Lasik and PRK are amazing procedures that can let you live life without glasses or contacts. But, they’re not for everybody. We tell about 3 out of every 10 patients that come to us for Lasik consults that the procedure isn’t right for them.
For patients with the right profile for Lasik or PRK, the procedure is very low risk. But, certain characteristics can raise that risk to a level where we wouldn’t recommend the procedure.
So, how can you find out if you’re a good Lasik candidate? The only way to know for sure is to have an evaluation with a qualified surgeon. You can book your free evaluation with Dr. Hoehn right here. You can also take our online Lasik self-assessment quiz that will get you started down the same path.
But, if you’d like to get some information beforehand, here’s some tips on what can make you a good, or not so good candidate for Lasik or PRK.
Ideally, Lasik and PRK are a one time procedure that give you good vision for decades. Both procedures correct your vision at a single point in time.
With that in mind, a key factor in being a good candidate for laser vision correction is having stable vision. Your surgeon will customize your procedure to fix the vision you have now. If your vision changes after the procedure, you’re likely to lose clarity and more likely to need glasses or contacts later on.
It’s common that children and teenagers who wear glasses or contacts see a change in their prescription every year, up until they’re 18, 21 or even older. Your Lasik surgeon will want to see that you have stable vision, with minimal changes for at least the past year. Two years is better.
There are also other life-events that temporarily change your vision, like the hormonal changes that women experience during and after pregnancy. If you’re pregnant of breast feeding, your surgeon will likely advise that you wait until a few months after you’ve finished breast feeding your infant to have Lasik.
Dry eyes are the most common side effect reported by Lasik patients. The more prone you are to dry eye before your procedure, the more likely you are to experience dry eyes as a side-effect after Lasik or PRK.
The good news is that even if you do experience dry after your procedure, the condition is often very treatable. Effective dry eye treatments can range from eye drops, to prescription medications or tear-duct plugs that help to keep more moisture in your eyes.
Every Lasik patient should be aware that dry eye is a common side effect of the procedure. Most patients will notice some increased symptoms of dry eye in the 6-months following the procedure, and some may continue to experience dry eye symptoms for longer.
Being prone to dry eyes before your procedure increases the chances that you could experience dry eye after laser vision correction. It’s important that you’re aware of this possibility, and discuss a plan for managing possible dry eye symptoms after the procedure with your care team.
You probably have a pretty good idea of how stable your vision is, and how much you experience dry eye. But unless you’ve had a Lasik assessment in the past, you probably have no idea how thick or thin your corneas are.
Your cornea is the clear, front part of your eye. It plays an important role in helping your eyes to properly focus. During both Lasik and PRK, part of the cornea is reshaped to correct your vision. If your cornea isn’t thick enough after it’s been reshaped during the procedure, it increases your risk of complications after the surgery.
Corneal thickness is more critical to Lasik than PRK. During a bladeless Lasik procedure (like the ones we perform in our Moscow Lasik clinic) a precision laser creates a flap in the outer layer of the cornea that’s lifted back so that the laser can reshape the inner layers of the cornea. During PRK, the outer layer of the cornea is removed to let the laser reshape the inner layers of the cornea.
If you’re a borderline Lasik candidate because of the thickness of your corneas, there’s a chance you coulds still be a very good PRK candidate.
Unless you have some very fancy and expensive ophthalmology equipment sitting around the house, the only way to find out how thick or thin your corneas are, is to come in for a free Lasik consult.
The lower age limit for when you can have Lasik is whenever your vision stabilizes. This is most often around the age of 21, though it varies from person to person.
Because of the natural aging process, Lasik will give you your best chance at long-term uncorrected vision when you have it early on after your vision stabilizes. That’s why most patients who have laser vision correction are in their 20s and 30s.
There is no hard upper limit for when you’re “too old” to have Lasik, but there are a couple natural parts of the aging process to be aware of. Around the age of 40, many people start to need reading glasses. Lasik doesn’t correct for the condition that causes you to need reading glasses, called presbyopia. That said, it’s certainly possible to have laser vision correction at 40 or even later, you’ll just need to be aware that you may need reading glasses after the procedure. Some patients with presbyopia chose to have monovision laser eye surgery, where one eye is corrected for distance vision, and the other is corrected for reading.
The other age-related change that commonly affects your eligibility is the development of cataracts. By the time you’re 60, you have about a 15% change of developing cataracts. By the time you’re 80, that chance is close to 70%.
While Lasik doesn’t correct for cataracts, there are some very good options that can correct your vision alongside cataract surgery. There are cataract lens options that can correct for astigmatism, and others that can offer you clear vision at a range of distances. If you have cataracts, or are in an age group that makes you likely to develop cataracts soon, that might be a better vision correction option than Lasik.
And That’s Just the Beginning
There are a whole host of variables that could make you a good, or poor candidate for Lasik or PRK. These are really just the beginning. The best choice you can make is to come in for an assessment with a qualified Lasik surgeon. If you’re in the Moscow, Pullman, Lewiston or Clarkston area, book a free, no-obligation Lasik consult with us. We’ll give you our expert opinion, so you can decide if it’s the right procedure for you.