How old do you have to be to get laser eye surgery?
I’m glad you’re asking! It’s so exciting to think of living your life seeing your surroundings clearly without needing any glasses or contact lenses. It’s a burden to constantly have to worry about. Do you have enough contacts, enough solution, your glasses, your glasses case? You have to clean glasses, adjust glasses, buy glasses, reorder contacts. It hurts when you get something under your contact. It’s annoying when you smudge your glasses. It’s a wonderful thing to live life without glasses and contacts. So as soon as you can, you want to be free from all that. I don’t blame you; I had laser eye surgery, LASIK, in 1998 for my -8.00 glasses (that’s pretty darn nearsighted) and have loved the freedom it has allowed me. (Yes, that picture is of me!)
In this discussion, I’ll talk about:
- What’s the youngest age you can get LASIK?
- What’s the concern about LASIK after 40?
- What’s the LASIK age limit, or what is “LASIK age”?
- LASIK for seniors-how old for LASIK?
- Am I too old for LASIK
- Maximum age limit for LASIK eye surgery
What’s the youngest age you can get LASIK?
The FDA approved LASIK for people aged 18 and older. There are exceedingly rare cases where it is appropriate to perform LASIK on someone under age 18, but I never have. The reasons for LASIK eye surgery age to be under 18 are only if someone has a lazy eye due to different prescriptions in each eye that need to be balanced for the health of the patient.
Whenever an 18-year-old comes to us for a consultation, we perform a complete exam. We ensure that their prescription is stable. We request records from their optometrist to see the history of the prescription. This is very helpful data.
Most people believe that their prescription is not stable, even as adults. This is simply not backed up by data. Our eyes, like the rest of our body’s functions, are as stable as they will ever be (as far as the amount of glasses prescription) in our late teens to early twenties. That is why the FDA has approved laser eye surgery for anyone over the age of eighteen. At SharpeVision we do a free comprehensive exam on everyone who comes in so we can determine their candidacy regardless of age.
There are several stages our eyes go through as we mature:
- Ocular maturity in our late teens to early twenties.
- Presbyopia, the first stage of lens dysfunction at age 45-47 when the lens of our eyes gets less flexible.
- Cataract, the second stage of lens dysfunction at age 55-75 when the lens of our eyes get less transparent.
LASIK after age forty:
As we age, the lens of our eyes gets less flexible, even though we don’t realize that until we’re about age 45. This happens to everyone within a few year period in our late 40s. Many of my patients think this is hereditary, or that it won’t happen to them because their grandma didn’t need glasses until she was 70. Now, I obviously don’t know your grandmother’s eye history, but I can tell you, that’s not true. Or better said, “You can’t have it both ways forever.” That is, no one can have perfect distance vision and near vision after their mid to late 40s. So, if your grandma can read without glasses, then she’s nearsighted to some degree, and can take her glasses off to read, but then can’t see distant objects clearly. If she has perfect distance vision in both eyes, then she’ll need glasses to see near objects clearly. “Near” typically means with arm’s reach, or about three feet. It’s a continuous spectrum, but the closer something gets, the more focusing power it takes to see it. And our eyes unfortunately lose that flexibility to add more focusing power.
However, there is one exception! If you’re over age forty, our team will demonstrate monovision. Monovision is where we perform LASIK, PRK, or ICL, and we focus one eye for perfect distance vision, and the other eye for perfect near vision (we leave you slightly nearsighted so you don’t need any reading glasses or distance glasses. Ok, I just heard you quit reading. Please read on! Many people think they won’t like monovision, but in my experience, about 99% adapt quite well. We will show you what this looks like, demonstrate it, and generally make sure you know what you’re getting. The great thing is that if you don’t like it, we can reverse it. We do wait at least three months to give your eyes time to heal and your brain time to adapt. We end up reversing monovision about one percent of the time. And we perform monovision on the vast majority of our patients over age 45. But I have no problem at all doing both eyes for distance. I just want to make absolutely sure that you know what you’re getting when we do LASIK. The answer to the question “Am I too old for LASIK?” Maybe, but you’re not too old to have a procedure that will allow you freedom from wearing glasses.
That leads us to the inevitable next change in our eyes as we mature: Cataracts
There is no single point in time where you have cataracts. Like the loss of flexibility in our eyes which leads to demonstrable difficulty seeing either distant or near objects, the loss of clarity of our lens is gradual for most people. There are behaviors that can accelerate cataract development, such as smoking, sun exposure, obesity, and diabetes. But we all will get them if we live long enough. This is most commonly noticeable in our 60s, but may begin to be visible to your optometrist or ophthalmologist in your 50s. At some point, you will notice that there is more glare from oncoming headlights and have difficulty seeing road signs or backlit objects. These all can be symptoms of cataracts.
The good news is that cataracts are eminently treatable. Cataract surgery is performed over four million times a year in the United States. We have options that can allow you complete freedom from glasses. We replace your clouded lens with a clear artificial lens, so that you can see distant objects clearly. If you choose a multifocal lens, you’ll be able to see distant and near objects without glasses. How awesome is that? The answer is: pretty awesome! At SharpeVision, we’ll discuss all the options for you, and why we recommend what we do.
Now there’s also an in-between. If you’re having early symptoms of cataracts, and/or have a strong glasses prescription, we can do a refractive lens exchange, or RLE. This can be a wonderful option for those who are over age 45, because it can, and is the only way currently to restore the distant vision and near vision in both eyes. And then you won’t develop cataracts later on. The artificial lenses stay in your eyes the rest of your life. They don’t need to be changed like a hip or knee replacement might.
I hope this has been helpful to you. The take-home message: get a free comprehensive eye exam at SharpeVision to learn about your eyes, the laser eye surgery that is best for you, and to start living a life without “crutches for your eyes.” You can do it!
-Dr. Matthew Sharpe