If you’re tired of wearing glasses or contacts, you've likely heard of LASIK surgery. LASIK (laser assisted in-situ keratomileusis) is a popular, time-tested laser vision correction procedure for patients who wish to enjoy better vision.
Over 10 million Americans have received this eye surgery since its approval in 1999.
As LASIK's popularity keeps growing, patients often wonder what is the ideal age to have the procedure done.
The good news is, many people of different ages can enjoy the benefits of LASIK. However, patients should keep some considerations in mind about their eligibility and the surgery itself.
LASIK is a laser-assisted refractive surgery that dramatically improves vision and eliminates refractive errors such as near-sightedness, far-sightedness, and astigmatism. It is popular amongst patients with vision problems who no longer wish to wear glasses or contact lenses.
The corrective procedure is safe and effective, with a track record of reliable results. After LASIK surgery:
98.5% of people are happy with their outcome.
94% end up with 20/20 vision or better after 3 months.
100% were 20/40 or better after 3 months.
LASIK corrects refractive errors in the eye. Refractive errors are caused by imperfections in the shape, smoothness, or transparency of the cornea, making it difficult for the eye to bend light and focus on objects properly.
During LASIK surgery, an eye doctor uses a laser to reshape the cornea and smooth irregularities on the eye's surface, correcting those natural errors or flaws. Following the procedure, most patients will enjoy crisp clear vision without the need for glasses or contact lenses.
The procedure itself is fast and effective. Most LASIK surgeries take 15 to 20 minutes to complete, and a patient can expect quick results the same day.
One of the most common questions eye doctors receive is: how old do you have to be to get LASIK?
The FDA-approved age for LASIK is 18. Those under 18 cannot undergo LASIK or other laser eye surgeries.
Children and teenagers don't qualify as candidates because their vision has yet to stabilize. Stable vision is one of the most important requirements for the procedure, and eyesight tends to change until the early twenties.
Aside from age and stable vision, patients with the following may be turned away:
The minimum age for LASIK is 18. However, the American Academy of Ophthalmology says the ideal patient should be over 21. Others suggest the best LASIK age is closer to the mid-twenties.
The stability of a candidate's vision is key. Eye doctors require patients to have the same eyeglass prescription for at least a year to be considered a good candidate for the surgery. Prospective candidates in early adulthood should consult an ophthalmologist to see if their vision has matured enough to receive treatment.
In addition to age, good health and an active lifestyle are important factors for a good LASIK patient.
Asking yourself how old you have to be to get LASIK is one thing, but the best age to get the surgery is a different matter.
Qualified patients in their early 20s can receive the procedure, but most eye doctors consider the ideal LASIK age range to be between 21-40.
By this time, a patient's vision has stabilized, plus they are young enough to enjoy the benefits of the surgery before experiencing presbyopia and other age-related shifts in their vision.
While there is no age limit for LASIK, patients over 40 should keep a few details in mind.
After 40, patients usually experience age-related vision changes. The two most common are presbyopia and cataracts.
Presbyopia is the gradual loss of vision that happens with age. As we grow older, the natural lens in the eye hardens and it becomes more difficult to focus on close objects. This is why many adults need reading glasses.
Patients over 40 are also at risk for cataracts. A cataract occurs when the eye's natural lens clouds up. The cloudy lens allows in less light, which causes vision to dim and blur.
Because surgeons perform LASIK on the eye's surface, they cannot prevent lens-related issues common in older patients, such as presbyopia and visually significant cataracts.
In some cases, eye doctors can utilize a strategy called monovision where one eye is set to focus clearly at distance and the other for near focus up close. The brain learns to adapt and focus clearly on both distant and close-up objects. Your ophthalmologist needs to determine if this is the best approach for your vision correction.
Patients over 40 who don’t qualify for LASIK may consider the refractive lens exchange (RLE) solution as a better fit for their vision problems.
In RLE, an ophthalmologist removes a patient's aging lens and replaces it with a synthetic intraocular lens (IOL). Like LASIK, it corrects myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism.
The added bonus is, it can also eliminate age-related presbyopia (need for reading glasses) and prevent cataracts, because the correction happens in the lens itself rather than at the surface of the eye. For this reason, RLE is considered the most comprehensive refractive surgery for people over 40.
So strictly speaking, the answer to the original question, how old do you need to be to get LASIK? Is 18. However, eye specialists agree the ideal age range for the procedure is between 21 and 40.
Patients under 21 have yet to develop the stable vision required for the surgery, while those over 40 should consider alternative treatments such as refractive lens exchange that prevent age-related vision changes.
Learn how much does LASIK eye surgery costs, and if it's covered by insurance.
What is Refractive Lens Exchange and is it a viable alternative to LASIK? Learn more about this procedure and if it’s right for you.