The cost of LASIK eye surgery varies drastically, ranging anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 per eye. However, the average price for LASIK surgery in the U.S. in 2020 was $2,632 per eye, according to a 2021 report in Clinical Ophthalmology. It’s worth noting that advertisements offering LASIK for as low as $250 dollars are often for minimal corrections, and are often teaser rates to attract patients to seek more information.
Several factors can affect the cost of LASIK, says Vicente Diaz, M.D, an ophthalmologist and assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut.
The first is geographical location. “There are macro trends in terms of some areas having a higher cost of living than others and so elective procedures such as refractive surgery tend to follow those trends,” he says.
The doctor’s overhead can also influence price, explains Diaz. For example, if your doctor owns the laser equipment outright, then the marginal cost of doing a procedure is lower and they can pass those savings to the patient. However, doctors who are leasing, or who have a high cost per case, need to raise their price to make it worthwhile economically.
Price also fluctuates depending on the brand power or experience of the doctor or center. “If the doctor is in high demand, usually because of a well-deserved reputation, then that surgeon’s time is at a premium and market forces will drive the price up,” says Dr. Diaz.
However, the cost of surgery should not depend on how bad your eye vision is. “LASIK is typically a set price, as it covers the cost of correction within LASIK’s safe treatment range from minor to high corrections of nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism,” says Neda Shamie, M.D., a LASIK, cataract and corneal surgeon at the Maloney-Shamie Vision Institute in Los Angeles and a Forbes Health Advisory Board member.
However, for patients that are not candidates for LASIK due to severe nearsightedness or farsightedness (or other factors), they may be candidates for higher-cost surgeries such as implantable contact lens (ICL) or refractive lens exchange (RLE). Typically, both ICL and RLE surgery is more expensive than LASIK.
What is Included in the Cost of LASIK?
Your overall cost can also be influenced by what’s included in the surgery and the prices associated with those inclusions, such as follow-up appointments and enhancements. “An enhancement is a second procedure done on a previously operated eye,” says Dr. Shamie.
A small percentage of patients (less than 5%) after an initial refractive procedure (such as LASIK) benefit by having a fine-tuning laser procedure, due to residual nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism after their primary surgery.
“Patients more likely to need enhancements include those with large prescription corrections at their first surgery,” she adds.
While services that are included in the cost of your LASIK surgery will vary depending on the surgeon, Dr. Shamie explains that the total cost typically includes the following:
- Pre- and post-operative exams for at least one year
- Facility and surgeon fees
- Postoperative eye drops
- Follow-up procedures should there be a need for fine-tuning the correction
Additional Costs of LASIK
In terms of the surgery itself, there shouldn’t be additional LASIK costs, according to Dr. Shamie, “unless you have it performed by a surgeon who offers the procedure at a low upfront cost and charges separately for the more advanced and safer technology, follow-up visits and medications.”
However, any type of a la carte pricing to minimize costs is not recommended, “because the latest technology and follow-up care are essential to an excellent outcome, not optional line items,” she says.
Some LASIK centers, though, may charge more for “custom” procedures over standard.
“Custom surgery is when a map of the patient’s actual cornea is used to treat higher-order aberrations caused by the shape of that particular patient’s eyes,” says Dr. Diaz. This is more time-consuming than standard LASIK procedures, as it takes into account the particular eye shape.
Other costs may include medications needed to recover from surgery, says Dr. Diaz, however, these are typically covered by medical insurance and are subject to copay arrangements.