LASIK is a form of vision correction surgery that utilizes a laser to reshape the cornea. This reshaping can correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism, leading to improved vision and freedom from glasses and contacts. But there are still many questions one might have about LASIK and what can be expected after having the procedure. One often asked question: How long does LASIK last?
Does LASIK last forever?
This question has a yes-and-no answer. The changes made to the cornea during LASIK eye surgery remain intact. However, there is a chance further surgery may be required later in life; sometimes, a LASIK enhancement to improve on the changes already made or you may need a different procedure to correct other vision problems that can develop separately as a result of aging.
A LASIK enhancement is performed if your eyes do not respond to the original LASIK procedure as expected. These follow-up procedures are generally rare, with only 1-2% of patients needing an enhancement in their first year following LASIK. This rate increases by about 1% per year afterward
The physical effects of the procedure itself, however, are permanent. The corrections made to the cornea’s shape cannot be undone, so in this way, yes LASIK lasts forever. However, as the eyes age, one can still develop medical conditions such as glaucoma, and everyone will experience the age-related changes of presbyopia, dysfunctional lens syndrome, and cataracts. So, while LASIK does offer a permanent correction, any LASIK patients should continue to have their eyes regularly checked to decrease the risk of eye diseases.
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How long do the results of LASIK last?
LASIK surgery is a procedure that will reshape the cornea to correct for common vision problems: farsightedness (hyperopia), nearsightedness (myopia), and astigmatism. The eye shape is corrected using an excimer laser, which can make corrections on the scale of microns, a size approximately 1/4000th of a grain of sand. The changes made are expected to change how the eye focuses light and stays stable permanently. The eye will not revert to its shape or the imperfections it had prior to the procedure. While eyesight may change over time, and a patient’s vision may worsen again with age, which is not the LASIK wearing off.
Can laser eye surgery wear off?
The short answer is no; LASIK surgery corrections permanently adjust the shape of the eye. The longer answer is more complicated. As a patient ages, there are medical and age-related changes that can occur that can affect vision to some degree or another.
Presbyopia and dysfunctional lens syndrome, sometimes called over-40 vision, happens to everyone as they age. This change occurs when the eye’s internal lens loses its ability to naturally focus close up. This change occurs gradually and will happen whether or not someone had LASIK. LASIK permanently corrects the shape of the cornea, but the internal lens will continue to get older and less flexible.
Commonly, those with presbyopia and dysfunctional lens syndrome will find they need to wear glasses for reading or night driving, generally as they reach their 40s. Often, these patients can be treated with an enhancement or other vision correction procedure such as refractive lens exchange (RLE).
LASIK doesn’t cause presbyopia or make it worse; this is a natural process that will happen to everyone. The procedure also cannot prevent eye diseases or injuries that may affect the vision, such as glaucoma and macular degeneration. Another condition to consider is the development of cataracts, which is the advanced stage of dysfunctional lens syndrome. Cataracts will eventually happen to everyone and cause poor night vision, image distortion, and double, cloudy, or blurry vision. LASIK does not cause or prevent cataracts, nor can it be used to treat them, but it can offer long-term freedom from glasses and contacts for those who qualify.
See the next article in the LASIK FAQ series: How Long Does LASIK surgery take to complete?