LASIK eye surgery has helped millions of people worldwide achieve life-changing visual freedom. Surgical procedures are used to correct a range of refractive errors such as nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism – but these conditions alone won’t necessarily qualify you for refractive surgery.

An eye surgery specialist must consider a number of factors when making the determination of whether a patient is a good candidate for LASIK. If you’re considering LASIK or one of the six modern surgical LASIK alternatives, you’ll first need to ensure you meet the main criteria.

Your eyes are generally healthy.

Because eye diseases and injuries can greatly affect eye surgery and healing, they usually must be resolved and managed to a stable point before you can have laser eye surgery. If, for example, you suffer from dry eye syndrome, an eye infection or cataracts, your vision correction surgeon will want to treat the condition either before or at the same time (as with cataracts) as your LASIK or vision correction procedure.

Your glasses or contacts prescription is within certain limits.

It is not unusual to see patients whose prescriptions are in the -8.25 to -24.00 range or greater. In the past, severe nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism would disqualify many prospective LASIK patients from permanent vision correction. Severe myopia, for example, could require the removal of too much corneal tissue, increasing the risk of complications and decreasing the predictability of results.

Today, there are more options available to more people, if you know where to look. There are only a handful of LASIK providers in the country (Brinton Vision in St. Louis is one of them) that offer LASIK plus all six modern LASIK alternatives. These proven treatments provide clear vision to people with high prescriptions, steep astigmatism, thick or thin corneas, or age-related vision loss that LASIK does not address.

Implantable collamer lenses (ICLs) are often the best treatment for high prescriptions.

Your eyesight is stable? Not a requirement anymore.

In the past, patients with changing prescriptions could not be corrected with LASIK or any vision correction procedures. Now with procedures such as refractive lens exchange (RLE) and others, the cause of the changing vision itself may be solved with the vision correction procedure we perform.

You are not pregnant or nursing.

Pregnancy hormones affect just about every system and part of the body, including the eyes. During pregnancy, temporary changes to the eye can make this a less-than-ideal time for a permanent corrective procedure.

Another reason laser eye surgery is not a good idea if you’re pregnant or nursing is that medications, such as steroids or antibiotics that are prescribed to promote healing after LASIK, may pose risks for the baby.

Your expectations are realistic.

For most LASIK patients, laser and lens implant surgeries are life-changing; they achieve enough improvement that they can read, watch TV, go to a game or practice a hobby without glasses or contacts. However, it’s wise to have realistic expectations about the degree of vision correction you can attain, the risks inherent with any surgery, and all the possible side effects and complications.

This is where a good relationship with your refractive surgeon comes into play. Make sure your doctor is willing and able to discuss all the potential risks and benefits with you regarding each surgery for which you qualify. Ensure that you get to talk to your surgeon at your initial exam and that he or she works full-time at the location you visit. Be prepared to ask the right questions, too:

  • Is LASIK surgery painful?
  • How will surgical pain be managed?
  • How long does it take to heal after LASIK?
  • Can you guarantee 20/20 vision? (Hint: Nothing is guaranteed in medicine.)
  • Will the results of my laser eye surgery last forever?
  • What are the most common side effects of LASIK?

Be sure to discuss other issues particular to your lifestyle with your prospective eye surgeon as well.

Am I old enough for laser eye surgery?

In the past, patients had to be a certain age before they could have a vision correction treatment. Now with modern technology, we are able to routinely correct patients in their later teenage years. Not everyone qualifies; having a thorough eye exam with an eye surgeon is the most important first step.

Am I too old for LASIK?

There is no upper age limit for laser vision correction, as long as your eyes are stable and healthy. However, the approach for the over-40 patient will differ from the approach for a young adult.

Once we hit our 40s, our near vision begins to deteriorate, meaning we need readers to see up close. Reading a phone, book, restaurant menu and a computer screen becomes difficult due to fuzzy near vision. This is called presbyopia.

LASIK surgery alternative options may include refractive lens exchange (RLE), which can correct both up close / reading vision as well as distance vision with both eyes working together. Your surgeon will discuss all your options with you to determine what, if any, procedure is right for you.

What if I don’t qualify for LASIK?

If you’ve been told in the past that you don’t qualify for LASIK, you don’t necessarily need to consider the matter closed. Many patients who come to Brinton Vision have been told they aren’t candidates for LASIK. Things can change. Surgical techniques and options may have changed and advanced since that ruling; the previous surgeon may simply not have offered the surgery for which you could qualify.

If you’ve been told you are not a candidate for LASIK eye surgery but are still interested in exploring options, consider getting a second opinion. As of the writing of this blog, Brinton Vision in St. Louis is the only full-time refractive surgery center in the state of Missouri that offers LASIK plus all six modern LASIK alternatives, meaning your odds are likely to be greater of finding a vision correction solution that works for you, even if you did not qualify in the past.

There’s only one way to find out for certain if you’re a candidate for LASIK: Schedule a Brinton Vision Ocular Analysis to see if you can get free of contacts and glasses for good. Call 314.375.2020.

See the next article in the LASIK Questions Series: How Long Does LASIK Surgery Take?