One of the most common questions people ask is “How long does LASIK ask?” Is it permanent? Or temporary? Unfortunately, there has been a persistent misconception that LASIK is not permanent and that it only lasts a few years. To set the record straight, we’ve asked Drs. Eric Donnenfeld and Gregory Parkhurst, leading refractive surgeons, to answer your questions.
Q: How long does LASIK last?
DR. DONNENFELD: LASIK eye surgery is a permanent way to correct vision conditions, including nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. LASIK corrects the vision prescription you come in with to have the procedure. It does this by using a laser to reshape the cornea, eliminating the imperfections of the cornea that cause your nearsightedness, farsightedness and/or astigmatism. Once those imperfections are gone, the idea that a patient’s eyes occasionally “regress” following LASIK doesn’t really make sense. However, what does happen on occasion is a patient’s myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness) actually progresses. Like all living things, your eyes can change over the course of your lifetime. It wouldn’t be reasonable to expect to buy a pair of glasses and have them last your entire lifetime. Your eyes can change, but they will never go back to being as bad as they were prior to LASIK.
Q: What are some reasons why your vision may change after laser vision correction?
DR. PARKHURST: One reason is presbyopia – aging of the eyes – which typically begins somewhere around the age of 40. The lens of the eye – not the cornea that was reshaped with LASIK, but the lens behind the cornea – loses its ability to focus on objects nearby, often requiring reading glasses. LASIK does not prevent this natural aging of the eye. Even if you were born with good vision in both eyes, you will likely need reading glasses in your mid forties – the same is true for people who chose to have their vision corrected with a procedure such as LASIK. Importantly, LASIK doesn’t make presbyopia worse, or make it happen sooner. Some other factors include cataracts or vision conditions such as glaucoma.
Q: What is an enhancement and why do some people need to have this?
DR. PARKHURST: A LASIK enhancement is a follow-up LASIK procedure that can be performed if your original vision correction surgery is unsatisfactory, or if your vision changes significantly over time. With modern LASIK, the enhancement rate is 1-2 percent in the first 12 months and then about 1 percent a year after that as patients’ eyes can change with time. So, for example, 10 years after LASIK, approximately 10 percent of patients may require an enhancement procedure to maintain their excellent vision.
Patients whose refraction (the eye refracts light entering it, so as to form an image on the retina) is not stable prior to LASIK have an increased risk of needing enhancements. This is why your LASIK surgeon will want to know if your glasses have changed over the last few years prior to your procedure. The good news is that laser vision correction can very often be repeated after a thorough evaluation to make certain the patient is still a good candidate. Some surgeons charge an enhancement fee, while other surgeons perform these corrections at no cost to the patient. When considering LASIK, this is a good question to ask.
Q: Does LASIK impact a patient’s future vision correction treatment options?
DR. DONNENFELD: As we’ve discussed before, LASIK treats your existing vision correction needs, but doesn’t prevent the changes that naturally occur with age – such as presbyopia and cataract. However, LASIK doesn’t impact a patient’s ability to choose surgical treatment options for those conditions down the road. These include lens replacement surgery, corneal implants and monovision LASIK – in which one eye is corrected for distance and one eye for reading.
LASIK eye surgery is a permanent way to reshape the cornea to correct vision conditions including nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism and it’s a way to rid yourself from the hassle of glasses and contacts, which may interfere with your lifestyle. If you have more questions about how long LASIK lasts or if LASIK permanent, schedule a consultation with your local eye professional.