While refractive surgery procedures are generally FDA approved for patients over the age of 18, there are some cautionary caveats. Patients that are in their teens and even low/mid twenties are more likely to have an unstable prescription in their eyes, as myopia (nearsightedness) typically worsens during this time frame. Because of this, patients who are 18-23 are at a greater risk for needing a second procedure at some point as they age (this is typically called an “Enhancement” procedure). Usually myopia stabilizes in the mid twenties, but obviously every pair of eyes are different!
Our approach is to document stability of the prescription before deeming the patient a candidate for surgery. We like to see very small changes, if any, in the Rx over the prior year. Stability is the key. This way, we lower the risk of needing an enhancement procedure. There are types of special circumstances that do occur in which we do surgery on patients under 21 years of age. Vision correction could be needed for athletes who cannot tolerate glasses or contacts. Young adults interested in Military or Aviation careers need good uncorrected vision in order to even apply for certain positions.
Similar circumstances also exist for soon-to- be law enforcement agents. When these issues exist, as long as the patient is a perfect candidate otherwise, we can proceed. I always let the younger patient know that they have a slightly greater likelihood of requiring a second procedure at some time in the future, and they confirm that they clearly understand. One very nice benefit of surgery with us– TLC Laser Eye Centers offers a Lifetime Commitment program! If the patient simply follows through with the standard and recommended follow up care protocols, they are financially covered for the enhancement surgery if it is ever needed.
A final mention on age. Patients as old as mid 60s could possibly benefit from, and be excellent candidates for laser vision correction. As we age our, eyes can develop other issues such as cataracts and glaucoma etc. So, the older the patient, the less likely that LASIK or PRK is appropriate. However, if all is healthy and normal, the LASIK procedure can be a wonderful life changing and liberating event in the prime as well as the past – prime periods of our lives!