1. Is There an Age Limit for Laser Eye Surgery?
There is no official laser eye surgery age limit, as advised by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCO). Past the age of 18, whether or not you are suitable for laser eye surgery depends solely on whether or not your eyes are in a healthy condition.
As the thickness of your eye surface (cornea) decreases with age, the risks involved in surgery may be greater, so it is important to seek expert opinion on your personal eye health, and priorities. Tat said, there is no ideal age for laser eye surgery, but the risks can increase as you get older.
Is laser eye surgery suitable for over 50s? As as long as you are 18 or over and your eyes are in a healthy condition, then there is no upper age limit and you may be eligible for laser eye surgery. As always, an appointment with a consultant can give you an expert opinion on the condition of your eyes and tell you whether laser surgery is the right option for you.
☝ Find out if you’re suitable: You can check now whether you’re eligible by booking a free consultation with a specialist ophthalmologist at a top-rated laser eye surgery clinic near you using our clinic-finder tool here.
2. Am I Too Young for Laser Eye Surgery?
Laser eye surgery is officially available for most people from the age of 18 years old. In the UK, if you are younger than 18, you will automatically be unsuitable for laser eye surgery, as this is the country’s minimum age.
But the exact age restrictions can vary from country to country, so always check if you are considering seeking laser eye surgery abroad.
Why is there a minimum age for laser eye surgery? The minimum age limit is in place because it is important that a potential patient’s eyes have finished developing. In fact, some clinics have raised their minimum age for the procedure to 21 to ensure this is the case.
If you eyesight is still evolving, chances are you will have to wait until it stabilizes before you can get surgery. The last thing you want is to get surgery a second time in a few years because your vision wasn’t done degrading.
The evolution of your eye prescription will also play a role. In some circumstances, people aged 18 may still not be suitable if their prescription has not remained relatively stable for at least the last two years.
3. What is the Best Age for Laser Eye Surgery?
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCO) recommends between 25 and 40 as the best age to receive laser eye surgery. That’s because our eyes generally stop developing at 25, and you are less likely to require laser eye surgery more than once.
Is laser eye surgery worth it for over 40s? Of course, for those much older than 40, the return on investment will be lower, especially if you have already spent many years on glasses and contact lenses. Whatever age you choose, it’s important that your eye prescription has not changed in the past two years to ensure lasting results.
4. Which Type of Surgery Suits Which Age?
As a rule of thumb, surface-level laser eye surgery such as LASIK and LASIK are most appropriate for those under 40. This is because your eye surface is still relatively thick at this age, and the General Medical Council (GMC) considers it safe to reshape this layer.
For those over 40, most eye surgeons will recommend lens replacement surgery. This type of procedure will tend to cost more than LASIK because it requires quality artificial lenses. And since, they perform the complex task of your lenses for you, these hi-spec devices don’t come cheap.
This is a good option for people who can’t have laser eye surgery because of a high eye prescription or severe astigmatism. It’s also considered more suited for people over the age of 40, as it can also be used to correct cataracts.
Are there alternatives to laser eye surgery? In addition to glasses or contact lenses, another well known eye corrective eye surgery is lens surgery. Instead of directly modifying the cornea, this type of surgery aims to place artificial lenses in your eye, either by exchanging your natural lenses with a fully functional implant (as in cataract surgery), or without removing the natural lenses (as in implantable contact lens (ICL) surgery).
5. What Are the Risks of Laser Eye Surgery?
Like any type of surgery, laser eye surgery comes with its risks. Most of them are fairly minor side effects that only last a few weeks or months, but it’s important to consider each one before going ahead with the procedure. Of course, your ophthalmologist will run through all the possible outcomes with you.
Here are the typical risks you’ll face after undergoing laser eye surgery:
- Dry eyes: Around 50% of LASIK patients experience some level of dryness in their eyes after surgery, as the procedure irritates the eyes and causes a temporary reduction in tear production. The dryness usually passes once the eye has fully healed (after about six months), especially if treated with lubricating eye drops.
- Visual disturbances: Many people will experience a few minor problems with their vision after the operation, with typical issues include glare, halos, double vision, and reduced visibility in dim lighting. In most cases, you can expect these problems to pass within three to six months.
- Astigmatism: An ‘astigmatism’ is the long word for when your eye isn’t perfectly round. Nobody has completely spherical eyeballs, but eyes that are significantly misshapen cause issues such as blurry and double vision. An astigmatism can develop after laser eye surgery if the eye heals irregularly, or (in rare cases) if the laser was not properly centered on the eye. In these instances, you may need secondary treatment.
- Loss of vision: This is an extremely rare risk (less than 0.01%), and the possibility of any long-term eyesight damage directly caused by laser eye surgery reduces every year as technology improves. What’s more, if the treatment does cause a decrease in the patient’s clarity of vision, it’s usually something that can be amended with further surgery.
6. Which type of surgery is right for me?
- PRK (photorefractive keratectomy): PRK was the first type of laser eye surgery, and as such, is a bit less efficient. It usually takes patients longer to recover than with more modern procedures. Nonetheless, it is still performed by most surgeons, and can present some advantages over LASIK for some patients.
- LASIK (laser in situ keratomileusis): LASIK is the most performed laser eye surgery at the moment. It is best suited both for people plagued with shortsightedness and farsightedness. This procedure usually takes no longer than 15 minutes for both eyes, and the results are immediate. LASIK works by modifying the cornea to enable light to enter the eye and be properly focused onto the retina to achieve a crisper vision.
- LASEK (laser epithelial keratomileusis): LASEK is a variation of PRK and LASIK to correct any type of eye deficiency. Because of its less invasive procedure, it is a good alternative for people not suitable for LASIK. Just like for LASIK and PRK, LASEK also works by reshaping the cornea.
- Wavefront-Guided LASIK and LASEK: Wavefront eye correction is more precise, but more expensive. While traditional LASIK and PRK use your glasses prescription to determine how much cornea they need to cut, the wavefront procedure goes more in depth into what correction will give you the best vision.
It presents some advantages since it is personalised, but that doesn’t make LASIK and PRK results inadequate.
- ReLEx SMILE (Small Incision Lenticule Extraction): SMILE is a new procedure for people affected by shortsightedness. SMILE produces the same visual acuity as LASIK without the need to create a corneal flap. As a result, there may be less risk of dry eye symptoms post-surgery compared to LASIK.
Unfortunately, this procedure can only correct myopia and is not suitable for people with farsightedness and astigmatism.
☝ Ultimately, the easiest way to decide is to get a professional opinion. You can book a free consultation with a specialist ophthalmologist at a top-rated laser eye surgery clinic near you using our clinic-finder tool here.