Custom LASIK vs. Traditional: What’s the Difference?

If you’re considering LASIK surgery, you’ll soon find out there are two main types you are bound to choose from – custom and traditional. While choosing both may entail challenges and require knowledge, we’re here to help you get a clear picture of both that will allow you to make an informed decision. This blog aims to provide clarity and simplicity, providing you with insights needed to weigh your options thoughtfully and fostering a decision-making process that feels less overwhelming and more empowering.

Introduction to LASIK Surgery

LASIK surgery, formally known as Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis, is a pivotal solution for correcting common vision problems, including nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. This procedure involves using a laser to reshape the cornea precisely – the transparent front part of the eye – enhancing how light is focused onto the retina, thereby improving vision. Ideal candidates for LASIK are generally those over 18 years of age, with stable vision prescriptions for at least the last year, and without eye conditions that might compromise the healing process.

The allure of LASIK primarily lies in its promise of a life less dependent on glasses or contact lenses, offering a significant improvement in visual acuity for many. It’s celebrated for its efficiency and relatively swift recovery period. As we move forward, we’ll delve into the nuances of Custom LASIK and Traditional LASIK, laying out the groundwork without revealing the distinctions between them. This initial understanding is crucial as it prepares us for a deeper look into how each approach can be tailored to meet individual vision needs.

Traditional LASIK Procedure

Also known as standard LASIK, this eye surgery has been a reliable choice since the 1990s for fixing common sight issues like farsightedness, nearsightedness, and astigmatism. It works in a similar way to how your eyeglasses or contact lenses are prescribed, aiming to correct your vision evenly across the whole eye. It’s a straightforward method that has helped many people see clearly without needing their glasses or contacts.

How does traditional LASIK work?

  1. Creating the Flap: The first step in traditional LASIK eye surgery involves using a special tool called a microkeratome. This tool makes a thin, precise cut on the surface of the eye’s cornea to create a flap.
  2. Exposing the Cornea: Once the flap is created, it’s carefully lifted and folded back. This exposes the inner corneal tissue, which is the part of the eye that will be reshaped in the next step.
  3. Reshaping with the Laser: With the inner cornea exposed, a laser known as an excimer laser comes into play. This laser precisely removes some corneal tissue. The amount and pattern of tissue removal are based on the patient’s unique vision needs. By doing this, the laser corrects how light is focused onto the retina, which is at the back of the eye. This correction aims to clear up the patient’s vision.
  4. Replacing the Flap: After the laser has done its job, the corneal flap is carefully placed back over the treated area. It sticks to the underlying tissue naturally, without the need for stitches.

This process is widely appreciated for its ability to improve vision quickly and effectively, without a long recovery time.

Advantages of traditional LASIK

Tradition LASIK’s advantages are significant and numerous as it serves as the foundation for modern eye surgery. Below are some of them:

  • Proven success and reliability over decades of use
  • Widespread availability with many experienced surgeons performing the procedure
  • Short recovery time, with most patients experiencing rapid improvements in vision
  • Lower cost compared to newer, more technologically advanced procedures
  • High patient satisfaction rates, with many achieving 20/20 vision or better

The enduring popularity of traditional LASIK is not without reason. Its ability to deliver a clear vision and solid track record make it a compelling choice for those looking to correct their vision.

Disadvantages of traditional LASIK

While traditional LASIK has transformed countless lives, it’s crucial to consider its limitations. Understanding these drawbacks helps paint a full picture of what patients can expect.

  • Potential for flap-related complications, given the mechanical nature of the microkeratome
  • Higher risk of experiencing glare and halos around lights, particularly at night
  • Less precise correction for those with complex or high prescription errors
  • Inability to treat very thin corneas or severe dry eyes
  • Limitations in addressing higher-order aberrations, which can affect the quality of vision

However, despite these challenges, traditional LASIK remains a powerful option for vision correction. You only need to weigh these disadvantages against the potential benefits and consult a qualified surgeon to make the best choice for your needs.Custom LASIK Procedure

Custom LASIK Procedure

Custom LASIK takes vision correction further by using state-of-the-art technology to map the eye’s unique imperfections. This procedure offers a personalized approach to LASIK surgery and adapts to the individual’s specific vision needs, setting a new standard in precision and outcomes.

