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Evaluating The Safety And Efficacy Of Laser Eye Surgery For Seniors

Written By: William Rivers
Reviewed By: William Rivers
Published: September 4, 2023
Last updated: December 22, 2023

Getting older often means facing various changes—with our eyesight being the most common. Those once-clear words in a book may blur, or distant objects may become harder to distinguish. It's a natural part of aging, but it doesn't mean we must accept it without exploring options. 

Laser eye surgery can be a promising solution. You may think it's tailored for younger folks, but seniors can benefit too. Imagine rediscovering the world with improved eyesight. This article will provide you with what you need to know about laser eye surgery, its types, safety, and efficacy.

What Is Laser Eye Surgery And Its Types? 

Laser eye surgery entails the process of reshaping the cornea to improve vision, so you don't need to rely on corrective eyewear or contact lenses for the rest of your life. Some laser treatments may even treat other eye conditions besides restoring your vision. 

Let's explore the most common types of laser eye surgery: 

  • LASIK (Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis): This involves creating a thin flap in the cornea, reshaping the exposed tissue, and then replacing the flap. It's popular for correcting nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.  
  • PRK (Photorefractive Keratectomy): Here, the cornea's outer layer is removed so the laser can reshape the underlying tissue. This is often a choice for those with thinner corneas. 
  • LASEK (Laser-Assisted Subepithelial Keratectomy): It involves creating an ultra-thin flap with a particular cutting device and an alcohol solution. This surgery can correct moderate to mild nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. 
  • SMILE (Small Incision Lenticule Extraction): A newer procedure that reshapes the cornea by making a small cut and removing a piece of corneal tissue. You can opt for this laser eye surgery if you suffer from nearsightedness or dry eyes. 
  • Laser Photocoagulation: This uses a laser to seal irregular or leaking blood vessels in the retina. Its main goal is to prevent vision loss. Laser photocoagulation works well for those with diabetic retinopathy, Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), and retinal vein occlusion.

Laser Eye Surgery For Older Adults

age, vision, surgery, eyesight and people concept - close up of senior woman face and eye with laser light

Age is not a factor in laser eye surgery. You can choose to have the procedure (LASIK, PRK, SMILE, LASEK) in your 60s or 70s as long as you don't have any health complications. A steady prescription and good eye health are all required for these procedures.  

To understand your options better and make a well-informed decision, it's crucial to consult a qualified laser eye surgeon or an ophthalmologist. They'll check your eye health—including past and present eye conditions, injuries, and medications. They will also perform several tests to check the size and shape of your cornea, pupils, and other conditions that could affect the outcome of your surgery. Lastly, eye surgeons will also ask about your lifestyle to understand your visual needs better.

Is Laser Eye Surgery Safe For Seniors?

Laser eye surgery and its other variants have been performed for decades and boast a remarkable safety record across age groups, including seniors. 

According to a comprehensive American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery report, over 96% of patients were satisfied with their LASIK outcomes. While this statistic encompasses patients of various ages, it demonstrates the general reliability of the procedure. 

However, like any medical procedure, laser eye surgery comes with potential risks. And for older adults considering laser eye surgery, there are safety considerations that should be factored into the decision-making process.

  • Pre-existing Eye Conditions: Pre-existing eye conditions like cataracts or glaucoma can pose significant challenges when considering laser eye surgery. A thorough evaluation by an experienced ophthalmologist or eye surgeon is crucial to assess the safety of laser eye surgery and identify risks that may need to be addressed.
  • General Health: Seniors may have other health concerns, like diabetes or hypertension, which can affect the healing process and increase the risk of complications from surgery. Seniors need to undergo a thorough medical evaluation to ensure their overall health can support the surgery.
  • Recovery Time: Older adults may have slower healing and recovery times compared to younger individuals. As such, it's essential for seniors to understand the post-operative care instructions and follow them diligently for proper healing and lower the risk of infections. 

Although laser eye surgeries are generally painless, it's important to note that some older adults may experience temporary side effects. These can include dry eyes or temporary double vision, particularly at night. Therefore, discussing these potential side effects with your eye surgeon is crucial to have realistic expectations of the recovery process.

Efficacy Of Laser Eye Surgery For Seniors 

Laser eye surgery has become one of the well-known procedures worldwide due to its high success rates. But what does "efficacy" mean, particularly for older adults? 

Historically, over 90% of patients achieve 20/20 and 20/40 vision post-LASIK. The numbers are similarly encouraging for other procedures like LASEK and PRK. This underscores the procedure's ability to meet or exceed patient expectations.

While the outcomes of laser eye surgery can benefit older adults for years or even decades, increasing age, changing health conditions, or natural eye changes may require enhancements and touch-ups to maintain the procedure's efficacy. Ophthalmologists are well-equipped to develop personalized surgical plans to address these factors and optimize the outcomes for older adults undergoing laser eye surgery.

Conclusion 

Laser eye surgery can offer significant benefits to seniors who are good candidates for the procedure. However, evaluating the safety and efficacy of the surgery requires careful consideration of individual factors such as pre-existing eye conditions, general health, recovery time, and expectations. 

Moreover, it's crucial for seniors to have thorough discussions with their eye doctor to make an informed decision about laser eye surgery. Explore our guide for insights, including recommendations for senior-friendly furniture types.

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William Rivers is an editor with a master’s degree in Human Services Counseling at Maine State University. He has more than 20 years of experience working in the senior healthcare industry.
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