Even if you think surgery to permanently enhance your vision is a medical necessity, most health insurance plans will not cover LASIK procedures. Each health insurance policy varies, however, and you can check the specifications of your own policy to double check if the surgery is covered.

Correcting your vision may be necessary, but eyeglasses and corrective contact lenses can often do the job without the need for LASIK. The FDA notes that the LASIK acronym stands for Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis and the procedure involves permanently altering the shape of your eye.

How does LASIK work?

LASIK works by using a laser to change the shape of your eye’s cornea, which is the clear layer in front of your eye. Several techniques may exist, although the general procedure typically follows the same basic steps.

Surgeons use either a small laser device or small blade instrument to cut a slit in the cornea to create a flap. They then fold back the flap to access the middle part of the cornea.

They vaporize a section of the middle cornea, replace the flap, and your surgery is complete. Vaporizing the section of cornea is meant to enhance the way your eye treats light rays that filter to your retina, thereby improving their focus and enhancing your overall vision.

How can vaporizing part of your eye improve vision?

The vaporizing process changes the shape of the cornea, which is what can change and improve your vision. The Federal Trade Commission explains how the cornea, which is the front of your eye, refracts light rays to target your retina, which is in a deeper part of your eye.

Your retina then sends signals to your brain to produce an image. When your cornea does not have the most effective shape to refract light to your retina, vision problems occur. They include blurry vision of all objects, nearsightedness, farsightedness, and a condition known as “aging eye” that results in blurred vision of extremely close objects.

Does LASIK work for everyone?

Not everyone is a prime candidate for LASIK surgery. The condition of aging eye, for instance, usually can’t be helped by the procedure. LASIK is not a good fit for anyone who is under the age of 18, since their eyes are still developing. Your corrective prescription should also be stable, as the surgery won’t work effectively if your eyes keep getting worse every year or otherwise keep changing.

The surgery should also be avoided if you are taking certain medications, are nursing or pregnant, or don’t have overall good health. People with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or diabetes should avoid LASIK, as should those with certain eye conditions. These include eye infections due to herpes, retinal disease, cataracts, glaucoma, or cornea disorders. Those who suffer from “dry eye,” or chronic dryness in the eyes, should also get a specific okay from their eye doctor before proceeding.

Another thing that may kick you off the prime candidate list for LASIK is your expectations. You may not end up with perfect vision. Those with extremely poor eyesight typically have less success with the procedure.

What else should I know about LASIK?

As with any surgery, LASIK comes with its own host of risks. As noted, LASIK is a permanent procedure. Once it’s employed, you will not be able to restore your eye to its original pre-surgery state. There is also no guarantee you will end up with perfect vision following LASIK surgery.

Your surgery can also leave your eyes worse off than you were before the procedure, with the need for glasses just to see as well as you did before LASIK. Blindness and eye damage have been reported in rare cases.

Night vision issues are on the list of risks, with the chances of ending up with halos, glare, double vision, or other visual concerns. Your vision could become less sharp, leaving objects with a gray or fuzzy appearance. You may end up suffering from dry eye syndrome, which affects both the quality of your vision and your overall comfort.

LASIK can also lead to complications following the surgery, such as a swelling or infection of the cornea. The flap that was cut in the cornea can start to heal irregularly, requiring the removal of excess cells that may form during the healing process.

Despite the risks, the FTC reports millions of people have had success with the procedure. A thorough eye exam by your eye doctor and consultation with a surgeon should be on your agenda before you go through with LASIK surgery.

If glasses or contact lenses are no big deal for you, the risks may outweigh the potential benefits. Whatever you decide, also keep in mind you will probably be paying for it out of your own pocket unless your insurance plan has special considerations for the procedure.