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How Much Does Dry Eye Surgery Cost? | Factors Impacting Cost

The cost of eye surgery to treat dry eye is going to depend on the type of treatment you need. You can expect it to cost between several hundred to multiple thousands of dollars, depending on your needs and the doctor you see. 

Insurance may cover part of these costs, but that won’t always be the case. 

The Cost of Dry Eye Surgery

The cost of dry eye surgery will depend on the type of procedure you and your doctor determine will work best for your case. Here are some of the potential options: 

Punctal Plugs

One of the most common types of surgery to correct dry eye is the installation of devices called punctal plugs into the tear ducts. This can help to block excessive tear drainage. 

While costs can vary depending on a number of factors, such as the plugs a doctor thinks are best for you and the specific doctor you see, you can expect this procedure to cost at least $350 to $650 without health insurance. 

However, in some cases, the costs can potentially be several hundred dollars higher, with at least one anecdotal report from a patient claiming his total was $960 without insurance (although this patient was only billed $480 and canceled his second appointment). 

Microblepharoexfoliation & Thermal Treatments

Other common treatments include in-office microblepharoexfoliation procedures, which can cost between $160 to $350 per treatment, and thermal treatments, which can have a similar although generally higher cost. These procedures can help treat some of the more common causes of dry eye, such as blepharitis.

IPL

A less common and more expensive option to treat dry eye is intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy. This is a procedure where lasers are used to break down certain blood vessels in the eye that can reduce the amount of abnormal oil production that causes some cases of dry eye. 

One session of IPL treatment can cost between $300 to $500. A patient usually needs four to eight treatments to fully benefit from this type of treatment. That means a person’s total cost without insurance can be anywhere from $1,200 to $4,000.

Does Insurance Cover This Cost?

Insurance won’t automatically cover a dry eye treatment just because you’ve been diagnosed with dry eye and your doctor believes a given treatment option is the best option for you. 

Reports of how difficult it can be to get insurance to cover the cost of dry eye procedures vary, but you need to prove to your insurance company that a given treatment is medically necessary for the treatment of your dry eye and that cheaper alternatives aren’t available. Generally, the more expensive the treatment, the more hesitant an insurance provider will be to provide coverage. 

There are some alternatives to using insurance beyond just paying the cost of your treatment in full out of pocket. For example, many care providers offer financing options that allow you to pay the cost of your treatment over time rather than all in one payment. A flexible spending account (FSA) or a health savings account (HSA) can also be good options for covering medical costs, as you can use pre-tax money to pay for these procedures. 

Finding a Surgeon to Treat Dry Eye

Often, your primary care physician or optometrist will have professional connections within the field of ophthalmology, so they can provide trusted referrals based on your individual needs. Similarly, credible hospitals or clinics in your area that specialize in ocular care can also help. 

Don’t forget to thoroughly investigate each prospective doctor’s credentials. Checking for board certification in ophthalmology and researching and whether they have received specialized training or earned additional certifications for particular surgeries is especially useful when working to narrow down the list of potential candidates. 

After creating a shortlist based on these reviews and getting feedback from friends or family who have undergone similar procedures, you will ideally schedule initial consultations with prospective surgeons. In these meetings, you can discuss your specific needs and ask any pertinent questions regarding the procedure. 

Ultimately, prioritize factors like experience level, personal comfort, the surgeon’s reputation based on past surgeries conducted successfully, and feedback from previous patients before deciding on the best option available to you. Paying attention to cost is also worthwhile, but be mindful of shopping for whichever surgeon offers the lowest treatment cost. You don’t want to significantly sacrifice treatment quality just to save money. 

Make sure to talk with your insurance provider beforehand to determine what portion, if any, they will cover. In most cases, you will have to go through some type of preauthorization process to have the treatment covered. Your eye care provider will also serve as a liaison with your insurance provider, helping you to understand what your potential out-of-pocket costs may be.

References

How Much Do Punctal Plugs Cost? T2 Web Network.

Blepharitis. (August 2020). National Eye Institute.

Having a Frank Discussion With Patients on Cost of Treating Dry Eye. Review of Optometric Business.

Intense Pulsed Light Treatment for Dry Eye Disease Due to Meibomian Gland Dysfunction; A 3-Year Retrospective Study. (January 2015). Photomedicine and Laser Surgery.

Pulsed Light Therapy in the Management of Dry Eye Disease: Current Perspectives. (November 2022). Clinical Ophthalmology

Call to Action: Treating Dry Eye Disease and Setting the Foundation for Successful Surgery. (May 2022). Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery.

Dry Eye Disease Associated With Meibomian Gland Dysfunction: Focus on Tear Film Characteristics and the Therapeutic Landscape. (March 2023). Ophthalmology and Therapy.

Advances in Dry Eye Disease Treatment. (May 2020). Current Opinion in Ophthalmology.

Not a Dry Eye in the House: Latest Treatments. (October 2022). Review of Ophthalmology.

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