It’s an undeniable fact of aging: as you age, your eyesight is likely to degenerate. However, you don’t have to resign yourself to thicker and thicker glasses—or rely on contacts—as you age. Laser eye surgery is safe, and effective, and can greatly improve your vision. However, not every LASIK doctor is equally skilled—and it’s important to put your vision in capable, trustworthy hands. Here’s an overview of what to look for when choosing a LASIK surgeon.
1. The appropriate licensing and certification
To begin with, your surgeon should have a license through your state licensing board—you can check with the National Practitioner Data Bank to verify your doctor’s license. In addition, your doctor should be Board certified in a relevant specialty such as ophthalmology. Being a member of the American College of Surgeons isn’t necessarily mandatory to practice, but it’s a good sign, as their credentialing process is quite stringent.
2. A referral from someone you trust
Asking your regular optometrist or ophthalmologist for a referral for LASIK surgery is a good place to start. Chances are your eye care professional knows who’s trustworthy and skilled in your area.
3. Someone in your area
There might be a highly qualified surgeon a few hours from where you live. However, it’s best to go with someone close by if you can. Complications are rare, but if you do have to make one or more return visits, it’s easier to do if your surgeon isn’t too far away.
4. Knowledge of other refractive surgery procedures
LASIK eye surgery isn’t the only possibility to improve your vision. There’s also PRK, CK, clear lens replacement, and LASEK, to name a few. Your surgeon should be competent in all the latest procedures and be able to recommend one for you—because LASIK isn’t the best choice for everyone.
5. A Laser Eye Surgery Center in Your Area
Be wary of surgeons who have to travel to a separate center to perform the surgery, or who share a surgical center with several other practitioners. If a surgeon has his or her own surgical center, that means the surgeon probably performs enough procedures to justify it—and has a lot of experience.
6. A good rate of success
You should ask surgeons you’re considering what their complication rate is. According to the Food and Drug Administration, the national average for LASIK surgery complications ranks at about 5% as of a 2009 report—and hopefully, the surgeon you choose will not have a complication rate that’s higher than average.
7. A low risk of infection
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are becoming more common, and unfortunately, that means surgical centers and hospitals must be more vigilant than ever against infection. Check with the surgical center you’re considering to find out if they have had any outbreaks of unusual eye infections in the past—or had a problem with ongoing eye infections. If they have, that is probably a sign that they’re not as careful as they could be about sterilization.
Some refractive surgeons advertise laser eye surgery services—and may offer great deals. However, your vision is too important to trust to the lowest bidder without doing some extensive research. While the lowest-cost surgeon might also be the most qualified for you, be willing to pay more if necessary.
However, it can also be a good idea to check and see how your doctor bills for enhancements outside of standard eye surgeries—and how the costs will be broken down in your bill. This way, you know how much you’ll be charged ahead of time and won’t have any surprises when you receive the bill.
Choosing an eye doctor for LASIK or other eye surgery can be difficult. Follow these tips and consult with your optometrist or ophthalmologist, however, and you’re more likely to find the right practitioner for you.