I hear this question come up often in the exam room. Many patients are interested to hear about this amazing technology and how it might be able to impact their vision.
Refractive surgeries, including LASIK (Laser Assisted In-situ Keratomileusis) and PRK (Photorefractive Keratectomy) have come a long way and are by and large very safe, effective procedures. But they are not for everyone or every prescription.
Below find some helpful guidelines to see if you may be a good candidate for refractive surgery.
You might be a good candidate for LASIK if:
1) You are nearsighted (you can see well at near)
LASIK is extremely effective with low to moderate nearsighted prescriptions. Anything from about -1.00 to -8.00 (and in some cases even higher) are generally going to have a good outcome with LASIK.
2) You don't have a lot of Astigmatism
Astigmatism (not "the stigma" as some patients call it) has to do with the shape of the eye, and it is more difficult to correct than a spherical prescription. If you have a moderate to high amount of astigmatism in your prescription (above ~1.5 Diopters), refractive surgery is probably not for you.
3) You are between the ages of 25-35
Refractive errors (prescriptions) tend to stabilize around our early to mid twenties, and then begin to change again in our early 40's. So the sweet-spot for any refractive surgery tends to be between 25-35 years old. If you get LASIK surgery around this time of life, you will get the most "bang for your buck", meaning that the surgery should be effective for the longest period of time before needing some sort of corrective lenses again (nearly everyone needs reading glasses by their mid-forties!)
4) You have a "Type B" (laid-back) personality
I always tell patients who are considering refractive surgery to really take some time to think about what their expectations/goals are for the surgery. Many people wish to get rid of their glasses/contacts completely. Indeed, if all goes well, most LASIK/PRK patients will be able to say 'hasta-la-vista' to glasses/contacts after surgery. However, any refractive surgery does come with the risk of side effects which should always be taken into consideration.
The most common LASIK side effects include haloes/glare, especially at night, and dry eyes, both of which can affect your overall perception of clarity. Additionally, there is always a small margin of error with the surgery itself. You may come out of it with a (usually very minor) residual prescription. If you are an extremely detail-oriented person, these minor side effects might be more likely to bother you. But, if you tend to be more go-with-the-flow and just really want to get rid of glasses and contacts, you will probably do well with refractive surgery.
Please note that this is only meant as a general guideline. You may fall outside of the parameters listed above, yet still be successful with LASIK or PRK. Conversely, you may have said "yes" to each of the above items and still not be a candidate for a different reason. There are many other clinical measures which will definitively tell you whether you are a good candidate for refractive surgery (and which type of surgery might be best for you).
Most facilities that offer LASIK/PRK will provide a free comprehensive evaluation exam so that you know what your options are.
LASIK and PRK have been around for a long time now and are overall very safe and effective procedures. I know many patients who are very happy that they "went for it" and have enjoyed years of clear vision without glasses or contacts. If you are thinking about LASIK or PRK, I would strongly urge you to schedule an evaluation exam at a center near you to discover your options!
Join the conversation! Have you had LASIK/PRK surgery? What was your experience?