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Are there age restrictions on laser eye surgery?


Millions of people around the world have undergone laser eye surgery to help improve their vision. Since it’s introduction in the early 1990s, laser eye surgery has gone from strength to strength. Today, there are two main forms of laser eye surgery – LASIK and ASLA. A recently introduced new form of laser eye surgery, called SMILE®, is now available in some clinics.

Throughout the decades, improvements in technology have enabled surgeons to overcome some issues that previously prevented them from performing surgery on certain patients – for example, those who have thinner than usual corneas, or those who have an unusually high degree of myopia (short-sightedness).

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 and hours each day reading, writing and alternating from 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 most likely ‘no’ – but 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 ultimate, long-lasting result they had hoped for. Certainly, they would initially experience a temporary improvement in their vision after a laser eye surgery procedure. Unfortunately, as their eyes continue to change, this improvement will most likely be lost, resulting in the need for further corrective surgery in the future. This is not only unsettling and frustrating, but can also become extremely expensive.

In order to combat this, most doctors recommend that their patients hold a stable prescription for at least two years before making the decision to undergo 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 in time when laser eye surgery may not be the most effective procedure for your eyes. This is usually only the case for people 50 years or over when the focus in your eyes changes due to normal age-related changes in the lens in the eye. This is when a condition called presbyopia begins to occur and your near focus is particularly affected. A comprehensive assessment with your ophthalmologist can determine if lens-based surgery or laser surgery is more appropriate.

It is important to remember that every generation faces its own unique issues and needs when it comes to vision. 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.

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SMILE® is a registered trademark of Carl Zeiss Meditec

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