How long does LASIK eye surgery last?
If you’re considering getting corrective eye surgery such as LASIK, you may be wondering how long it will last. One of the most frequently asked questions about vision surgery is, “Does LASIK eye surgery last forever?” LASIK is a procedure that permanently reshapes the cornea. However, the most accurate answer to this question is somewhat more complex than just saying, “Yes, LASIK lasts forever.” Clarifying the facts about LASIK surgery is necessary to explain how long LASIK eye surgery lasts.
What is LASIK surgery?
“Despues de Lasik” licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Flickr by Oswaldo Rubio
LASIK surgery is a corrective vision procedure. LASIK corrects myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (far-sightedness), and astigmatism. An ophthalmologist performs LASIK with a laser, using it to reshape the cornea of the eye to improve the eye’s ability to focus. This allows the patient to see clearly and eliminates the need for glasses or contact lenses. LASIK is a permanent procedure because it physically reshapes the patient’s cornea to correct their vision.
A LASIK surgery procedure has two steps. In the first step, the doctor creates the cornea flap, then lifts it from the eye to gain access to the cornea. The second step uses an ultraviolet laser to reshape the eye’s cornea and correct the patient’s vision. The flap is then lowered back onto the eye’s surface, where it heals over the next several days. The entire procedure usually takes approximately 20 minutes per eye.
LASIK has a significantly high success rate, and many patients are happy to be able to leave glasses and contacts behind. According to the American Refractive Security Council, LASIK has a 96% patient satisfaction rate. The Council reports based on recent research that 99% of LASIK patients achieve better than 20/40 vision after their procedure.
How long does LASIK last?
LASIK is a permanent change to the eye’s cornea, so technically it lasts forever. The surgical procedure permanently corrects the patient’s vision. However, if you had myopia or hyperopia, that condition may continue to progress as you age. So your eyes may change as you age, but they’ll never go back to the same level of prescription before you had LASIK.
When considering investing in LASIK surgery, it’s important to compare it to the total annual cost of wearing glasses or contacts over a period of about 10 years. Like health care, proper eye care includes annual vision exams. When you have contacts or glasses, your prescription might change every few years as your eyes change, so you’ll occasionally have to update your prescription and your lenses. Contacts have the additional costs of cleaning solutions. LASIK will eliminate the need for glasses and contacts for most patients, so these annual expenses will decrease significantly.
What factors can affect how long LASIK lasts?
While the cornea reshaping from LASIK is permanent, the eye may undergo other changes that reduce the effectiveness of LASIK over time. Here are some of the factors that might affect how long LASIK lasts:
One significant factor that affects how long LASIK lasts is the age of the patient at the time of the surgery. Presbyopia is a term that refers to the eye lens’ gradual loss of its ability to focus on nearby objects. This is a very common condition, and generally starts around the age of 45 and worsens until around age 65. When presbyopia occurs, the person has a harder time focusing on objects up close and vision may be blurry when reading items at a previously normal reading distance.
Bifocal reading glasses are often used to correct presbyopia. So once you have LASIK, you still may need bifocals if presbyopia affects your vision later in life. Presbyopia is a condition of the eye lens losing its elasticity, not the cornea, which was permanently reshaped through LASIK. LASIK doesn’t affect presbyopia or make it happen sooner, so those who get this procedure done in their 20s may have more time to enjoy improved vision without needing corrective reading lenses.
Eye conditions such as cataracts may also affect how long LASIK lasts. The lenses of the eye start to change for the majority of people in their 40s. By age 60, some people start to develop cataracts, which is a clouding of the lens of the eye. While LASIK corrects refractive vision errors, it doesn’t improve the blurriness from cataracts. After cataract surgery, patients who need glasses to see clearly might be good candidates for LASIK to improve their vision. Since the eyes continue to change as people age, the individual’s vision may change in the years after they get LASIK.
Who are ideal candidates for LASIK eye surgery?
Not every individual is an ideal candidate for LASIK eye surgery. Your ophthalmologist will evaluate your eye’s condition and discuss your vision correction options to help determine the best solution for you. However, there are some factors that are necessary to be a LASIK candidate. You must be over the age of 18 and have a stable vision prescription for at least a year before surgery. LASIK candidates may not have any health issues or diseases of the eye, cornea, or retina. Finally, to qualify for LASIK you must have sufficient thickness of the cornea of your eye.
Visit your ophthalmologist for an exam and to discuss your permanent vision correction options. If you don’t qualify for LASIK, there are other corrective vision procedures that may be more appropriate for you. Some LASIK alternatives include PRK, LASEK, Visian ICL, and refractive lens exchange.LASIK is a popular choice for many individuals because it simplifies life by eliminating the need for glasses or contacts. Although your eyes may still change over time, LASIK is a permanent corrective vision solution. If you’re interested in learning more about whether LASIK is an option for you, contact our team at Northeastern Eye Institute for a consultation. Our friendly, professional staff will evaluate your eye condition and make a recommendation. Financing options may be available for your LASIK procedure, or you may use your Flex Spending Account (FSA) to pay for LASIK with pre-tax dollars.