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Are there age restrictions on laser eye surgery?

26/08/2017

Are there age restrictions on laser eye surgery?

Millions of people around the world have undergone laser eye surgery to help improve their vision. Today, there are three forms of laser eye surgery – LASIK, PRK (also known as ASLA) and SMILE®.

However, there are still some limitations when it comes to undergoing laser eye surgery, one of which is a patient’s age.

Can my teenager have laser eye surgery?

Teenagers are renowned for being very concerned and insecure when it comes to their appearance. For some, wearing glasses is an embarrassment or a hassle. For others who are highly involved in sport, particularly contact sports, glasses or contact lenses can be a real inconvenience.

Teenagers are also in the prime of their scholastic life, spending hours upon hours reading, writing and alternating between staring at a computer screen to looking to the front of the class. It’s all a bit challenging, even for teenagers with perfect vision.

With the technological leaps and bounds within the industry and the huge range of laser eye surgery options available today, many teenagers and their parents are asking if the procedure is now suitable for people under the age of 18? The answer is no – for a very good reason.

Most surgeons still advise you to wait until adulthood for surgery

Children’s eyes are constantly changing shape and adjusting as they grow – even in their teens, their eyes are still changing.

You see, an eye is exactly like many other organs in the body – it continues to grow and is not fully formed until the age of 18. In some cases, a person’s eyes may not fully develop until the age of 21.

The body usually stops growing at the end of puberty – however, that doesn’t happen at exactly the same time for everyone. While 18 is quoted as the usual age, there are some people who don’t reach what is physically considered the end of puberty until they reach 25!

So, it makes sense that if a child or teenager undergoes laser eye surgery prior to their eyes becoming fully developed, they may not be getting the optimal, long-lasting result they’d hoped for. Certainly, they would experience a temporary improvement in their vision after the procedure but, as their eyes continue to change, this improvement will most likely be lost, resulting in the need for further corrective surgery in the future.

That’s why most doctors recommend their patients have a stable prescription for at least 12 months before having laser eye surgery.

Can you be too old for laser eye surgery?

There is no specific upper age for laser. However, there also comes a point, typically in people around their mid-forties, when it may not be the most effective procedure for your eyes. At around this age, presbyopia often presents.

Presbyopia occurs when the natural lens in the eye starts to become more rigid and affects the eye’s ability to focus on near objects. This is when you might need to wear reading glasses.

A comprehensive assessment with your ophthalmologist can determine if lens-based surgery or laser surgery is more appropriate.

If you’re concerned about your eyes or want to discover what options are available to you at a particular stage in your life, make an appointment to speak to an ophthalmologist.

SMILE® is a registered trademark of Carl Zeiss Meditec

References

  1. Choice. A guide to laser eye surgery. NSW, 11 August 2020. Available at https://www.choice.com.au/health-and-body/optical-and-hearing/optical/articles/guide-to-laser-eye-surgery [Accessed 6 January 2021].
  2. Wilkinson JM, Cozine EW, Kahn AR. Refractive Eye Surgery: Helping Patients Make Informed Decisions About LASIK. Am Fam Physician 2017;95(10):637–44.
  3. Doane JF, Cauble JE, Rickstrew JJ, Tuckfield JQ. Small Incision Lenticule Extraction SMILE – The Future of Refractive Surgery is Here. Mo Med 2018;115(1):82–4.
  4. Somani SN, Moshirfar M, Patel BC. Photorefractive Keratectomy. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island, FL: StatPearls Publishing; 2020.

 

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The information on this page is general in nature. All medical and surgical procedures have potential benefits and risks. Consult your ophthalmologist for specific medical advice.

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