LASIK (laser in situ keratomileusis) involves reshaping the cornea using a special laser directed under the corneal flap. The procedure corrects vision errors and is most likely used to replace the use of glasses or contact lenses. Its development is credited to Greek ophthalmologist Ioannis Pallikaris, who introduced it in 1991.

Although highly effective, LASIK surgery is notoriously expensive, and this has kept many people from undergoing the procedure. The biggest factor is that each operation covers only one eye, so those who need both eyes corrected—as is the case with most patients—actually have to pay twice the stated rate. Newer technologies, such as bladeless LASIK (where the laser itself is used to create the corneal flap opening), can also increase the price of some procedures.

So how much does LASIK eye surgery cost? According to AllAboutVision.com, the average cost for traditional (bladed) LASIK is $1,580. This also includes excimer lasers, a type that does not require wavefront analysis to direct the laser. Wavefront-guided and bladeless procedures cost about $2,170. In clinics that quote one price for all laser correction procedures, the average is $2,150.

Besides the factors mentioned above, the price can also be affected by the type of preoperative testing involved. Patients have to be screened to make sure they are good candidates for LASIK surgery, as well as to determine what type of procedure will work best. Most patients will also require post-operative care, medications to promote healing and avoid complication, and often follow-up exams. These costs are seldom included in the advertised price, so posters offering LASIK for $499 per eye, although truthful, may actually be more expensive overall.

Another factor is the cost of the testing and surgical equipment, as well as other overhead costs. For one thing, what you pay may depend on how much the clinic is paying for the machines. Your bill may include a royalty fee for the laser manufacturer or for the technician if you underwent a custom procedure. You may also find a patient acquisition cost, which is basically what they spent on advertising.

One thing’s for sure: LASIK doesn’t come cheap. But if you know what you’re paying for, you can save a surprising amount of money and time. Do your research and get feedback from other patients. Compare different offers and choose whatever works best for you—you may have to pay a few extra hundred dollars, but when it’s your vision in question, it’s always money well spent.

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