April 20, 2007 -- More and more baby boomers are having laser eye surgery to free themselves from contacts, bifocals, and even reading glasses. Now new research finds that most can expect good outcomes when they have realistic expectations.
"Patients 40 and over present special challenges, and they need to understand that going in," laser surgeon Jose de la Cruz Napoli, MD, tells WebMD. "But we have [surgical] options to give them full vision correction, so they can see well near and far away."
Along with colleagues from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Harvard Medical School, de la Cruz Napoli examined outcomes from 710 eyes which had laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) surgeries performed on 424 patients between the ages of 40 and 69.
Following the surgeries, 20/30 vision (a person with 20/30 vision can see something clearly at 20 feet what a person with 20/20 person can see at 30 feet.) was restored in 86% to 100% of eyes corrected for nearsightedness and 80% to 84% of eyes corrected for farsightedness. Patients in their 60s were just as likely to have good outcomes as those in their 40s and 50s. Learn more about the best age to get LASIK.
Monovision Best for Some
These days, boomers are increasingly opting for laser surgery that compensates for near vision, or presbyopia, by correcting one eye for distance and the other for near vision.
Known as monovision, the surgery is an excellent option for some patients, but not for others. Neither distant nor near vision is as good with monovision as with other types of vision correction, so it is not appropriate for people who require sharp distance vision or precise near vision.
Roughly half the patients in the study had monovision, and the success and satisfaction rates were similar to that experienced by patients who had traditional LASIK, de la Cruz Napoli says.
"The good thing about monovision is that patients can try it and if they can't adapt or don't like it they can come back for full eye correction," he says.
People considering monovision should first try contact lenses that correct for both near and distant vision to see if they like it.
They should also discuss their occupation, hobbies, and other lifestyle issues with their doctor to help determine if the procedure is right for them, ophthalmologist and eye surgeon Wayne Bizer, DO, tells WebMD.
"One size doesn't fit all for people over 40," he says. "I had a man in his mid-50s come to me. He'd been saving his money up for monovision. When he told me he operated a crane for a living, I told him I couldn't do it. He needed explicit depth perception to do his job, so monovision wasn't a good fit for him."
Boston eye surgeon Dimitri Azar, MD, performed all the surgeries reviewed in the new study, published in the latest online issue of the journal Opthalmology.
Azar, de la Cruz Napoli, and colleagues concluded that laser eye surgery is a safe and effective option for many people in their 40s, 50s and 60s.
"The outcomes for these patients are similar to younger people who have LASIK, but they also have more vision issues related to their age," de la Cruz Napoli says. "As long as patients know what to expect, they tend to be happy with the surgery."