LASIK Eye Surgery Age: How Young is Too Young?
Medically Reviewed by Anthony Nappi, OD / Published January 24, 2023 / 2 min. read
LASIK eye surgery is an increasingly popular procedure that can help correct vision problems. However, not everyone is a candidate for this procedure, and the age of the patient can play a role in determining whether or not this type of surgery is right for them. There are a lot of factors that help determine what is the best age for LASIK eye surgery. By the end of this article, you may conclude that you are too old to have LASIK, or you may find that you are too young to experience the best outcome.
Overview of LASIK Eye Surgery
Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis, better known as LASIK surgery, is one of the most common elective procedures in America. As many as 800,000 LASIK procedures are performed every year, and up to 95% of LASIK patients come out of the process with 20/20 vision.
The procedure itself is quick, usually lasting only about 15 minutes. Your doctor will use drops to numb your eyes so you won’t feel any pain. Next, your LASIK Surgeon will apply a lid speculum to keep your eyes open. During the procedure, a femtosecond laser creates a thin flap over the cornea, the clear layer over the surface of the eye. Your surgeon will remove some corneal tissue using a specialized excimer laser before returning the flap to its original spot. The cornea will heal over the next few days.
The LASIK eye surgery benefits are evident quickly. Most people notice an improvement in their vision within a few days of LASIK. Many can stop using glasses or contacts after having the procedure.
Age Requirements for LASIK
Deciding when to have LASIK surgery is personal, and a number of factors can influence the choice. There are some LASIK eye surgery age requirements that you need to take into consideration before scheduling a consult.
LASIK is effective for adults of all ages. Many people choose to get LASIK eye surgery at age 40 and beyond. There is no upper age limit for having the procedure. People can safely have LASIK surgery in their 60s and 70s if they are healthy enough to undergo surgery. However, LASIK will only stop being effective when or if the patient develops cataracts.
Older teens and young adults are not typically candidates for LASIK. The FDA has approved LASIK for people 18 and over, and in past years, doctors would perform LASIK on young adults who met the other requirements for the procedure. Thinking on that has changed as experts have learned more about how eyes develop over time. Now, many doctors believe that it’s better to wait until age 25 or later to have LASIK.
Reasons for Age Restrictions
While LASIK is safe and effective for people 18 years and older, the effects may not last when people get the procedure at younger ages. Most people experience vision changes in their teens and early 20s, which can undo the effects of LASIK over time. Vision tends to stabilize around the age of 25.
The FDA notes that LASIK is only recommended for people with a stable vision correction prescription for at least two years. Prescription changes like that are called “refractive instability.” The FDA lists people under 20 as being at high risk for refractive instability.
There are cases where people between the ages of 18 and 25 are appropriate candidates for LASIK. You may be eligible for LASIK if:
- You have a condition that prevents you from wearing glasses or contacts
- Your vision can’t be corrected without surgery
- You need laser vision correction for a job (e.g., airline pilot or military service)
Alternatives to LASIK for Younger Age Groups
While glasses and contacts may be a hassle for teens, they continue to be a safe and effective option for vision correction in young people. Contact lenses are a good choice for teens who play sports or do other activities that are awkward with glasses. Many teenagers find that daily wear contact lenses are easy to care for and reduce the effects of irritation and infection that come with longer-wear contact.
For people over the age of 21, EVO Visian ICL Lenses may be an option. Implantable Collamer® Lens, or ICLs, are implantable lenses that can correct nearsightedness with or without astigmatism. They’re placed under the iris and can’t be seen or felt after they’re placed. ICL surgery doesn’t remove any eye tissue or change the structure of the eye. Unlike LASIK, ICLs can be removed by your doctor if necessary.
RLE can be a great option for those who are over 40 or around 50. Refractive Lens Exchange Surgery is especially beneficial for people who are in the early stages of developing cataracts as it will prevent future cataract growth. The implants cannot form cataracts. Some people can get RLE as long as they’re over the age of 21.
LASIK is a safe, effective procedure to correct vision in many adults 25 and over. For older teens and younger adults, LASIK probably isn’t the best choice despite earlier thinking on the matter. In 2023, most experts agree that LASIK is safe and best after your eyes stop changing, which is at least 25 years old, and anytime before you develop cataracts.
The best age to get LASIK eye surgery would be the age where it will last the longest. For most people, 25 would be the best age.
American Academy of Ophthalmology: “LASIK and Age: Pushing the Limits,” “LASIK — Laser Eye Surgery.”
The Journal of Clinical Ophthalmology: “The 25th Anniversary of Laser Vision Correction in the United States.”