One of the most frequently asked questions – and most persistent myths – is: how long does LASIK last? Is it forever? Or does it wear off over time?
LASIK is permanent for the treatment of vision problems including nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), and astigmatism. Because LASIK uses a laser to physically reshape the cornea to improve its focusing ability, this makes it a permanent treatment for the existing vision prescription at the time of surgery.
But, our eyes – like other parts of our body – change over time. For example, when we hit our forties, everyone will develop presbyopia (Greek for aging eyes). LASIK does not prevent “aging eyes,” which is essentially the hardening of the lens, making it difficult to focus on reading or tasks requiring near vision (especially in dimly lit rooms). Even if you were born with perfect vision in both eyes, you will very likely need reading glasses at some point in your forties.
Additionally, even though you may have had LASIK, it is possible that – over a lifetime – there is a progression of nearsightedness or farsightedness (this is why surgeons look for stability in the prescription before performing LASIK). If this occurs, patients may be able to opt for retreatment.
With modern LASIK technology, the number of patients needing an enhancement procedure within the first year following LASIK is extremely low – between 1 and 2 percent. But, as time goes on, that number goes up about one percentage point per year. For example, approximately 10 percent of the patients who had LASIK 10 years ago may need retreating to maintain their clear vision.
While there is a chance your vision will change in the years following LASIK, it will never be the same vision you had before the procedure.
So understanding the facts about LASIK, what can you do to make sure you have clear vision for as long as possible? Here are a few tips:
- One of the key factors in determining if you are a good candidate for LASIK is the stability of your vision. It is important to be accurate and honest about when the last time your prescription changed. Our policy is at least 12 months of stable vision, to minimize the potential of needing an enhancement within the first year after treatment.
- Because for most of us presbyopia is an eventuality – meaning just about everyone at some point in their life will need reading glasses – the sooner you can have LASIK, provided you are a good candidate, the longer you can enjoy hassle-free, excellent vision.
- Importantly, LASIK doesn’t impact a patient’s ability to take advantage of many surgical vision correction options for age-related vision conditions in the future – such as presbyopia and cataracts. Patients who want to continue to have good vision without relying on glasses and contacts may choose from several refractive treatment options including corneal implant, lens replacement surgery, and even a monovision LASIK treatment that corrects one eye for reading and one for distance as needed.
Being a good candidate for LASIK is the best way to know if it is the right vision correction option for you and your lifestyle. Part of being a good candidate for LASIK is being confident in the fact you will enjoy better vision for years, and perhaps decades, to come. You can learn more about how LASIK is performed and the vision conditions it can treat here at The American Refractive Surgery Council.