Is LASIK right for you?

August 4, 2009 3:41:26 PM PDT
Laser eye surgery is popular -- last year alone, an estimated 1.5 million people had the procedure done to correct their vision, although it is often not covered by insurance. Consumer Reports Magazine says the expense, along with the fact that you're dealing with precious eyesight, makes it a very important decision.

Laura Nagy has been wearing glasses for 10 years and hopes she will no longer need them.

"I'm looking forward to playing tennis without glasses, to go skiing, to go scuba diving without glasses," she said.

She's about to undergo laser vision correction surgery.

"I think it will totally change my life," Nagy said.

The surgery itself is fairly simple. A laser is used to reshape the cornea, often reducing the need for glasses and contacts.

A Consumer Reports Magazine health survey of 793 adult Americans who've had laser eye surgery since 2001 shows 80 percent reported being "highly satisfied" with the results.

But, 53 percent of respondents experienced at least one side effect, such as halos, light sensitivity, or blurry vision. And 22 percent still had problems six months after the surgery.

While every surgery carries risks, Dr. John Santa, Consumer Reports Magazine health expert, says one of the best ways to protect yourself is by doing your homework.

"When looking for a surgeon, you want a board-certified ophthalmologist who does at least 250 procedures a year," Santa said.

And, make sure you go into the surgery with realistic expectations.

"Fifty-five percent of the people in our survey still need to wear glasses or contacts at least some of the time after surgery," he said.

And, many people will need reading glasses when they hit 40 years old.

Still, laser eye surgery can be an effective measure for improving people's vision. And it turns out the most common regret from those surveyed was not doing it sooner.

Consumer Reports Magazine says it's important to know that not everyone is a good candidate for this surgery. A reputable laser center will do a thorough prescreening, and typically reject 10 percent or more of prospective patients.

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