Guidelines for Becoming a LASIK Candidate

Not everyone who needs glasses or contacts to see well enjoys wearing them, which is why – so far – more than 19 million people in the U.S. have had LASIK. The laser vision correction option is both safe and effective, which is why it is so popular. After 20 years of popularity, everyone has probably heard about LASIK. But most people who are interested in having LASIK eye surgery don’t know if they are a candidate for the procedure. In fact, they may not know LASIK isn’t recommended for everyone. If you are considering LASIK, you might be curious about what factors go into becoming a candidate.

This article originally appeared on the American Refractive Surgery Council’s Insight Blog. It spells out the guidelines surgeons take into account when making a recommendation to patients about LASIK.

If you need glasses or contacts to see well, it is likely you have imagined what life would be like to be able to see without them. You have probably thought about LASIK and wondered if you could be a good candidate for the laser vision correction procedure. It is an important question, because LASIK is an elective procedure, not a medical necessity. Patients have the option of glasses or contact lenses, which have their own associated risks. The individual patient has to weigh the inherent risks and benefits to decide how to handle their vision correction needs and if a laser vision correction procedure is right for them. An important deciding factor in choosing laser vision correction is the surgeon’s recommendation, which is based on whether or not a patient is a good candidate, because not everyone who wants a procedure should have it. In fact, on average between 15 and 20 percent of patients are considered ineligible for a procedure like LASIK. While every patient is unique, the following are general guidelines surgeons use in determining if a patient is a candidate for LASIK eye surgery:

Prescriptions within FDA-approved treatment parameters

  • up to +6.00 diopters of hyperopia,
  • up to 6 diopters of cylinder/astigmatism
  • up to -12.00 diopters of nearsightedness

Ocular maturity, prescription stability and eye health

  • LASIK is FDA-approved for people aged 18 and older who have achieved ocular maturity.
  • A stable prescription, meaning your prescription hasn’t changed for at least two consecutive years.
  • It is important for eyes to be generally healthy, free of diseases, injuries and infections.

General health

Certain health issues and medications may interfere with the healing process, making laser vision correction a poor choice. It is important patients share their complete health history with their surgeon to ensure a recommendation for candidacy based upon all available facts.

Corneal shape and thickness LASIK improves your vision by reshaping your cornea – the surface of the eye that helps focus light to create an image on the retina. If your cornea is too thin or misshapen, you may not get the results you want. During your initial consultation, your ophthalmologist will measure the thickness of the cornea to make sure there is enough tissue for the reshaping required to achieve the desired amount of correction.

Pupil size

Measuring your pupil size is an important part of your LASIK consultation. If your pupils are naturally large, you may be at increased risk of side effects following LASIK surgery, such as poor night vision or blurry vision. However, many patients with large pupils have excellent results after LASIK. Not everyone who has large pupils is automatically excluded from having LASIK eye surgery.

Realistic expectations

Understanding the limitations of laser vision correction is important to a satisfactory outcome. Patients with unrealistic or uninformed expectations for the procedure, recovery and results may not achieve their goals with an elective laser vision correction procedure like LASIK.

Knowing if you are a candidate for laser vision correction is necessary for even considering a procedure. The best way to determine if you are a candidate for LASIK is to work with a highly qualified surgeon and have a complete evaluation of your eyes and vision. Then both you and your surgeon will have the information needed to make the best recommendation for you. To learn more about what to expect from a LASIK consultation, read here.

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