Would I be a good candidate for LASIK?” This is a question I get daily. The answer seems like it should be pretty simple but there are quite a few things that go into determining whether or not LASIK is a procedure that would benefit you. Today I’m going to give a rundown of what we generally look for when assessing a patient for LASIK. First, let’s go over what LASIK is. It is a type of laser eye procedure that can treat blurred vision due to varying amounts of astigmatism, myopia, and hyperopia. LASIK is a fast procedure, generally about 10-15 minutes, and is painless. It definitely comes at a cost, but something to remember is that you will save in the long run on eyeglasses and contacts.
Here are 9 of the top criteria we look at when considering a patient for LASIK:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Eyes must be generally healthy
- Overall, the body must be healthy
- Your glasses and contact prescription are within a certain range
- Vision is stable
- You are not pregnant
- Your corneas are thick enough
- You are well-informed and 100% sure
- Dry eyes?
Be at least 18 years old
Technically, this is true. But I prefer my patients to wait until their mid-twenties before having LASIK. The prescription of your eyes can still change in your early twenties, especially if you are in college and doing a lot of studying or near work. If you get LASIK too early, there is the change that the prescription changes and you are back in contacts and glasses or needing another surgery which could be avoided by waiting just a little longer. I have had a few patients choose to get LASIK done at 18 and have ended up in glasses again so I take this one seriously.
Eyes must be generally healthy
If you have any active eye infection or dry eye, of course this needs to be addressed prior to LASIK. LASIK can make dry eye worse, so we want the eye to be in peak condition before going under the laser. Degenerative diseases of the eye like glaucoma, keratoconus, cataracts, and macular degeneration just to name a few are often contraindications to LASIK since vision can worsen over time.
Overall, the body must be healthy
LASIK, though a simple outpatient surgical procedure, is still surgery. Therefore, the body must be healthy enough to be able to fight off any infection and to heal properly. If you have a medical condition that makes you more susceptible to infection or slower to heal, LASIK is probably not a good idea. These types of medical conditions include autoimmune disorders, diabetes, chronic pain conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, and depression. If your primary care doctor considers your condition stable and symptoms are well managed, you may still be a candidate.
Your glasses and contact prescription are within a certain range
The FDA has approved to correct hyperopia up to +6.00, myopia up to -12.00, and astigmatism up to -6.00. Typically, if you fall in these parameters, you would be considered a candidate. Most prescriptions tend to be within these numbers.
Vision is stable
Surgeons will only perform LASIK if the prescription is stable over at least one year, preferably 18-24 months. This is the same reasoning as #1. If the prescription continues to worsen, you may end up needing glasses, contacts, or another surgery to fully correct vision again.
You are not pregnant
Pregnancy hormones can cause changes in vision that don’t stabilize until after the baby is born. This one is again like a few we have already discussed. Performing LASIK while vision is still changing is not a great idea.
Your corneas are thick enough
When LASIK is performed, the cornea is “shaved” by the laser. How much needs to be “shaved” depends on strength of the prescription. So, your corneas need to be thick enough so that when the proper amount of “shaving” is done, there is still enough cornea left so that it can remain healthy and functional. Average corneal thickness is between 540 and 560 microns. If you are much thinner than 540 microns, LASIK is probably not a good idea.
You are well-informed and 100% sure
There are potential risks and side effects with any procedure, LASIK included. While permanent risks are extremely low and it is a very safe procedure, there are still risks. Some examples of side effects include light sensitivity, halos or glare around lights especially at night, and dry eye. It is always best to confirm with your doctor if you are a good candidate for LASIK since they know your full history and eye health. The surgery center will also perform an evaluation with lots of measurements to ensure that the surgery is a success. If you are interested, remember to bring this up at your next eye exam!
Dry eyes used to be a reason some people couldn’t get LASIK. Nowadays, most eye doctors are okay with you getting LASIK if you have dry eyes. They will likely just recommend some artificial tears. Here is a link to my favorite artificial tears.
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