How does custom LASIK work?

  1. Eye Examination with Wavefront Technology: Custom LASIK surgery begins with an in-depth analysis of the eye. This is done using a technology called wavefront. It works by shining light into the eye and then measuring how that light travels through it. This process captures a detailed “map” of the eye, highlighting any unique flaws (aberrations) that might be affecting vision.
  2. Creating a Customized Plan: The information gathered from the wavefront analysis is then used to create a personalized surgery plan. This plan is tailored to the individual’s vision needs, taking into account not just the general prescription but also the specific quirks of their eyes.
  3. Precision Laser Reshaping: Armed with a detailed map of the eye, the surgeon uses a laser to precisely reshape the cornea. The laser’s movements are guided by the wavefront data, ensuring that the corrections made are incredibly accurate and matched to the individual characteristics of each eye.
  4. Addressing Unique Vision Issues: Because the laser treatment is based on a detailed map of the eye, this approach can correct vision in a way that’s uniquely suited to each patient. It doesn’t just correct the broad vision problems; it also fixes the small, unique issues that contribute to less than perfect vision.

This method of LASIK provides a more personalized approach to vision correction, aiming for results that are tailored to the specific needs of each patient.

Advantages of custom LASIK

Introducing the next level of vision correction, custom LASIK brings several key benefits to the table:

  • Enhanced accuracy in correcting vision, thanks to individualized treatment plans based on detailed eye measurements.
  • Potential for better visual outcomes, with improvements in how clearly and sharply patients can see.
  • Lower risk of post-surgery issues such as glare and halos at night, enhancing nighttime vision.
  • Ability to treat patients with unique or complex vision errors that traditional LASIK might not address.
  • High patient satisfaction rates due to personalized approach and improved vision quality.

Custom LASIK marks a significant advancement in refractive surgery. Its ability to tailor the treatment to the individual’s eye characteristics ensures a higher potential for superior visual outcomes.

Disadvantages of custom LASIK

Despite its advantages, custom LASIK comes with its own set of considerations:

  • Generally, custom Lasik eye surgery costs more than traditional LASIK due to advanced technology and customization.
  • It is not as widely available as traditional LASIK, with fewer surgeons trained in the specialized equipment.
  • Certain eye conditions may still disqualify some patients from opting for custom LASIK.
  • While recovery is typically quick, some patients may experience a more extended adjustment period to their new vision.
  • Like traditional LASIK, custom LASIK is often not covered by insurance, making the higher cost a significant factor for many patients.

While custom LASIK offers a tailored approach to vision correction with numerous benefits, patients must consider these factors carefully. Consulting with a qualified surgeon who can provide personalized advice based on an individual’s specific vision needs and health is crucial in making an informed decision.

Comparing Traditional and Custom LASIK

When deciding between Traditional and Custom LASIK, it’s essential to drill down into the specifics of each to see how they stack up. Let’s dive into visual outcomes, safety, and costs to help you weigh your options.


When it comes to the accuracy of correcting vision, Custom LASIK typically offers a higher level of precision compared to Traditional LASIK. This is because Custom LASIK utilizes advanced wavefront technology to create a detailed map of the eye, identifying and correcting not only basic refractive errors but also more complex irregularities and higher-order aberrations.

This personalized approach allows for a treatment that’s finely tuned to the individual’s unique eye characteristics, potentially leading to better visual outcomes and a greater chance of achieving optimal vision clarity.


When comparing Traditional and Custom LASIK, it’s important to recognize that not every patient is a good fit for both procedures. The best choice depends on individual eye characteristics and specific vision needs.

