LASIK, which stands for laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis, is a type of eye surgery that typically improves your vision to 20/25, meaning an object 20 feet away will look as clear as an object 25 feet away for someone with normal vision.
This is fine for most activities, but many people will eventually need glasses for driving at night or reading. Serious complications are rare, and most people who have LASIK are happy with the results.
If you're over 60, you may wonder if you're still a candidate for LASIK surgery. Before you decide if LASIK is right for you, learn about the benefits and risks of having LASIK surgery after the age of 60.
What Is LASIK?
LASIK is a type of refractive eye surgery. It's the most common, and the term often refers to all types of laser eye surgery.
With LASIK surgery, your eye surgeon will use a laser to reshape the cornea—the transparent dome-shaped tissue at the front of your eye—so that light rays focus in the right place.
Ideally, images focus on the retina in the back of your eye. If you have nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism, the images focus somewhere else. This results in blurry vision, which LASIK aims to correct.
Nearsightedness. This is when you see nearby objects clearly but distant objects are blurry. This happens when your eyeball is slightly longer than usual, or your cornea curves too sharply. Light rays focus in front of the retina, and distant objects become blurry.
Farsightedness. This is when you see distant objects clearly but nearby objects are blurry. This happens when your eyeball is shorter than average, or your cornea is too flat. Light rays focus behind the retina and nearby objects become blurry.
Astigmatism. This is when your overall vision is blurry. This happens when the cornea curves or flattens unevenly. This interferes with the focus of near and distant objects.
Can I Have LASIK After 60?
While the minimum age for LASIK surgery is 18, there is no age limit as long as your eyes are healthy and your vision is stable. A review of 424 LASIK patients in their 40s through 60s showed that outcomes were generally similar regardless of age, but older patients were slightly more likely to need a repeat treatment or enhancements.
However, there are some age-related issues that could mean LASIK is not the right choice for you. These include:
Cataracts. Most people have some clouding in the lens of their eye by the age of 60. About half of people 60 to 74 years old and up to 70% of people ages 75 and older have cataracts.
LASIK surgery doesn't prevent or slow the development of cataracts, so if you develop a cataract after LASIK you will have to have another surgery. If you have cataracts, your surgeon may recommend you treat your vision through cataract surgery, rather than LASIK.
Dry eye syndrome. As you age, your eyes produce fewer tears, which can cause an itching, burning, or scratching sensation. If you have severe dry eye syndrome, you shouldn't have LASIK, as the surgery cuts the nerves involved in producing tears.
Glaucoma. The cause of glaucoma increased fluid pressure in the eye pressing on the optic nerve. Without treatment, it can cause blindness. Since it doesn't have any symptoms in the early stages, ophthalmologists screen for it by checking the pressure in your eye.
LASIK surgery thins the cornea, which can make it harder to diagnose early glaucoma. If you have moderate or severe glaucoma, you shouldn't have LASIK, because it will make your condition harder to monitor.
Presbyopia. The lens of your eye naturally becomes more rigid in your 40s and 50s. This makes it harder to focus on nearby objects. LASIK doesn't prevent this, so you will probably still need reading glasses.
One way surgeons address this is by correcting one eye for close vision and one eye for distant vision. Some people don't tolerate this well. Your doctor will have you wear contact lenses that simulate the surgery to see if you can tolerate it.
There are also other issues that may affect your decision to have LASIK. You should discuss these issues with your surgeon:
- Vision stability. Your prescription should be stable for at least one year before surgery.
- Eye injuries. Tell your doctor about any injuries or infections.
- General health. Let your surgeon know about any medical conditions you may have, including diabetes or autoimmune disorders.
You will also have to stop wearing contact lenses for a set amount of time before surgery, because they affect the shape of your cornea.
Risks of LASIK After 60
Like all surgeries, LASIK surgery has risks. While serious complications are rare, there are some side effects that may be temporary or permanent, including:
- Discomfort or pain
- Blurry or hazy vision
- Difficulty driving at night or with night vision
- Small red or pink patches in the whites of the eye
- Light sensitivity
- Dry eyes, including scratchiness, itchiness, and dryness
- Halos, glares, or starbursts around lights
For most people, these side effects are temporary.
LASIK has been studied extensively for over 20 years. On average, 95% of people are satisfied with the outcome of their surgery.