and SEE. EVERYTHING. For me, this is wonderful.

Yes, there is a "breakeven" point where cost isn't justifiable. But for me, it was the best decision of my life. And, the most enjoyable.

I do have to wear reading glasses now inside restaurants and dark interiors, but in full sun and well lit environments, I read very well. I work on computers with no problem. A minor inconvenience, but I'll take it over the alternative.


Aug 2, 2011 3:05PM
Seriously one of the best things I have ever done. I couldn't go in water with contacts, couldn't see in wet glasses- a kid came to me in the middle of the night, I had to have them hand me my glasses to see them.  My distance vision was so bad, I couldn't read without glasses- a book was too far away!
 My vision was fairly stable at 20/650 in each eye, with no astigmatism. Surgery cost about $2000 in 2002. Considering that I paid out of pocket no matter what I used to see, the LASIK is paid off several times over by now!
No matter what, even if I need reading glasses in a few years, even if I need DISTANCE glasses in a few years, LASIK was WELL worth it!
I forgot to mention-A person before me came out of surgery and recovery after their procedure and mentioned that they were able to read the clock on the wall. I walked into the procedure room (with guidance- no glasses or contacts)  When I sat up immediately after the procedure I said- OMG there IS a clock on the wall!)
Aug 2, 2011 2:31PM

Okay,, I see your logic, but what you DON'T know is how many people's eyesight is ruined FOREVER.. I am one of those.. I have spent now over $15,000.00 just to have some eyesight left... I had the surgery,,,, was botched beyond belief, wanted to die.. Everything was distorted,, objects huge,, scared to drive on highway, the signs looked like they were going to hit my car.. people's faced looked messed up, crooked noses, etc.. I walked on a crooked floor, felt like I was on a moving , tilted ship at all times... I see a glow around everyone and everything, day OR night from damage from surgery. This is permanent.. I see only one dimensional on everything from TV, news articles, billboards, etc... This IS PERMANENT, TOO... I spent over 7,000.00 dollars on special contacts that only a doctor in FL could even do well,, called Z-waves,, and that is the only reason my world is straighter,, but each lens costs $250.00 ,, my saline solution for using for rewetting drops to put in eyes, is about 11.00 every 3 weeks,, I have chronic dry eye from the surgery,,, (surgery was June 2006- lasik) and still have to buy a box of wetting drops to use all day,, that's $15.00 a box PER WEEK.. I use an expensive cleaner for my HARD LENSES (CAN'T WEAR SOFT EVER AGAIN),, can't wear GLASSES EVERY AGAIN, All they do is make the distortion bigger.. I could go on............. I will HAVE TO WEAR HARD CONTACTS TILL THE DAY I DIE,, TO SEE AT ALL.     I know others who have had to have corneal transplants after lasik,, and go blind.. others who now see 3 birds in a tree now after perfect lasik ... Many came out fine,,, but now having the worse, irreparable problems.. I say, PLEASE, PLEASE keep your healthy eyesight,,,, Buy a contact solution that has peroxide in it,, can't get it in your eye, though,, but will clean your lenses.. the all in ones don't' work well.. Many solutions are made by the same manufacturers that make the lasers .. think about it... I had problems with my contacts just before lasik, too.. but wish I had researched better products than having my eye burned off...  I'm telling you, this IS PERMANENT, They cannot fix what they break..  An FDA doctor who was on the panel who approved Lasik , is now asking the FDA to STOP!!!!  Too many reports,,  hundreds of thousands of damaged eyes.. and most have problems later... I had horrifying results immediately.. the world was like a FUN HOUSE...  And I have to wear readers ,, had to since day one of surgery....  and I don't see things clearly, anything,, like I did in my old life... That's what it is now.. I am not the same and will never be...  There are many, many like me!!!

Please be warned,, Just look up Lasik Complications.. and read the posts... these people ARE REAL,, and I've spoken to many..  My brother and sister -in-law have had problems too...  AND they don't' tell you that if you have it,, and don't have your pre-lasik records, that when it comes time to have cataracts, you're screwed... Your eyesight will be a mess...


p.s. I met an eye surgeon who was brave enough to tell me, he too was botched!!! And so you know it has nothing to do with who does your surgery... I know people botched who had world renowned surgeons do their lasik.. Please,,, know that if not immediately,, it may change your life later for the worse..    I wish you the best.. I just could not read this and not respond. I don't want anyone to go through the living horror I have! 

Aug 2, 2011 2:22PM

I had the surgery done when I was 36. I'm now 41 and need to go back for "adjustment" which will cost an addition amount. Apparently, this is the norm. This is definitely not a permanent solution. It's just a long-term solution to not having to carry around contact lens cases and saline.


My brother who is nearsighted and is now 45 had the surgery done when he was 32. He is now wearing glasses once again and says he will not go through the surgery anymore. 


My boss had his done when he was 47, he is now 53 and wearing glasses again.


See the pattern?


Aug 2, 2011 4:41PM
Lasik surgery is amazing!!! I work for a well respected Lasik surgeon.  For a quality lasik procedure you will most likely spend between $4000-5000.  Now that doesn't mean you can't have success for less.  But when it comes to my eyes I wanted the best technology.  Cost shouldn't be the only factor.  Background checks on doctors and technology give you a true glimpse at who's who.  Most common issues that need to be addressed: not being out of contacts long enough...2 weeks soft CTL, 3 weeks soft-toric CTL, and 1 month every decade hard or gas permeable CTL's.  Should NOT have surgery without proper eye hydration(if you have dry eyes should be taken care of first).  These are common mistakes made by those patient's who don't know what to look for and go to places that cut corners.  By cutting corners price for lasik becomes cheaper.  Dave Crockett national average of people needing second procedure is 10-14% of patients.  Most will not need second procedure(will need readers with age).  iLasik is the most adavnced technoology out ther at this point...approved by all branches of military and NASA.  Do your research and this can be one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself!!! 
Just had it done May 13 for $2500 total and it was the kind that the laser cut the flap, saw 20/25 2 hours later and now see 20/15, no problems, have less dryness and no hassle with contacts! don't know where the reader was getting his done for $4500 but I only paid $2500 and that was all post ops and pre ops too, well worth it!
Aug 2, 2011 2:11PM
Had it done three years ago and am going to have to make an eye appointment soon -- back to glasses. It didn't "stay" done for me.... distance is still ok -- not great, but anything else.... nope. Not worth it for me.
Aug 2, 2011 3:26PM

You're missing one VITAL piece of information:


The simple joy of being able to open your eyes and SEE.  I had my LASIK surgery done 5 years ago.  With my VSP, it was about $3000 total.  I still tell was the best money I've ever spent.  My glasses (replaced every two years sadly) were $400 a pair; and my contacts were $30 a month.


I CAN SEE; I CAN SEE!!  Hot  Its a great feeling!

Aug 2, 2011 3:14PM
I had LASIK done in March of 2010. It was $4000.00 with a family and friends program I opted into at no extra charge. I used my FSA for another $1000.00 off.  Considering I had 20/750 in one eye and 20/725 in the other, I couldn't get glasses for less than $350.00 even using insurance.  I have loved the results. I have 20/20 in one eye and 20/15 in the other. I have not had any trouble what so ever. Not the dryness I was told to expect or the halos at night.  I was 37 when I had it done and wish I would of done it sooner! I would recommend it to anyone and will be giving it as a gift to my children when they are adults, if they need it.
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