Age and LASIK Surgery
Millions of people are choosing to undergo LASIK surgery because of its overall safety and effectiveness in improving vision. Although ideal LASIK candidates are at least 18 to 21 years old, many parents wonder if LASIK would be similarly effective on their children. Likewise, many people over the age of 40 are curious as to whether they will remain suitable candidates for LASIK as they continue to age. When considering if LASIK is right for you, it is important to remember that every generation faces its own unique needs and issues when it comes to vision. A qualified refractive eye surgeon in your area can answer any questions you may have regarding age and LASIK eye surgery.
Children and LASIK Surgery
Most surgeons do not recommend performing LASIK on children except in extreme cases. A child's eye is not fully developed until adulthood, or about age 18. Since children's eyes are constantly adjusting and changing shape, LASIK surgery would only provide a temporary improvement to their vision. Indeed, a child who has undergone LASIK will probably need corrective surgery down the road. In addition, LASIK surgery is normally performed on adult patients who are fully awake; restless children might have to be heavily sedated in order to remain still.
There is also very little evidence to support that LASIK is a safe and effective procedure for children. Some surgeons may choose to perform LASIK on young patients with extreme vision conditions such as anisometropic amblyopia, or "lazy eye." Normally, children with lazy eye are prescribed glasses or contact lenses or must wear an eye patch over their good eye to force stimulation and improve vision in their bad eye. When conventional treatment is not effective, however, some doctors may authorize LASIK to be performed on children.
Teens and LASIK Surgery
Although LASIK is a safe and effective way to improve vision, the FDA has not approved the procedure for people under the age of 18 because their eyes are constantly changing until about that age. In some cases, a person's eyes may not fully develop until the age of 21. A teenager who undergoes LASIK surgery when his or her eyes are not fully developed will find the results to be temporary and may need corrective surgery in the future. Most doctors recommend that a patient's eye prescription be stable for at least two years before undergoing LASIK surgery. As with children of a young age, LASIK surgery is not well-suited to teenagers simply because the condition being treated - poor vision - is in a state of flux.
Middle-Aged Patients and LASIK Surgery
Patients who have reached or are close to reaching the age of 40 should consider that their vision may be affected by conditions that cannot be treated with LASIK surgery, such as presbyopia. Presbyopia occurs when the eye's natural lens becomes less flexible, making it difficult to change focus between near and far objects and resulting in the need for reading glasses. It is a normal part of the aging process, and the effects tend to increase over time.
LASIK surgery has no effect on the eye's focusing muscles and therefore cannot correct presbyopia. However, since LASIK can correct for either near or far vision, some patients with presbyopia can choose to undergo monovision treatment instead. This involves surgically correcting one eye to focus on near objects while correcting the other eye to focus on distant objects. The brain will learn to adapt to the vision change over time. Patients considering monovision surgery should understand they may still require corrective eyewear for optimal vision. They should also experiment with contact lenses or special glasses that simulate post-operative results before treatment to make sure they can tolerate the irreversible effects of the surgery.
Presbyoptic patients who are not good candidates for LASIK or monovision treatment have other options. Intraocular lens (IOL) implantation involves removing the eye's natural lens and implanting a new one through a small incision in order to improve both near and distance vision. Another method, conductive keratoplasty (CK), uses radiofrequency waves to reshape the cornea, allowing for better vision up close. LASIK, monovision, IOL, and all other vision correction procedures should be discussed with your surgeon before you decide which one is right for you.
Seniors and LASIK Surgery
Older patients typically suffer from age-related conditions that cannot be treated with LASIK surgery, such as cataracts, and thus may not be good candidates for the procedure. Cataracts occur when the natural lens in the eye becomes cloudy, resulting in blurred vision. It is one of the leading causes of vision loss among older people. Patients with cataracts should consider undergoing cataract surgery, in which the eye's natural lens is replaced by an artificial lens. Should a patient with cataracts elect to undergo LASIK surgery, the cloudy lens will still need to be removed in order to ensure clear vision. In most cases, however, a patient's vision will improve significantly with just the cataract surgery alone.
Consult a LASIK Surgeon
You should talk with a surgeon to determine whether you are a good candidate for LASIK surgery. If you are not, your surgeon can discuss alternative treatments with you. The DocShop directory provides a list of experienced LASIK surgeons in your area who can answer any questions you may have about the procedure.