Is LASIK Right for Me? What Makes a Good LASIK Candidate
LASIK surgery is a popular corrective vision option for many people. It helps create clearer vision while negating the need for contacts or glasses. For virtually all patients, LASIK is a permanent solution that improves nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism.
Several factors help determine whether you’re a good candidate for LASIK surgery. We’ll explore the most important requirements for LASIK surgery below.
LASIK Candidate Requirements and Guidelines
Eye doctors use a few major requirements to determine good candidates for LASIK.
These stipulations include patients’ prescription details, general health, and corneal consistency.
Like many corrective vision procedures, LASIK requires patients to follow a variety of guidelines before, during, and after the procedure. Though strict, guidelines are meant to keep LASIK patients safe, and help to minimize any complications which could arise.
Your Prescription Details
Ideal LASIK candidates have a nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism prescription within a certain range.
Visual prescriptions, or degree of refractive error, are measured in diopters — the higher a patient’s diopter, the more corrective their prescription. LASIK providers can only operate on patients within a particular diopter spectrum. Ophthalmologists provide LASIK surgery for patients with 6.00 diopters of farsightedness and astigmatism, and up to -12 diopters of nearsightedness.
LASIK providers also prefer to work with patients who have stable vision prescriptions — prescriptions that have been unchanged for at least a year. This lowers the probability that a patient’s LASIK surgery could be compromised by future prescription changes. Visual prescriptions tend to become milder as patients reach ocular maturity.
Ocular Maturity and Health
Ophthalmologists will consider your overall eye health when considering candidates for LASIK surgery. This means they’ll assess your eyes — and structures like your cornea, iris, pupil, and lens — before clearing you for participation.
Ocular maturity — how developed your eyes are — is another factor that can influence your candidacy for LASIK. While there’s no set age, LASIK providers prefer to wait until patients’ eyes are fully developed, which can range from 19 to 40 years of age. The FDA approves LASIK for all patients ages 18 and older.
Individuals outside of this range are still widely eligible. With stable vision and an unchanged prescription, you can receive LASIK surgery well into your 50s and 60s.
LASIK success rates are largely dependent on patients’ ocular health. As patients age and ocular health changes, they might face additional risks associated with LASIK surgery. These risks can include undercorrected or overcorrected vision, light sensitivity, infection, light sensitivity, or other vision changes. Some patients might also experience abnormal healing of corneal flaps.
General health is also an important factor in determining whether LASIK is right for you. Certain health conditions like long-term diabetes, cataracts, and macular degeneration might disqualify patients from eligibility.
Autoimmune diseases and disorders can also complicate our eligibility for LASIK. For example, some autoimmune conditions can affect the healing process. In other cases, they create a greater risk for infection during the procedure itself.
Pregnant women should wait a few months before receiving LASIK, for a few reasons. Pregnancy-related hormonal changes can affect LASIK outcomes. Medications used during the procedure — including antibiotics and eye drops — can also create unnecessary infant health complications.
Corneal Shape and Thickness
The shape and consistency of your corneas could also play a role in determining your LASIK eligibility. Since LASIK peels back a layer of your corneas, eye doctors want to ensure that you’ll still have a sufficient corneal thickness for the procedure. If your corneas are naturally thin — and cannot safely be folded during the operation — eye doctors might suggest an alternative corrective vision option such as PRK or EVO ICL.
During your LASIK screening process, eye doctors often use a corneal pachymetry test to determine your corneal thickness. They will use a pachymetry probe to determine whether your eyes can support the corneal flap created during the LASIK procedure.
Eye doctors will also examine the shape of your corneas during your screening. In some cases, patients with corneal issues, such as cone-shaped corneas caused by Keratoconus, might be ineligible. Patients who have irregularly-shaped corneas astigmatism) may be candidates for LASIK.
Patients should be informed adequately during every stage of the LASIK evaluation process. Transparent communication provides patients with clarity and comfort, particularly if a LASIK alternative becomes a better option.
Part of this research process should involve a patient’s eligibility for LASIK. Explanations help provide insight and comfort for any patients who might be confused or ill-informed.
Even highly-qualified candidates might feel anxious before an operation. Keeping patients informed before an operation helps ease concerns and helps patients enjoy the full corrective vision process.
Proper client communication doesn’t end with LASIK surgery. Eye doctors should maintain regular communication with patients after an operation to answer questions and promote continual patient comfort. Informed clients will better understand any symptoms that might arise, or vision changes they might experience.
Who Is Not a Candidate for LASIK?
In some cases, a patient’s health or medical history might make them a less suitable candidate for LASIK. These conditions often affect general health, eye health, and corneal consistency.
While LASIK often leaves little to no scarring, candidates with existing eye scarring are often ineligible. Scars can complicate the procedure, and often prevent eye doctors from evenly removing corneal layers.
Certain medications can make patients ineligible. For example, retinoic acid — prescribed for conditions like acne — can cause changes in vision. These vision changes will limit the positive effects LASIK can have.
Sometimes, a patient can be considered temporarily ineligible. For example, patients with unstable vision should wait until their prescription normalizes. Once you’ve had the same vision prescription for over a year, LASIK could again become a suitable option.
Candidates also need to overcome corneal infections or diseases before they can become eligible.
Although there are several types of patients who may be ineligible for LASIK, there are alternative corrective vision procedures that may be a better fit for them. For example, patients with already-thin corneas might be better suited for a corrective vision procedure that removes no additional corneal tissue such as the EVO Visian ICL. Explore these and other options with your ophthalmologist to determine the best way to address vision challenges.
In addition, some patients are hesitant to receive LASIK because of the associated costs. While costs might represent a hurdle for some patients, discounts are often available. If you’re otherwise an ideal candidate, consult your eye doctor for more information on current LASIK specials.