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Laser eye surgery for the over 50s

Laser eye surgery for the over 50s

What you need to know ....

Contrary to what many people think, there is no upper age limit for people having laser eye surgery, although there are changes that can occur in the eye as you get older, which could mean you are not suitable.

Explanations for words associated with laser eye surgery

•Lasik and Lasek are both types of laser eye surgery in the same way that a Ford and a BMW are types of cars. They are just slightly different techniques of performing laser eye surgery. Lasik is far more popular than Lasek, as the recovery period following Lasik is both quicker and more comfortable.

•Intralase is a type of Lasik and describes the way in which the flap is created during the process. The flap is effectively a thin layer of cornea (outer surface of your eye) which is gently lifted to one side so the laser can be applied. During standard Lasik, the flap is created with a surgical blade (Microkeratome), whereas with Intralase the flap is created with a laser. Intralase is therefore often described as a bladeless procedure. Intralase is generally considered to be slightly safer and more accurate, but will cost on average an additional £250 per eye.

•Wavefront can be used in conjunction with both Lasik and Lasek and describes the way in which the laser is applied. Wavefront produces more impressive results and it is especially beneficial if you have a high prescription. Wavefront will be advised by your surgeon if you already have night vision problems.

What are the factors to consider as I get over the age of 50 years old?
Providing your prescription is stable and your eyes are healthy, there is no reason whatsoever to rule people out on the basis of their age. The 2 main issues that you need to consider are as follows:


As you get over the age of 50, the chance of developing cataracts greatly increases. Although most people do not realise this, everyone will develop cataracts at some point in their lives. You can think of developing cataracts as being similar to getting grey hair. It’s a case of when you get it, not if you get it! In the same way that people get grey hair at different ages, the same can be said of cataracts.

The reason it is extremely important to check that you do not have cataracts before you have laser eye surgery is because they can affect your vision. Imagine you have laser eye surgery and you end up with 20:20 vision but following your treatment your cataract gets worse and starts reducing your vision. Furthermore, cataracts can actually change your prescription meaning you could end up needing glasses again. If this occurs then all the good work that has been done by the laser eye surgery would be undone.

Need glasses for both distance and reading vision?

As you get over the age of 50 years, most people will have to consider having either 2 separate pairs of glasses; one for distance and one for near vision or you may have varifocals or bifocals.

Generally speaking, laser eye surgery only corrects people distance vision which may not be satisfactory for some people. If you imagine you currently wearing bifocals or varifocals, then your glasses are capable of doing all visual tasks. If you had laser eye surgery, then the chances are that you would still need to put glasses on for reading. This means that you would walk around, drive etc without any glasses, but would need to get them out every time you needed to read something. For some people this may be fine, but for others this would be annoying.

There are options which your laser eye surgeon can discuss with you which could mean that you could see for both distance and reading vision and the most common one is monovision. This involves lasering one eye for distance vision and the other for near vision. Not everyone however likes the idea of this.

Thousands of over 50’s each year are having laser eye surgery and for the vast majority of them, it is one of the best things that they ever did. It is just important to understand exactly what the potential issues are and also to manage your expectations as to what your vision is likely to be after your treatment. A good laser eye surgeon will explain everything in detail so that you will be fully informed to make a decision.

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