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Is there a minimum age for LASIK? If so, what is it?

By Joel Hunter, MD

There is a minimum age for LASIK. It is 18. I’m gambling by giving the answer early, because now I’m worried you may bail if you see all that is written below and wonder, “Why would I read all that, now that I know the answer?” Well, I’ve got two reasons. One, there is information about why the age of 18 is somewhat arbitrary and times when younger than 18 is okay. And two, if you stop reading it will hurt my feelings.

Why is the minimum age 18?

There is nothing magical that happens on your 18th birthday that makes LASIK safe and stable on that day when it wasn’t the day before, when you were 17 and 364 days old. Sometimes, there is just a line that must be drawn to make a deliberate distinction when no natural, clear distinction exists. 38 degrees Celsius is a fever. 37.9 degrees Celsius? You’re just hotter than normal. What happens in that 1/10th of a degree? Nothing physiologic, you’ve just crossed a threshold decided upon by old men in white coats many decades ago.

The data seems to show that about 95% of folks will have a stable prescription at age 18. So, after testing and past medical records show that to be true, LASIK becomes an option. The laser isn’t harmful before then, but it is pointless to get LASIK if we’re not aiming for a very long-term fix to your vision. LASIK (in this case, it is technically PRK, which is done on the surface without a flap) is done on children sometimes. If a kid has anisometropic amblyopia (which is a great medical phrase you should try to use at parties) then one eye has a pretty severe prescription for glasses and the other doesn’t. To prevent the eye with the bad prescription from losing vision in cases where glasses and contacts aren’t an option, PRK is done under general anesthesia. It is literally a vision-saving procedure.

Can LASIK be done on patients younger than 18?

LASIK can be done younger than 18. There are cases of 16-year-olds getting LASIK with good, lasting results. Having the age limit at 18 is the safer play, however, when you’re making a decision for an industry where expertise can vary from one clinic to another. In order to be as cautious as I’d want someone to be with my kid, we stick to the 18-year-old limit at Hunter Vision. It also provides one unexpected benefit. There have been a few times that someone has gotten LASIK the day of or day after their 18th birthday, and it was a wonderful birthday present. “What did you get for your birthday?” “I got sight.” Makes you feel bad for the friend that gets them a yo-yo for their birthday, though.

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These articles are brought to you by Hunter Vision. We help people in Orlando discover life after glasses and contacts.
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