While Traditional LASIK offers a broad solution that may work well for common vision corrections, Custom LASIK is often recommended for those with unique or complex vision issues, thanks to its ability to tailor the procedure to each eye’s specific irregularities. A thorough eye examination by a qualified professional is essential to determine which method is the most appropriate for achieving the best possible vision correction.

Visual outcomes

The goal of both Traditional and Custom LASIK is a clear vision, but the path and results can differ. Traditional LASIK has a long history of successful vision correction for common refractive errors, with many patients achieving 20/20 vision or very close to it.

However, Custom LASIK takes precision to the next level, using advanced mapping to tailor the procedure to the minutiae of each eye’s unique shape and imperfections. This can benefit individuals with complex vision issues or higher-order aberrations, offering them a chance at sharper, more accurate visual outcomes. While both procedures offer significant improvements, the personalized approach of Custom LASIK may result in a greater likelihood of achieving optimal vision clarity.

Safety and complications

Safety is paramount in any surgical procedure, and luckily, both Traditional and Custom LASIK are considered safe with a low risk of serious complications. Both procedures’ most common side effects include temporary dry eyes and nighttime glare, which usually resolve within a few months.

Custom LASIK, with its detailed eye mapping, potentially reduces the risk of certain complications, such as glare and halos at night, due to its more precise corneal reshaping. However, it’s crucial to acknowledge that every surgical procedure carries some risk, and the best way to minimize it is by selecting a skilled and experienced surgeon, regardless of the LASIK type chosen.

Cost and insurance coverage

The financial aspect is a significant factor for many considering LASIK. Generally, Custom LASIK is more expensive than Traditional LASIK due to the advanced technology and personalized treatment planning it requires. While some might see this as a drawback, it’s worth considering the potential for better visual outcomes and reduced risk of complications.

Regarding insurance, most providers categorize LASIK as an elective procedure, meaning neither Traditional nor Custom LASIK is typically covered. Patients should carefully review their financial options, including savings plans, health spending accounts, or financing plans offered by their surgeon’s office, to make the most informed decision possible.Choosing the Right LASIK Procedure

Choosing the Right LASIK Procedure

Selecting the right LASIK procedure is crucial to having a better vision. It’s about matching your vision correction needs with the right technology and expertise.

Factors to consider

Deciding on the LASIK procedure that best fits your needs involves weighing several essential factors. These considerations ensure the chosen method aligns with your vision, goals, and lifestyle.

  1. Vision Correction Needs: Assess the complexity of your vision issues, including the degree of refractive error and astigmatism.
  2. Lifestyle Considerations: Think about how your vision impacts your daily activities and any specific requirements you might have for your vision post-surgery.
  3. Health of Your Eyes: Understand any eye health issues, as conditions like dry eye syndrome or corneal thickness can influence your suitability for one procedure over another.
  4. Budget and Financing: Consider your budget and the availability of financing options, as the cost difference between Traditional and Custom LASIK can be significant.

By carefully considering these factors and discussing them with a surgeon, you can make an informed decision that best meets your needs.

Consultation with an experienced surgeon

A consultation with an experienced LASIK surgeon is the cornerstone of selecting the right procedure. This meeting is more than a preliminary check-up; it’s an opportunity for personalized advice tailored to your unique vision correction needs. An experienced surgeon will evaluate the health of your eyes, discuss your vision goals, and explain the benefits and risks of each LASIK option. They can also answer any questions, providing clarity and reassurance. This personalized approach ensures you receive a recommendation that best suits your situation, making the consultation an indispensable step in your LASIK journey.

Final Thoughts

Deciding between Custom and Traditional LASIK is a significant step toward achieving a clearer vision and an improved quality of life. It’s essential to arm yourself with all the relevant information and carefully consider your needs and goals. At Saddleback Eye Center, we’re dedicated to guiding you through this journey, offering expert advice and support tailored to your unique situation. If you’re contemplating LASIK surgery, we invite you to reach out and schedule a consultation with us. Let’s work together to bring your vision into clearer focus.

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