LASIK is a popular and effective surgical treatment to correct vision problems like astigmatism, nearsightedness, and farsightedness, but among young people who are under the age of 18, LASIK is not recommended.
The reasoning behind this is simple: your eyes are still changing until you reach somewhere around age 18, and LASIK is designed to be a one-time procedure that lasts many years. Having surgery before the eyes stop changing doesn’t make much sense because if your vision changes after surgery, the surgery may not be as effective over the years to come.
“If we do the procedure while the eyes are still changing, then any improvements are not likely to last a long time,” says Jay Bansal, an ophthalmologist and medical director of LaserVue Eye Center within the Pacific Vision Eye Institute in San Francisco. “Of course, the procedure will be effective for someone under 18, it’s just that their eyes are more likely to change after the corrective procedure.”
LASIK is an FDA approved procedure for people older than 18, but Bansal recommends patients wait until they are around age 21 and out of school before having LASIK or any form of corrective surgery. After this age, the eyes change more minimally and the benefits of LASIK are more likely to last longer.
Aside from waiting until patients reach a certain age, an ophthalmologist is likely to monitor a patient’s vision regularly, making note of any changes, to figure out when LASIK surgery is appropriate. If someone's glasses or contact lens prescription has changed within the past year, LASIK is not advised.
“Typically, ophthalmologists will continue to follow patients on a yearly basis and perform surgery once the glasses prescription has stabilized,” says Isaac Chocron, an ophthalmologist and refractive surgeon based in Miami.
Your ophthalmologist will also look at some other factors to see if you are a good candidate for LASIK. They will assess your overall eye health, and measure your refractive error, pupil size, and cornea.
For many people, LASIK surgery corrects refractive vision issues enough to reduce the need for glasses and contact lenses, and may even allow you to stop using them altogether.