AUSTIN, Texas – Laser eye surgery has become more popular than ever during the pandemic. The American Refractive Surgery Council (RSC) saw 32% more laser vision correction (LVC) procedures in 2021 than in 2020.
"The total procedure volume for 2021 topped 833,000 for the first time since RSC began tracking LASIK, SMILE, and PRK procedures in 2015, demonstrating a significant consumer shift toward refractive surgery options to glasses and contacts," according to the RSC.
Dr. Zarmeena Vendal is an ophthalmologist with Westlake Eye Specialists. She said requests for LVC have doubled since the pandemic began.
“All of the work that everybody was doing from home – you’re on your computer, your glasses are fogging up, you’re staying up long hours. The incidence of dry eye is going up. People are having to wear their contacts more and more," Dr. Vendal said.
Dr. Vendal said Texans also started caring more about themselves during the pandemic.
“There was a tremendous increase in self-care, prioritizing our health,” she said. “People were worried more about preventative care than ever before. And in a LASIK market, we as surgeons have definitely seen that percolate through as well. Patients are saying, ‘I want to live the best version of myself every day. So if my vision can be 2020 or can be 2015, I want that. I want what’s best for me.’ So it’s this sort of shift in philosophy I think that people had in general, certainly here in Austin, that really drove a lot of patients to ask for this procedure.”
Naymal Siddiqui got LASIK in December. She’s a freshman at Texas A&M and said it was difficult to visit the eye doctor and get contacts away from home. Now she doesn’t have to.
“I’m really glad that I was able to get it,” she said. “It made me feel more confident in myself. It made me bring out the parts of me that I like.”
Not everyone qualifies for LASIK, but there’s another option to improve your eyesight.
“Another great way to achieve a very similar result is what we call lens replacement surgery,” Dr. Vendal said. “So we are taking the lens on the inside of the eye and replacing it to make the vision perfect.”
For 20 years, she has changed the way people see.
“It really goes beyond just, ‘Hey, let’s make your eye better and let’s make your vision better.’ The exciting part is when we get to make people’s lives better,” she said.
Dr. Vendal expects requests for LVC to continue to increase.