LASIK vision correction surgery is a popular procedure among adults, so it’s logical that teens who wear glasses or contacts would start asking for it.
After all, what could be better for teens that play sports? Not to mention the day-to-day hassles of daily maintenance with contacts. And then there’s the added problem of lost contacts.
Though LASIK has numerous benefits, eye doctor John Belardo of Advanced Laser and Cataract Center in Oklahoma City says there are important reasons LASIK for teens is not appropriate and, in fact, is not approved for teens.
FDA & LASIK
LASIK is eye surgery that permanently changes the shape of the cornea to correct focusing errors and improve a person’s vision, in many cases allowing people to do without glasses or contacts.
However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibits LASIK vision correction for people under the age of 18 because the cornea is still changing throughout the teenage years. Surgically altering the cornea while it is still in this state of flux could end up being a temporary fix. If the eye continues to change, the vision improvements would be lost, requiring yet another surgery to correct it.
The FDA allows LASIK surgery when a teen turns 18, but many surgeons believe it is better to wait until 21. Studies indicate people are still growing after they turn 18 and some people keep growing until they are 25. If your body is changing, it can lead to changes in your eyes, called refractive instability. This is normal. But spending money and undergoing surgery at this point is questionable since the eye may need further refinement in the future.
Teens should wait until they are sure their bodies are done changing before seeking LASIK surgery. For some, that may mean age 18, for others that won’t happen until sometime in their early 20s. The rule of thumb is that a patient’s prescription must be stable for a year before surgery is performed. However, for young adults, most doctors recommend waiting at least two years to increase the chances that the eye will not change and undo the LASIK vision corrections.
Another note: LASIK is most often done to correct nearsightedness (myopia). It may also be used to correct farsightedness and astigmatism. However, if you are nearsighted, you may have to wait longer for your eyes to stabilize as nearsightedness is known to increase until the mid to late 20s.
What to Consider
LASIK is generally a safe and effective procedure. However, it is an elective surgery and at times there have been serious complications.
Some adults who have undergone LASIK surgery have had complications, including: double vision; problems with night vision, glare, and halos; severe dry eye; and loss of vision. In addition, LASIK has been performed in the United States for only about 20 years, so there are no studies regarding long-term effects. This is an important factor that should be weighed when considering vision surgery at a young age.
If you would like a better understanding of all the pros and cons of LASIK, we would be happy to explain the procedure and determine if you (or your teen) is a good prospect, now or in the future. Please call for an appointment.