Considerations for scheduling LASIK surgery
Is there a best season to get LASIK surgery?
Deciding to have LASIK surgery can be the first step toward seeing better if you’re nearsighted or farsighted or have astigmatism. Once you’ve committed to the procedure, the next important decision is when to have it. However, there’s no single best time of year for everyone.
Doing an online search for “best time of year to get LASIK surgery” is one way to get started.
There are plenty of online articles promoting a specific season as most optimal for the procedure.
Headlines like “Start the New Year Right with LASIK Eye Surgery,” “Reasons to Get LASIK this Summer” and “Be Ready for School in the Fall” offer persuasive and often valid reasons for scheduling your procedure for a specific time of year.
While these types of articles are worth checking out and may provide food for thought, they cannot address your own unique situation. They may even end up raising more questions than they answer, adding to any confusion you’re already experiencing.
The best way to get answers to your questions is by talking them over with your eye surgeon. They are best qualified to help you sort through all the variables involved in an optimal outcome, including seasonal influences, your lifestyle and your personal schedule.
What to consider when scheduling LASIK
According to Brian Boxer Wachler, MD, a board-certified ophthalmologist and refractive surgeon, the best time for LASIK surgery depends greatly on the individual patient. Rather than just picking a season for surgery, he collaborates with patients to choose a time that works best for them.
He starts with an eye exam to assess the patient’s overall eye health. In general, people with a moderate degree of refractive error and no unusual vision problems make the best LASIK surgery candidates.
While you’re understandably eager to schedule your LASIK surgery, be sure to consider the following factors before setting a date:
Your FSA or HSA account balance
If you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Savings Account (HSA) through your health insurance, it is typically replenished at the beginning of each calendar year.
Since LASIK is an elective procedure that is rarely covered by insurance, you will end up paying for it yourself. As of 2021, the average cost per eye was just over $2,200 in the United States, but the fee may be as high as $3,900.
FSA and HSA funds can be used for the procedure, so you might want to schedule your surgery early in the year while your account balance is at its highest.
Your personal schedule
Certain activities or events should be taken into consideration when scheduling LASIK, including:
“For example, somebody is going on a summer vacation and they’re going to be by the ocean or want to go swimming,” says Dr. Boxer Wachler.
“They shouldn’t have LASIK a week before they go because we recommend people not have any water directly in their eyes for two weeks. That time would not be good for the patient because of their vacation.”
If you’re anticipating an on-the-go summer, plan ahead by scheduling your LASIK surgery for spring to allow plenty of time to recover and adjust to life without corrective lenses.
Athletes should consider taking advantage of the off-season to have the procedure. By the time you’re ready to compete again, your eyes will be healed and any physical restrictions you had while healing will be lifted.
Teachers and students (those over 18 — generally the youngest age considered for LASIK) might find their downtime over the summer to be most convenient. Come the fall, you’ll be ready to move ahead wherever your plans take you.
Dr. Boxer Wachler has had a number of patients who decided to have LASIK done before getting married. He advises doing so at least a month out from the big day because as it gets closer, “there are probably more things they want to focus on than their eyes!”
There are several health considerations that Dr. Boxer Wachler assesses to determine if a patient is a good candidate for LASIK, where a laser is used to reshape the cornea.
First, the cornea must be within the normal range of thickness. There cannot be any sign of keratoconus, a condition that causes the cornea to be thin and bulge outwards, because it would increase the risk of surgical complications. You should not have any active symptoms of dry eye or eye inflammation.
During the procedure, the surgeon creates a flap in the cornea and lifts it up. They then use the laser to reshape the cornea, allowing it to properly focus light on the retina for clearer vision. Then they lower the flap and it bonds back to the cornea without stitches.
“If somebody is experiencing seasonal allergies, that needs to be under control first,” Dr. Boxer Wachler adds. “We don’t want people rubbing their eyes right after LASIK because they can actually move the flap.”
It may be possible for the weather to influence your surgical outcome. Cooler temperatures and lower humidity levels can actually be a factor in how long the results of your procedure last. Specifically, a 2016 study found that colder operating room temperatures significantly increase the need for additional corrective surgery (also called refractive retreatment).
“Surgeons who are really experienced with LASIK will be aware of this,” explains Dr. Boxer Wachler. “In our procedure room, we have a device that measures the humidity. If the humidity is lower than the typical range for us, we have humidifiers in the procedure room to bring it up. If the humidity is too high, we will do an adjustment to the programmed laser amount to compensate.”
Finally, if you live in a region where winter is mostly an indoor experience, you may be less physically active. Scheduling your surgery (and recovery) then may work best for you.
It’s important to take healing time into consideration before scheduling any procedure. Initial recovery after LASIK can take anywhere from a few days to weeks. Complete remodeling and healing of the cornea can take as long as a couple months, but people can typically return to most normal activities the next day.
Typically, LASIK patients are advised to avoid vigorous exercise for at least a week after surgery because it could traumatize your eyes and affect healing. Keep all this in mind if your plans for the immediate future include running a marathon, climbing a mountain or playing a strenuous game of pick-up basketball. Any type of water in the eyes — including sweat — should be avoided during the recovery phase.
Talk to your eye surgeon
Dr. Boxer Wachler performs hundreds of LASIK procedures annually at his practice in Beverly Hills, California, and has performed many thousands over his career. “I don’t think anyone would say there’s a best time of year for LASIK,” he says. In other words, what works best for one person may not work for everyone.
The bottom line when it comes to choosing the best time of year to get LASIK surgery? It’s a crucial decision, and one that should be made in close consultation with your LASIK surgeon.
“There’s a point where the patient can do their due diligence, but there’s a point where they have to hand over the reins of trust to the surgeon because they’re the expert,” concludes Dr. Boxer Wachler. “It’s important to go to someone who is very credible, experienced and trustworthy.”
READ NEXT: What to expect after LASIK: Top 20 FAQs
The 25th anniversary of laser vision correction in the United States. Clinical Ophthalmology. May 2022.
Corneal modifications. American Optometric Association. Accessed May 2022.
LASIK surgery: Is it right for you? Mayo Clinic. August 2021.
What is keratoconus? American Academy of Ophthalmology. May 2022.
Factors predicting the need for retreatment after laser refractive surgery. Cornea. May 2016.
Is eye pain common post LASIK surgery? How long does the cornea take to heal after LASIK? American Academy of Ophthalmology. January 2012.
Page published on Monday, June 27, 2022
Medically reviewed on Wednesday, June 22, 2022