“When people ask how long LASIK and other laser vision correction procedures last, what they really want to know is if they will ever need to wear glasses again,” said Robert Maloney, M.D. of Maloney-Shamie Vision Institute and RSC Editorial Advisory Board member. “It’s important to understand that any vision correction procedure is permanent and does not wear off over time. However, your eyes, like the rest of your body, will change as you age.”
How Long Does LASIK Last?
Laser vision correction procedures such as LASIK, SMILE, and PRK are permanent. They work by reshaping the cornea, the surface of the eye which is the first line of focus for the eye. The lasers work to permanently eliminate the imperfections of the cornea that cause nearsightedness, farsightedness, and/or astigmatism.
For example, LASIK is an extremely precise procedure using the same technology that optimized the focus of the James Webb Space Telescope. Laser vision correction procedures change less than 1 percent of eye tissue.
“Laser vision correction procedures don’t impact the other 99 percent of the eye which is then subject to age-related changes just like the rest of the body. For example, laser vision correction procedures do not treat the lens, which, over time, loses its flexibility leading to the need for reading glasses, usually in the mid-forties,” added Dr. Maloney.
Vision changes related to aging generally don’t become apparent until after age 40, when most people start to lose the crispness of their near vision. This loss of near vision, when people start to have a hard time reading small print, is related to presbyopia (greek for aging eyes). It is the result of the aging of the lens, which stiffens over time and reduces its ability to flex and accommodate a full range of vision.
But Does LASIK Wear Off?
Because LASIK and other laser vision correction procedures permanently reshape the cornea, the results do not “wear off.” However, for a small number of patients, one of two things may occur:
- Up to 5 percent of patients may have some residual visual errors following a procedure such as LASIK. These patients see better than they did before the procedure but didn’t quite get to 20/20 vision after the healing process. Most of those patients can benefit from an enhancement procedure to further increase the focusing power of the cornea.
- Some patients have progressive visual conditions, meaning the patient’s nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism changes after several years. LASIK does not prevent the eye from changing, it addresses the visual errors present at the time of the procedure. And, in fact, for these patients, the physical changes would have occurred regardless of having had LASIK.
Generally speaking, refractive surgeons estimate that for every year after LASIK, there is a 1 percent increase in the chance of needing additional laser vision correction to restore clear vision.
For more information on LASIK outcomes and steps to take to become a candidate for laser vision correction procedures, visit Americanrefractivesurgerycouncil.org