Can I Have Laser Eye Surgery If…? And Other Suitability Questions

Head down the high street, walk into a Laser Eye Surgery provider, and ask a question, say ‘Can I have the treatment if I’m over 60?

And you’ll get one answer.

But hop in your car and go to a private or independent clinic and ask them the same question, and you get a totally different one.

What’s going on here?

Surely if you’re ineligible at one clinic you’re ineligible at them all, and vice versa, right? Well, this is often the case for your typical surgical procedure — one that’s subject to standardised regulations.

But Laser Eye Surgery is not your typical surgical procedure.

A young treatment that’s not available through public healthcare (unless you really need it), Laser Eye Surgery has blown up into an unregulated market of its own. And so, today there are clinics of all shapes and sizes — chains, independent clinics, hospitals — that operate at varying levels of quality and care.

That means you can go to one in the morning that offers low-cost treatments but have a poor screening process and use outdated technology. And go to another in the afternoon that has higher prices but a three-hour eye assessment and the industry’s best technology.

Unfortunately, many peoples first experience is with the former. And so immediately they give up on their search and go on thinking they’re unsuitable, even though this often couldn’t be further from the truth.

Avoid falling into the one-clinic trap and keep reading to find out your true chances of being eligible for Laser Eye Surgery — direct from experts at the leading edge of the field.

Starting with, ‘Am I suitable if… I’m older than 60?’

The fact is, as long as your eyes are healthy, there’s no upper age limit for Laser Eye Surgery. Of course, some older patients experience a longer healing period after the procedure, but this can be discussed at your initial screening if it’s likely to apply to you. Read about PRESBYOND® Laser Blended Vision to find out more.

I have dry eyes?

If you suffer from dry eyes, there’s a good chance you’re still eligible for Laser Eye Surgery. Depending on the cause and severity, it may be that you qualify for SMILE or a surface procedure. Even in severe cases of dry eye, it could be a simple case of monitoring the condition for several months before having surgery.

I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?

Several factors make patients unsuitable for Laser Eye Surgery during pregnancy and breastfeeding. For instance, the increase in hormonal activity can temporarily cause fluctuations in your vision. While not dangerous, this can increase the likelihood of being under- or over-corrected.

Also, medications used before, during, and after Laser Eye Surgery may be transmitted to your unborn baby. For these reasons, it’s recommended to wait until at least several months after pregnancy or breastfeeding to have the surgery.

I’m taking prescription drugs?

Occasionally, certain medications can make patients ineligible for Laser Eye Surgery. However, this is rare, and the majority of patients taking drugs (prescription or otherwise) simply need to let their surgeon know during the initial screening so they are aware of any contraindications.

I have a cataract?

Whilst Laser Eye Surgery doesn’t treat a cataract, patients may still be able to have the procedure to correct their refractive errors. In cases where cataracts are already affecting vision, you would usually be recommended to have cataract surgery (lens replacement), combined with a laser ‘top-up’ procedure to fully focus your vision. If a cataract naturally worsens following laser treatment, you can still have cataract surgery (although it’s important to note this is a specialist field).

I have glaucoma

As with cataracts, Laser Eye Surgery is not a treatment for glaucoma, but patients with the condition are still able to have their refractive errors corrected. A surgeon will work in conjunction with your glaucoma specialist to ensure your glaucoma management is not affected by your Laser Eye Surgery.

I have a compromised immune system?

As a wide range of conditions can compromise the immune system to varying degrees, this is assessed on a case-by-case basis. The best way to assess your suitability is to attend a thorough screening with a highly qualified and experienced clinician.

I have a connective tissue disorder (i.e. rheumatoid arthritis)?

As connective tissue disorders can be associated with altered healing responses by the body and, therefore, present a slightly higher risk of complications, they can make some patients ineligible for laser treatment. However, if the connective tissue disorder is controlled, it’s likely you’re suitable.

I have a detached retina?

Although Laser Eye Surgery doesn’t treat a detached retina itself, many patients with detached retinas are able to have the surgery. It all depends on the severity of the condition, and so a clinician will determine your eligibility following a thorough assessment at your initial screening.

Have a question not answered above about Laser Eye Surgery? Ask us in the comments below or get in touch. We’re a friendly bunch, honest!

Dr Tim Archer
Dr Tim Archer

Dr Timothy Archer graduated from Oxford and Cambridge Universities with an undergraduate degree in Mathematics and a postgraduate degree in Computer Science. He joined the clinic in 2003, where he established his career specialising in laser refractive surgery research alongside Professor Reinstein. Today, he manages the in-house research team, of which achievements include 124 peer-reviewed papers, 32 book chapters, over 100 scientific articles and a published textbook. He also oversees and edits the content on London Vision Clinic’s website.