Lasik and Other Vision-Correcting Surgeries: Health Information for Older People

I've worn glasses for 20 years but I'd love to stop. I've heard about Lasik from friends, and I've seen ads that promise 20/20 vision. What do I need to know?

Millions of people have had Lasik eye surgery to correct their vision, and studies show that most people are satisfied with their results. Still, Lasik has risks and possible side effects that can be serious.

Lasik and other vision-correcting surgeries reshape your cornea to refocus light entering your eye. There’s no upper age-limit for the surgery, though an age-related eye condition like cataracts can make you a bad candidate for Lasik. But so can factors not tied to your age, like thin corneas. Bad candidates of all ages are much more likely to experience side effects from Lasik, including chronically dry eyes and visual distortions, like double vision or seeing halos around lights. Complications can be temporary, but sometimes they’re permanent and debilitating. For more on what you should know about Lasik, visit the FDA website and talk to your ophthalmologist.

As for promises of 20/20 vision — no doctor can make that guarantee. Besides, 20/20 vision still can be flawed vision. And even when your distance vision is corrected, you’re likely to need reading glasses when you’re over 45. Lasik is just one of several procedures that could improve your vision, and it may not be the best choice for you. Your doctor can help you determine which procedure, if any, is right for you. For an overview, visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s International Society of Refractive Surgery website. Most insurance companies won’t cover these procedures.

Cataract Surgery

My vision is blurry, which makes it hard for me to drive after dark. My doctor says I have cataracts and removing them should fix the problem. I saw an ad for a medical center that says it does risk-free cataract surgery and guarantees clear vision. Should I believe it?

Cataracts, a clouding of the lenses that can lead to blurry vision, are a normal part of aging. Usually, they develop over time and don’t have to be dealt with until they interfere with your normal activities. If your doctor says you have a cataract, ask how much you’re likely to gain from cataract surgery to replace the cloudy lens and what your risks are. Cataract surgery, done by ophthalmologists in hospitals or eye clinics, is one of the most commonly performed surgeries. Serious complications are rare, but every surgery has risks. To learn more, visit the National Eye Institute.

 For advice on how to find an eye care professional, visit the National Eye Institute.

Who Cares About Lasik and Other Vision-Correcting Surgeries?

FDA
1-888-463-6332

FTC
1-877-382-4357
(TTY: 1-866-653-4261)

International Society of Refractive Surgery

American Academy of Ophthalmology
1-877-887-6327

Eye Surgery Education Council

Cataracts

National Eye Institute