Am I Too Old for LASIK Eye Surgery?

vision correction

There is only one age requirement for your candidacy for LASIK eye surgery in Kansas City—you have to be at least 18 years old. Eyes younger than that are still developing and are not yet stable enough to undergo refractive surgery. While there are no strict upper limits on age for LASIK, we do offer alternative procedures that may be more suitable for mature eyes (age 50+). The most important factor we consider is your overall eye health, which depends upon a variety of influences. The vision correction procedure we recommend will depend upon your individual eye anatomy along with what vision milestones you’ve reached.

If you’re concerned about whether you can be too old for LASIK, read on to discover more about vision correction surgery later in life. 

Does aging affect your vision?

Aging affects people’s eyes the same way it affects their skin and bones. There is not much you can do to prevent or slow down the process of eye aging. As your eyes age, the internal lens grows thicker and less flexible, which leads to the onset of presbyopia, which is the gradual loss of the eye’s ability to focus on near objects. Even people with 20/20* vision develop presbyopia as they age. Generally, that is when they turn to reading glasses.

It’s important to understand that your eye uses two lenses in order to see—the cornea is the lens on the front surface of your eye and there is an internal lens within the eye behind the iris and pupil. These lenses work together to provide vision. The internal lens is the one that grows more rigid as you age. Losing elasticity affects your ability to focus on near objects.

While you can’t control the fact that your eyes age, wearing sunglasses is a vital part of long term eye health. You will get the most out of your eyes if you protect them from the sun, just like wearing sunscreen on your skin.

Three stages of aging eyes

Nearly 20 percent of adults who are 40 or older already have some form of cataract, which is the final outcome of your eye’s natural aging process. The aging of the lens is referred to as Dysfunctional Lens Syndrome, a progressive condition occurring in three stages.

  • The first stage is what we discussed above—presbyopia caused by a loss of elasticity in your internal lens. The impact of these changes is relatively small. 
  • Throughout your late 40s and early 50s, your eyes undergo stage two changes. These include more haziness and dimmer colors in your vision. 
  • In your mid to late 50s, you’re approaching stage three changes. By this point, the internal lens is cloudy and yellowed. People need more light to read and it’s harder to see at night. Eventually, color perception changes and dims and you’ll find yourself with a cataract, which is another indicator of stage three. While the cataracts have been forming since stage one, most people don’t find them to be a major concern until they’re in their late 50s to early 60s.

Eyes can have other pathology anywhere along the line as they age. Whether you have always had 20/20 vision or if you’ve had LASIK in your 20s or 30s, your eyes will still age. People who undergo LASIK in adulthood to address nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism will still eventually develop presbyopia as LASIK only addresses the cornea, not the lens inside the eye. Enhancements or other vision correction procedures are available to treat presbyopia and other age-related vision conditions. 

*A note on 20/20 vision: Most people know that 20/20 is considered perfect vision but it isn’t always explained what those numbers mean. The human limit for eyesight is 20/8. Someone with 20/8 vision could stand 20 feet away from the object they’re observing and they would be able to see it as clearly as someone with 20/20 vision who is standing 8 feet away from the object. So if someone has 20/100 vision, they would see the details at 20 feet that someone with 20/20 vision would see at 100 feet. 

Do people need readers after LASIK?

While LASIK eye surgery has an incredible success rate for reducing dependence on glasses or contacts, the need for readers results from the natural aging process of the lens inside the eye. Everyone will experience presbyopia to varying degrees as they get older. Patients in the earliest stages of age-related vision changes (mid to late 40s) can benefit from what we refer to as Blended Vision LASIK, during which one eye is treated for distance and one eye is treated for near vision.  

For older adults in their 50s and up who want to enjoy a lifestyle free of readers or bifocals, we typically recommend one of the vision correction procedures that address the inner lens – Refractive Lens Exchange or Refractive Cataract Surgery.

