Laser-assisted sub-epithelial keratectomy (LASEK) is a type of laser eye surgery used for vision correction. Many people confuse it with LASIK, because the name sounds so similar and the goal is the same; however, it’s actually a variant of PRK, which is similar to LASIK but differs in the way the procedure is actually performed. (The difference is that LASIK creates a flap in the cornea, while PRK and LASEK do not.) It’s actually common for a LASEK procedure to be converted to a PRK procedure at the time it’s done. People choose LASEK or other refractive surgery if they’re tired of the hassle of glasses or contacts, or don’t like how glasses or contacts look or feel.
If you’re choosing to have refractive surgery, make sure you’re choosing it because you really want it, not to please someone else or to fit an imagined ideal. No one else can make the choice for you; it’s your body, and you’re in charge of it. After you do your research and understand the procedure, if you believe that LASEK is right for you, then proceed. You can learn more about the LASEK procedure, its risks and benefits, in our Education Wiki.
The fee for LASEK is generally around $2,000 per eye (if you’re having the procedure performed on both eyes, as most people do, then you should double the per-eye price to estimate your total).This is very similar to the cost of LASIK or PRK.
Keep in mind that this is only an average; it varies by region and by individual surgeon, so you should check with the provider(s) you’re considering to determine their exact fee for the procedure. Ask what’s included in that fee, to make sure you aren’t surprised by extra costs when you get the bill later.
The price for LASEK should include your procedure and all the necessary follow-up visits. Because at least six follow-up visits are needed during the year after LASEK, you should make sure that these visits are included in the price of your procedure, or you could find that the cost of these visits adds significantly to your LASEK cost.
Additionally, you might want to consider the cost of enhancements. If your vision after LASEK isn’t quite perfect, then you might want to have another procedure to enhance the effect of the first procedure. About one in twenty LASEK patients has an enhancement. Sometimes, it will be included in your procedure price, but not always; you might want to find out the price of an enhancement ahead of time, and plan to have the extra money available in case you need one.
You may also find that you require eyedrops frequently after your procedure, because some people experience dry eyes for months or years after they have PRK or LASEK. The risk of dry eyes is generally thought to be lower with LASEK than with LASIK, but it could still occur. While you’ll get a bottle of special eyedrops from your surgeon to use during your recovery from your procedure, the cost of regular eyedrops (“artificial tears,” also known as saline) won’t be included; you might want to budget for that long-term.
Will Insurance Cover It?
Unfortunately, insurance does not typically cover refractive surgical procedures such as LASEK. Medical insurance policies don’t cover vision care; a separate vision insurance policy is needed for that. However, even a vision insurance policy almost never covers refractive surgical procedures, as they’re considered elective, cosmetic procedures; policies cover glasses, and might cover contacts, but won’t cover refractive surgery. So you’ll need to figure out how to pay for your refractive surgery on your own.
What Are the Financing Options?
To many people, paying thousands of dollars up front seems impossible. However, if you don’t already have the money saved, you have many options available for financing. Many refractive surgery clinics offer financing plans for their patients. You can also get a medical credit card or other credit card, often with an attractive introductory interest rate; a medical loan, personal loan, or home equity loan from your bank; a loan from your 401(k); or loans or gifts from family and friends. Even if your credit isn’t great, you’d be surprised how many options you have. For more details about the financing options for your procedure, check out our Refractive Surgery Financing page.