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Contacts vs. LASIK: Costs, risks, & more

If you're considering life without glasses, then contact lenses and LASIK surgery are two popular options to help you see clearly. But how do you decide which choice is best for you? The first step is to have a thorough eye exam to determine if you're a good candidate for one or both options. After that, it's mostly a matter of personal preference.

LASIK eye surgery

LASIK is the most commonly performed eye surgery to treat nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. The surgery involves reshaping the cornea so that light entering the eye can properly focus on the retina, resulting in clearer vision. Most patients report improved vision within the first 24 hours. LASIK is a popular option for those who want the convenience of maintenance-free vision.

What you need to know

  • The surgery can be done on both eyes at the same appointment
  • The procedure takes about 10 to 15 minutes per eye
  • Patients must be age 18 or older
  • Most people achieve 20/20 vision without glasses or contacts
  • Recovery time can be a few days to a few weeks as vision stabilizes

Contact lenses

Contact lenses are an ideal option for those who don't want to wear glasses full time or undergo surgery. Different types of lenses are available based on the materials, but most people today are prescribed silicone hydrogel lenses, a type of soft lens. Lenses are also classified by wearing time: daily wear, extended wear (which can be worn overnight and up to seven consecutive days) and continuous wear lenses (which can be worn for 30 days).

What you need to know

  • Even with proper care, lenses should be replaced frequently to minimize contamination
  • Lens types and designs are available to correct a variety of vision problems
  • Lenses can be custom-made for hard-to-fit eyes
  • Additional lens features include colored lenses, lenses made especially for dry eyes, bifocal contact lenses, prosthetic lenses and UV inhibiting lenses

Other factors to consider

Safety — Both contact lenses and eye surgery are safe for the majority of patients. The greatest risk with contact lenses is an eye infection, which can occur more frequently when lenses are worn overnight. For LASIK patients, side effects are rare, but may include dry eyes and visual disturbances such as glare or halos.

Effectiveness — Both options generally produce excellent vision quality. Some LASIK patients may still require glasses for specific activities like reading or night driving. Vision changes in contact lens wearers can usually be addressed by simply adjusting the lens prescription.

Cost — For LASIK, the cost is about $1,500 to $2,500 per eye. Contact lenses can cost about $300 or more per year. When considering the cost factor, keep in mind that the amount you could spend over time on contact lenses could exceed the cost of LASIK surgery.

A clear choice is in sight

Whether you decide to have LASIK surgery or opt for contact lenses, it's important to maintain regular eye exams so that your doctor can check for any vision changes and symptoms of eye disease. An experienced optometrist can also answer any questions you may have and help you determine which option is best for your vision and lifestyle. Use the Provider Locator to find an optometrist near you who accepts your CareCredit card. And don't forget that you can use your CareCredit card to help bridge any gaps between insurance and out-of-pocket expenses.

This content is subject to change without notice and offered for informational use only. You are urged to consult with your individual business, financial, legal, tax and/or other advisors and/or medical providers with respect to any information presented. CareCredit, Synchrony and any of its affiliates (collectively, "Synchrony") make no representations or warranties regarding this content and accept no liability for any loss or harm arising from the use of the information provided. Your receipt of this material constitutes your acceptance of these terms and conditions.

CareCredit provides information solely for your convenience. Please always consult with a physician on any medical decisions.

Sources

"LASIK and Laser Eye Surgery: A Complete Consumer Guide," by Vance Thompson, MD, All About Vision, http://www.allaboutvision.com/visionsurgery/, accessed Jan. 9, 2017
"Contact Lens Basics," by Liz Segre, All About Vision, http://www.allaboutvision.com/contacts/contact_lenses.htm, accessed Jan. 11, 2017

"30-Day Contact Lenses: A Smart Alternative to LASIK?" By Rob Murphy, All About Vision, http://www.allaboutvision.com/buysmart/contacts_lasik.htm, accessed Jan. 10, 2017

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