Are you a LASIK candidate?
Most sources claim eyeglasses were invented in thirteenth-century Italy by an unknown inventor. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), they were worn mainly by monks and scholars. Once the printing press was invented in the fifteenth century and printed material became widely available, the popularity of eyeglasses soared. Hard contact lenses came along in the 1930s, and soft contacts in the 1960s.
Modern surgery for vision correction started in the 1970s with radial keratotomy, and in the late 1990s, laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) became approved.
LASIK can be used to treat nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. In this procedure, a laser is used to reshape the cornea (the outermost layer of the eye). This reshaping improves the way the eye focuses light rays onto the retina.
Can seniors have LASIK?
“There is no upper age limit for LASIK,” according to Robert K. Maloney, M.D., M.A., director of the Maloney Vision Institute in Los Angeles, Calif. “I performed LASIK on my mother and she is in her 70s.”
According to the authors of a University of Illinois at Chicago study, there is an increased demand for LASIK in the senior population. These same researchers set out to examine the effectiveness of laser eye surgery in patients who were up to 69 years old. They found that LASIK was in fact safe and effective for nearsighted and farsighted study participants.
“If someone is contemplating laser surgery, it’s best to get as much information as possible about it,” says Dimitri Cefalu, M.D., medical director at Seabrook, an Erickson Living community in Tinton Falls, N.J. “There have certainly been improvements in the procedure, but the success rate is not as high as it is for younger adults.”
Talk to your doctors
“Older candidates for LASIK surgery need to be chosen carefully,” Cefalu says. “Medical conditions such as glaucoma, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis need to be well-controlled. Current research indicates that chronic conditions should be under control for at least a year before someone considers LASIK.”
“Many medical conditions are not a contraindication to LASIK,” Maloney says. “Exceptions are autoimmune diseases that cause dry eyes, as eye dryness can be very uncomfortable.”
Dry eyes have been shown to be a side effect of LASIK, which can be compounded by side effects of medication for chronic conditions. “High blood pressure medication, antihistamines, antidepressants, and gastrointestinal medications are just a few classes of drugs that have dry eyes as a side effect,” Cefalu says. “You can review your medications with your doctor if you are considering LASIK. In some instances, your doctor may be able to prescribe a different medication.”
Ultimately, your ophthalmologist will determine your suitability for LASIK.
“You need to remember that LASIK can give you good, but not perfect, vision,” Maloney says. “It is important to continue to have regular checkups for cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration.”
The next wave
LASIK is no longer the new kid in town. “There have been tremendous advances in lens implants in recent years,” Maloney says. “In this procedure, we take out the natural lens and put in a new, advanced lens that provides better vision.”