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Can LASIK Help Cure the Legally Blind?

By WebMD Connect to Care Staff
Medically Reviewed by Eric Donnenfeld, MD, and member of the Refractive Surgery Council editorial advisory board on December 07, 2020
The short answer is no, but the definition of legally blind must be understood. In order to be eligible for LASIK, the sharpness of your vision must fall within a certain range.

LASIK eye surgery can improve mild and moderate vision problems, and often provides better vision than glasses, but its effectiveness is less clear as a treatment for severe problems like legal blindness.

Who is considered legally blind?

You are considered legally blind if you have at least one of these two eye conditions even when wearing the best corrective lenses, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH):

  • Visual acuity of 20/200 or worse in the better eye with corrective lenses, meaning a person with 20/200 vision needs to be at 20 feet to see what someone with normal vision can see at 200 feet.
  • Visual field is restricted to 20 degrees diameter or less in the better eye. This is also known as tunnel vision.
  • On the other hand, many patients consider themselves “legally blind” if they see worse than 20/200 without glasses.  Very often these patients are good candidates and can see 20/20 without glasses following LASIK.

Who is eligible for LASIK eye surgery?

LASIK is a form of laser correction for eyes with refractive errors—typically blurred vision. By reshaping the cornea, LASIK can help if you are nearsighted (myopic), farsighted (hyperopic), or have an astigmatism. But you may only be a candidate for this elective surgery if your sharpness of vision falls within a certain range, which disqualifies most who are legally blind.

Refractive error is typically corrected by your lens prescription, measured in diopters. According to the American Refractive Surgery Council, “advanced laser vision correction profiles have the potential to treat up to +6.00 diopters of hyperopia, astigmatism up to +6.00 diopters and nearsightedness up to -12.00 diopters, depending on the laser chosen for the treatment.”

A mild or moderate shortcoming in sharpness of vision falls within this range, but those with more severe vision difficulties might not find success in LASIK. You should consult an ophthalmologist if you think you might benefit from LASIK.

Interested in LASIK? Learn more about advantages, side effects, and preparation HERE.