In order to qualify for LASIK surgery, you must be at least 18 years old and in good health. (Learn More) You should not be pregnant or nursing while considering LASIK, as this can change your hormonal balance and the measured refraction of your eyes. Certain medications can interfere with LASIK surgery and should be considered before treatment can begin.(Learn More)
Your eyes must meet specific criteria for LASIK to be a viable option.(Learn More) Eye health is paramount in order to qualify for LASIK surgery, and any issues, such as a history of dry eyes, may impact recovery and should be considered before committing to surgical changes.(Learn More) Your eyes must be stable, and your prescription needs to have stayed the same for at least one to two years before LASIK can be performed. (Learn More)
LASIK is a permanent procedure. The type of correction necessary should be fully understood ahead of time. Be sure to consider the potential risk versus the reward, as certain professions or hobbies may make LASIK a less viable option.(Learn More)
LASIK is considered a safe procedure with a high success rate, as the American Refractive Surgery Council reports that the majority of people (90 percent) who undergo LASIK corrective surgery will end up with 20/20 vision or better. An ophthalmologist exam can help you determine if you are eligible for LASIK.
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Eye and Prescription Requirements for LASIK
LASIK surgery can help to correct nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), and astigmatism (when the cornea is shaped more oval than round). Most often, LASIK is done to correct myopia, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).
LASIK is typically not recommended for people with presbyopia (aging eyes wherein reading glasses are needed but distance sight is still an issue); however, this condition can be treated using LASIK through a procedure that creates "monovision" where one eye is corrected to see far and the other to see near. LASIK is most commonly performed on people between the ages of 20 and 40, but it can be done later in life too.
LASIK surgery works by reshaping the cornea to improve the way light is focused and reflected into your retina to correct blurry vision. While LASIK is not FDA-approved for anyone under the age of 18, it is also generally recommended to wait until at least your mid-20s to get the surgery as your eyes can continue to change and evolve up until then. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that myopia can continue to progress until your mid to late 20s, for example, and it is best to wait to get corrective surgery until your eyes are stable.
The American Refractive Surgery Council publishes that even if you have a high prescription, you may still be eligible and a good candidate for LASIK surgery. Your ophthalmologist can help you to determine if your eyes are a good fit for the surgery.
In order to qualify for LASIK, your eye prescription needs to have been stable for at least one year, though two years is ideal. This means that your eye prescription has stayed the same for long enough for the correct surgery determinations to be made.
Eye Conditions Impacting LASIK Eligibility
Conditions such as dry eye can be exacerbated by LASIK surgery and should be considered prior to determining if the procedure is optimal. Since LASIK surgery cuts away part of the cornea, it is important that your cornea is thick enough and provides enough material to work with. If the cornea is misshapen or too thin, LASIK may not be ideal.
The size of your pupils matters when considering LASIK surgery. Large pupils are often not good candidates for LASIK, as this can increase possible side effects after the surgery, such as blurry vision or poor night vision. Your ophthalmologist should measure the size of your pupils first. Large pupils do not always disqualify you from LASIK; in some cases, the surgery could still be a viable option.
You will need to be able to look continually at a fixed spot or object for at least a minute in order for the surgeons to be able to perform LASIK properly. Certain eye conditions like glaucoma and cataracts, as well as eye infections and injuries, can interfere with LASIK surgery and should be carefully considered prior to surgery.
LASIK Health Considerations
You will need to be in good enough health for surgery in order to be eligible for LASIK. Just like any surgery, LASIK can increase a person's risk for infection, so it is not recommended if you suffer from certain risk factors. If you suffer from any of the following, Mayo Clinic warns that LASIK may not be the right choice:
- Autoimmune diseases such as lupus or HIV/AIDS
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Chronic pain conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, or migraines
Certain medications, such as immunosuppressive drugs, can decrease the functions of your immune system and raise the risk factors of surgeries like LASIK.
Further Considerations Prior to Committing to LASIK
When considering a permanent corrective eye solution such as LASIK, it is imperative to consider the risks as well. There is the potential for conditions like dry eyes, temporary visual disturbances, and short-term side effects that may be difficult for some people to handle. The reward is often much greater than the possible risk, however.
Other considerations may include certain hobbies like contact sports or work-related issues. If you regularly participate in activities wherein blows to the face and or eyes are common (like martial arts, football, boxing, hockey, or wrestling) then you may want to consider alternatives to LASIK. It may also just mean that you will need to wait a bit longer to return to these activities after surgery to allow proper healing time. Generally, the eyes heal completely rather quickly, allowing you to get back to your normal life and daily activities. LASIK can actually minimize risks with some of these contact sports, as it often eliminates the need for glasses or contacts that can be broken or come dislodged during sports.
Some employers may not allow corrective eye surgery, as it is deemed elective. Even though the risks are negligible, some professions will not allow these types of procedures. Be sure to check with your employer prior to committing to permanent refractive eye correction to ensure that this is not a condition of employment.
Much of the time, insurance will not cover LASIK, so you will need to decide how to budget for the surgery and determine how to finance the procedure. There are many financing options open to make paying for the cost of LASIK corrective surgery feasible. In the long run, LASIK surgery can actually save you money on eyeglasses and contacts, so that is something to consider.
When Is LASIK Not for Me? (July 2018). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
What Is the LASIK Success Rate? (October 2017). American Refractive Surgery Council.
LASIK Eye Surgery. (October 2018). U.S. National Library of Medicine.
The Basics of LASIK Eye Surgery. (August 2012). Federal Trade Commission.
Does My Eyeglass Prescription Qualify for LASIK? (February 2017). American Refractive Surgery Council.
LASIK Surgery: Is It Right for You? (March 2017). Mayo Clinic.