Qualifying for LASIK: What Determines a Good Candidate

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When first considering LASIK, you might wonder if you’re even a candidate for the procedure. Perhaps you worry that your vision is so poor laser vision correction can’t help. Surprisingly, doctors determine your candidacy based on several different factors — not necessarily your prescription. It’s worth visiting a LASIK doctor to discuss the possibilities. Like all medical procedures, this isn’t for everyone. Here’s a rundown of what doctors generally look for.

Basic Requirements
There are a few general requirements that apply to everyone. Not meeting these conditions could mean that you are ineligible for LASIK. All patients must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age.
  • Have healthy corneas.
  • Not have an active eye disease.
  • Have at least 20/40 vision with contacts or glasses.
  • Have a stable eyeglass prescription for a specific amount of time.
  • Not be pregnant.

Your LASIK doctor will do a thorough examination before performing the procedure to assess other factors affecting your candidacy for LASIK.

Who Are the Best Candidates for LASIK Eye Surgery?
Most people with farsightedness, nearsightedness and astigmatism can expect good results from LASIK if they meet the basic requirements. However, your doctor will also consider these health factors:

  • Corneal and retinal health
  • Eye pressure
  • Past eye diseases
  • Corneal tissue thickness
  • Recent history of ocular herpes
  • If you are pregnant or nursing
  • Evidence of an autoimmune or collagen vascular disease

Of course, realistic expectations about the outcome are also important. Like all medical procedures, there are potential side effects to consider, such as dry eyes.

Can You Be Too Old for LASIK?
There is not a set maximum age, but the overall health of your eyes is taken into consideration. For example, if your vision issues are related to a disease like cataracts or glaucoma, then LASIK is not for you. If you are over the age of 40, presbyopia may be at play. This is an age-related matter that many people start to experience in their 40s, when a natural change may occur in your eye’s lens that affects the ability to see up close. This is generally not influenced by refractive surgery.

What to Expect During the Evaluation
Your doctor will start out by asking you about a series of health questions, and it is critical to answer each as accurately as possible. You’ll be asked about:

  • Your medical history.
  • Your eye health history.
  • Why you are  considering LASIK.
  • A complete list of medications, including herbal supplements and over-the-counter drugs.
  • Your surgical history.
  • Your social history and current lifestyle, such as contact sports and alcohol consumption.
  • Your family history of eye or overall health problems.

Next, you’ll undergo LASIK testing. It’s a painless procedure, performed with sophisticated machines that scan the eye for specific measurements, which the doctor considers in determining your LASIK eligibility. You cannot be properly screened without this part of the evaluation, and the following tests may be done during this process:

  • Dry eye testing to evaluate if pre-procedure treatment is needed to prepare the eyes and reduce risk
  • Pupil testing to see how your reflexes react to light
  • Keratometry to look at the overall shape and radius of your cornea
  • Corneal topography to map the surface curvature of your cornea
  • Contrast sensitivity testing to see how well you differentiate between light and dark
  • Pachymetry to look at the thickness of your cornea
  • Wavefront analysis to measure how light bounces off the back of the eye

Many doctors will do all of this testing in a single visit, so expect to be at the office for two or more hours.

It’s best to talk to a LASIK doctor about your eligibility and potential results. It’s worth exploring what LASIK can do for you.

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