Can You Get Cataract Surgery After Having LASIK?

For people with eye disorders who have spent their lives squinting at signs, misplacing glasses, or feeling mistreated, vision surgery can be life-changing. This is why LASIK surgery has been increasingly popular over the last decade — the procedure can correct many common vision issues that require patients to rely on glasses and contact lenses. 

However, as LASIK recipients get older and start to experience eye problems associated with aging, like cataracts, they wonder what kinds of treatments are available for them.

LASIK (Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis) and cataract surgery have some similarities, but in truth, these are vastly different procedures. Cataract surgery can happen after LASIK, but there are some important details to consider. 

It’s important to understand the difference between them, so you can make the right short-term and long-term decisions for your eye health. 

What Is the Difference Between LASIK and Cataract Surgery?

The differences between LASIK and cataract surgery may seem subtle at first, but they are very distinct. First, is the actual procedure. LASIK reshapes the cornea, the outer clear window of the eye, while cataract surgery treats the lens inside the eye. To treat cataracts, doctors replace the cloudy natural lens with a clear, artificial intraocular lens (IOL).

The actual purpose behind each surgery is also different. According to the FDA, cataract surgery primarily fixes cataracts, while LASIK can improve a variety of vision impairments, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.

Another difference is the timing. Surgeons focus on both eyes in the same session during LASIK surgery. With cataract surgery, however, doctors work on the right and left eyes on different days. 

Financially speaking, both procedures may differ depending on your insurance. For example,  LASIK is considered elective and not typically covered by insurance, but cataract surgery is considered medically necessary and is therefore typically by insurance.

Advanced IOL Options for Post-LASIK Cataract Patients

Patients who have cataract surgery have a choice of different types of artificial intraocular lenses (IOLs). Standard, monofocal lenses can correct vision at a single distance. Advanced IOL options, sometimes called premium lenses or lifestyle lenses, offer a variety of vision correction options, including multifocal vision correction that can reduce dependence on reading glasses. Patients who previously had LASIK have typically become accustomed to visual independence and may be more inclined to seek out high-quality vision correction when they need cataract surgery. Advanced IOL options give patients the best chance at eliminating the need for glasses after cataract surgery.

When to Think About Post-LASIK Cataract Surgery

For post-LASIK patients, regular examinations for eye disorders can help determine if additional procedures are needed, including cataract surgery. If you are undergoing cataract evaluation and have had LASIK surgery, be sure to talk to your doctor about:

While there are no time limitations for having cataract surgery after LASIK, the typical age of a LASIK patient is under 40 and the typical age of a cataract patient is over 60, so it is rare to have cataract surgery shortly after LASIK surgery. 

Things to Think About When Considering Cataract Surgery After LASIK

There are several important factors to weigh when considering post-LASIK cataract surgery —  from deciding which IOL is right for you to researching the side effects you may experience. All of these factors could impact your recovery time and overall quality of life after surgery. 

Ocular anatomy

The structure of your eyes — your ocular anatomy — will change slightly after LASIK. If you have had LASIK surgery, then your cataract surgeon should be mindful of how the corneal incision is created. It is important for your cataract surgeon to take care with incision placement in order to avoid unnecessary complications.

Vision Quality

Several factors, such as age-related eye diseases, can impact your vision after you have successful cataract surgery after LASIK. Detecting eye diseases early is important in order to maintain your vision and eye health. 

Make sure to stay on top of eye health issues like your visual acuity (how clearly you can see) and eye alignment (where each eye looks when you focus on one spot). Vision quality is particularly important for post-LASIK cataract surgery because it helps your doctor understand the right methods and technology for your unique situation.

General Health Concerns

Your overall health and general health concerns can play a role in your decision to have post-LASIK cataract surgery. Cataract surgery is the only way to improve vision that has been impaired by cataracts, but certain health factors could cause your surgeon to delay your procedure. Some health concerns that could impact your cataract surgery include:

Any surgery is riskier when there are pre-existing health concerns. Working toward improving any of your health conditions before surgery can help enhance both your results and recovery. 

Side Effects

While most side effects from LASIK or cataract surgery are temporary or rare, be prepared to possibly experience:

Every person experiences the side effects of cataract surgery differently. Some people heal quickly and easily, while others may encounter infection, discomfort, bleeding, redness, mild bruising, slight irritation, and initial blurriness. Most of these effects rarely lead to major complications, but medication and follow-up appointments can help identify and address any side effects that cause extra discomfort or last too long.

Does LASIK Cause Cataracts?

Research and medical professionals agree that LASIK does not cause cataracts. Cataracts are part of the aging process and will develop over time after having LASIK surgery, but they do not occur because of the surgery. Many people live a majority of their lives with healthy eyes but develop cataracts when they age — whether or not you have had LASIK is not a pre-indication of developing cataracts. 

While they have similarities, LASIK eye surgery and cataract surgery are two distinct, individual procedures that do not have any influence on one another. Developing cataracts after LASIK surgery can be a perfectly normal sign of aging. That’s why you must understand how one could impact the other before you decide what steps to take to protect your long-term eye health.