LASIK vs Refractive Lens Exchange

LASIK, or Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis, uses a laser to reshape the cornea in order to correct common refractive errors such as farsightedness, nearsightedness, and astigmatism. At Durrie Vision we perform SBK Advanced LASIK. SBK stands for Sub-Bowman’s Keratomileusis, and it’s the most advanced form of laser vision correction surgery. We generally perform LASIK on patients who are in the age range of 18-55.

A refractive lens exchange is a great choice for patients who are 50 years or older who want to enjoy life without glasses, contacts, readers, or bifocals as well as stop the process of cataracts before they form. In a refractive lens exchange we replace your natural internal lens with an artificial lens designed to provide focusing power at a range of distances. Replacement is the only way you can stop the aging process of that internal lens and it will eliminate the need for cataract surgery in your 60s or 70s. Once the lens is replaced, it will stay clear and colorless while giving you focusing power for the rest of your life, so long as your eye stays healthy.

If you experience any of the following, you could be a good candidate for refractive lens exchange:

  • Difficulty reading without glasses or bifocals
  • Difficulty seeing nearby objects
  • Driving, especially at night, is more challenging
  • Diagnosis of early cataract formation
  • Severe farsightedness (hyperopia)
  • Changes in your glasses prescription

Can I get a refractive lens exchange in my 30s or 40s?

Your natural lens has a dynamic property that can’t be replicated—it zooms in and out as needed to see objects in varying distances. Only once you lose this natural flexibility will we perform a lens exchange. There may be rare cases where a lens replacement would be appropriate for younger adults, but this is only determined through diagnostics. If you’re curious as to whether you could benefit from a lens exchange, you can visit Durrie Vision for an assessment. 

Common age-related misconceptions about LASIK

LASIK is the only option for vision correction surgery

Perhaps the most common misconception about LASIK eye surgery is that it’s the only option for correcting your vision or relieving your dependence on glasses. There are actually a variety of procedures that we can perform based upon your vision needs. Often LASIK is the best choice, but older patients especially may benefit from something like a refractive lens exchange or refractive cataract surgery. 

LASIK wears off over time

This is another misconception patients bring to us when they’re voicing concerns about LASIK. As we mentioned above, the eye has two lenses—the cornea and the internal lens. LASIK provides a permanent change to the cornea. Through the reshaping of the cornea we are able to address things like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. 

LASIK does NOT affect the internal lens. Even if you have had LASIK, your eye will continue to age. The internal lens will continue to grow thicker and more rigid as you get older and it will lead to presbyopia, resulting in the need for reading glasses or additional treatment options.

So if you are someone who is in their 50s and worried over whether you’re too old to have LASIK eye surgery, come in for a free consultation to discuss your options. Through our in-depth Advanced Ocular Analysis we can determine at what stage your eye is and whether you would benefit from LASIK, refractive lens exchange, or any of our other procedures. 

Does Durrie Vision perform cataract surgery?

Yes, refractive cataract surgery is one of the most common eye procedures we perform at Durrie Vision. Refractive cataract surgery is ideal for treatment of cataracts, astigmatism, farsightedness, nearsightedness, and presbyopia. We generally perform cataract surgery on individuals who are in their late 50s and up. If you’re younger than that, cataracts likely haven’t formed completely and we would perform a refractive lens exchange instead, eliminating the need for cataract surgery in the future.

The procedure that’s best for your vision will be determined during our Advanced Ocular Analysis, which goes above and beyond a traditional LASIK screening. Whether you’re coming to us in your 20s or your 60s, our priority is your long-term visual outcome. 

Schedule a free consultation today

At Durrie Vision, you are our top priority every step of the way. We give truly individualized options to any patient who comes to us to enhance their vision. We will make a fair assessment that puts your long term best interests in mind. Because we have the technological options, you can trust you’re getting a straight answer rather than being pushed toward a certain procedure. Find out if you’re a candidate for refractive lens exchange or LASIK.

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