My son has been short-sighted for a few years now and is desperate to have laser eye surgery done so he won’t have to wear specs anymore. I don’t know if he’s the right age for surgery though. What is the age limit for laser eye surgery, if there is one?

 
 

Laser eye surgeons will not operate on patients below the age of 18. Some will recommend that refractive surgery is not undertaken before the patient is 21.

As a teenager’s eyes are still growing and changing, it is sensible to wait until their visual prescription remains stable – otherwise it may continue to change after surgery. Clinics and surgeons will look for a prescription that is stable between 1 and 2 years before performing laser eye surgery. Once this occurs, the younger they are, the longer they will benefit from the results of laser eye surgery.

Is There An Upper Age Limit?

As long as your eyes are health and suitable for treatment, there is no legal upper age limit for laser eye surgery. However, Optical Express and Optimax have a policy of not providing surgery to patients who are older than 70. There are three main reasons why those over 70 are not suitable for laser eye surgery. These are:

  • Presbyopia: When we are young, the eye’s lens easily changes from distant to close-up vision, but can become firm and less flexible in later life, which means you may find it harder to focus on objects and images closer to you and therefore may require reading glasses. The name, presbyopia literally means ‘old eye’ and the condition begins to become noticeable around the age of 40 with the effects aggravated between the ages of 60 to 80.
  • Cataracts: Cataracts are a common age related condition which occur when the lens of the eye becomes more opaque, preventing light reaching the back of the eye and resulting in blurred or cloudy vision. Laser eye surgery cannot cure cataracts and you will likely require surgery on the eye to remove and replace the affected lens.
  • Dry Eye: In older age, our tear ducts produce less fluid which can cause inflammation, itchiness or redness which is known as dry eye. As laser eye surgery penetrates the eye’s surface, this can have an impact on tear production and this is especially more prevalent in those over 70, which can cause discomfort for months or even years.

Patients within this age range or older may be recommended to receive an intraocular lens implant rather than laser eye surgery. This procedure involves making a small incision in the cornea, removing the eye’s natural lens and replacing it with a permanent artificial lens to correct vision. It takes around 20 minutes per eye to perform.

Since RLE surgery removes the clear lens and replaces it with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) it will prevent you from ever getting a cataract. It’s also possible to implant a IOL during a normal cataract surgery

Is There An Age Minimum?

Yes. You have to be at least 18 to be able to have laser eye surgery. As mentioned above this is because your prescription must be stable for 1 -2 years prior to surgery. Although 18 is the minimum age limit it is more important that you have a stable prescription and healthy eyes before surgery.

What Is the best Age For Laser Eye Surgery?

While there is no ‘best’ age for laser eye surgery, your vision is likely to remain stable between the ages of 21 and 40 which makes this the best period to consider surgery. For patients in their 50s and 60s, laser eye surgery is still safe and effective, but other conditions start to arise such as presbyopia and cataracts which may have an effect on your eligibility.

 

Age Changes in the eye
18 Earliest legal age you can be treated with laser eye surgery
21 Recommended age for treatment as eye growth has stablised
40 Onset of presbyopia and requirement for reading glasses
60 Increased likelihood of cataracts and presbyopia
70 Optimax and Optical Express no longer offer laser eye surgery


 

Generally, the main criteria that a surgeon will consider:

  • Are you over 21 years old?
  • Are your eyes healthy?
  • Has your eye prescription been stable for 2 years?
  • Can you see well with glasses or contact lenses?

If you can answer ‘yes’ to each of these points, then you are 95% likely to be suitable for treatment.

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