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Find out if you’re a good candidate for LASIK eye surgery

lasik surgeon performing lasik surgery on a lasik candidate

Procedures as easily available and non-invasive as LASIK often lead people to believe that laser eye surgery is right for anyone. The truth is, like most procedures, there are certain characteristics that determine whether someone is a good candidate for LASIK.

For best results and to avoid potential complications, things like age, vision prescription and eye health, are considered by eye doctors beforehand.

Hoping you fit the bill? Following are some common questions that can help you determine if LASIK is right for you. 

What does a good LASIK eye surgery candidate look like?

Strong LASIK candidates have the following characteristics:

Healthy eyes

To be considered a good LASIK candidate, first and foremost, your eyes must be healthy. Any past injuries or underlying conditions like cataracts or glaucoma, can hurt your chances of LASIK eligibility. 

While chronic dry eyes can also disqualify you from LASIK, some eye doctors will try dry eye treatment before reevaluating to see if eye conditions improve.

Ideal eye structure

In addition to good eye health, your natural eye anatomy must meet certain standards for LASIK. Brian Boxer Wachler, MD, ophthalmologist and refractive surgeon at the Boxer Wachler Vision Institute, explains that pupil size and corneal thickness can make or break a candidate’s eligibility.

“Most refractive procedures improve visual acuity by reshaping the front surface of the eye (cornea),” says Dr. Boxer Wachler. “Performing laser eye surgery on a cornea that is too thin or has a surface that is extremely irregular and misshapen (for example, if you suffer from keratoconus) could compromise results and impair your vision.

Pupillary size also plays a factor in determining candidacy for LASIK. “If your pupils are naturally large, you could be at increased risk of side effects such as halos, glares and starbursts in low light, especially when driving at night.” 

For these reasons, the structure of a candidate’s eye is taken into consideration before undergoing LASIK.

Stable vision within certain prescription limits

Typically in teenagers and young adults, prescriptions change from year to year. Dr. Boxer Wachler suggests waiting until your vision has “settled” and remains the same prescription for more than 12 months before committing to LASIK. Your eye doctor will be able to tell you when your prescription has stabilized enough to consider corrective surgery. 

Even if your prescription has stabilized, if it falls beyond a specified limit, LASIK eye surgery may not be worth the risk.

“Results of LASIK surgery for the treatment of very high refractive errors are less predictable and may not be worth the cost and potential risks,” explains Dr. Boxer Wachler. 

If your prescriptions disqualifies you from having LASIK, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of options. 

“For severe refractive errors, another type of vision correction surgery may be a better option, such as phakic IOL implantable lenses or refractive lens exchange,” says Dr. Boxer Wachler.

 SEE RELATED: LASIK: Safety, success rates and benefits 

Who should not get LASIK?

The following traits are considered high risk for laser eye surgery:

Being under 21 years of age

While many surgeons may perform LASIK on patients as young as 18 years old, it’s often better to wait until age 21 or older for vision to stabilize. Vision changes a lot during this time, so getting LASIK prematurely could make results less effective or lasting.

Having poor health 

This goes for more than just your eyes. Being in poor overall health can affect your body’s ability to heal, which can make you a high-risk candidate for LASIK. 

“Basically, if your body has any trouble with healing, you will have a higher risk of an unsatisfactory LASIK surgery outcome,” says Dr. Boxer Wachler. Even if you have a condition that clears you for LASIK, specific treatments for the condition may be problematic.

“Certain medications can increase risks associated with laser eye surgery,” says Dr. Boxer Wachler. “For example, immunosuppressants may interfere with post-operative healing, and some medications may increase the chance and/or severity of dry eye syndrome.”

It’s best to discuss any underlying conditions or treatments during your LASIK consultation to find out if you’re eligible. 

Being pregnant

Individuals who are pregnant or nursing should postpone LASIK. Pregnancy can produce certain hormones that affect your vision, causing dry eyes and worsened eyesight during gestation. 

Additionally, medications that are typically prescribed after LASIK, like antibiotics or steroids, can put the baby at risk. 

Don’t count new parents out, though. Dr. Boxer Wachler says that after a few months, when hormones have leveled out and the baby is no longer nursing, LASIK can become an option again.

Am I a candidate for LASIK?

There are many things to consider when determining who is suitable and who is not suitable for laser eye surgery. The best way to know if you’re a good candidate is through a LASIK consultation.

During a consultation, the eye doctor will determine whether your eyes, health and lifestyle make you eligible for LASIK. If not, they can offer you some alternative options to get you the best vision possible.

LASIK consultations should be required by your eye surgeon before any procedure takes place. If a surgeon agrees to perform LASIK without a proper consultation, you should consider it a “red flag” and look elsewhere for care.

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