Older lady reading with glasses

Am I Too Old for Laser Eye Surgery?

If you are over the age of 50 and have always worn glasses, yet now want to get laser eye surgery, you may have been told you have left things too late. On the other hand, you may have never worn glasses but have recently found it becoming more difficult to focus on objects close up.

Rest assured, it’s never too late to correct your vision. But over the age of 50 many of us reach a crossroads in our vision journey. Meaning alternate approaches to laser eye surgery may be more beneficial to your long-term vision quality

Understanding Presbyopia

The lens of your eye is normally a clear and flexible disc which allows light to pass through and also bend to adjust for near, middle and distance vision. When you reach 50 years of age, the lens in your eye can begin to stiffen. This is what causes the deterioration in your near vision. Officially known as Presbyopia or age-related long-sightedness (difficulty seeing things up close).

Traditional laser vision correction surgeries, such as LASIK, SMILE or PRK make adjustments to the cornea at the front of the eye. This combination of surgeries can correct myopia (short-sightedness), hyperopia (long-sightedness) and astigmatism (irregular shaped cornea). The one thing these surgeries cannot fix is Presbyopia as the issue has to do with the lens not the cornea.

Getting laser eye surgery to correct your distance vision at age 50 could mean that in a few years your near vision begins to deteriorate, requiring the use of glasses again, but for a different purpose!

Also, if you have never worn glasses and your near vision is beginning to deteriorate due to Presbyopia, then laser eye surgery will not help, as the problem lies with your lens not the cornea.

Introducing the Refractive Lens Exchange

To correct your vision in both these scenarios requires a replacement of the lens of the eye. This is known as a Refractive Lens Exchange (or Clear Lens Exchange). It is the exact same method that is used in cataract surgery, so it is a very common, safe and proven procedure. In the case of cataracts, the lens becomes clouded, rather than a stiff. Artificial lenses will not become clouded, so a hidden advantage of a refractive lens exchange is that you can avoid the need to have cataract surgery later in life.

Choosing your replacement lens to live glasses free

It is important to be aware that not all replacement lenses are created equal. Replacement lenses, known as Intraocular Lenses (IOLs), come in 4 main types:

  • Mono-focal lenses – can only be set to either near or distance vision but not both, meaning you will require glasses to see either near or far.
  • Bi-focal lenses – designed to support near and far vision, but middle vision may be affected.
  • Tri-focal lenses – designed to support all ranges of vision giving you the best chance of living glasses free after lens replacement surgery.

When you reach 50, while you may be too old for laser eye surgery it doesn’t mean you are too old to live glasses free. Only that your vision correction options will likely change. A healthy functioning natural lens is always going to be better than an artificial lens, so replacing the lens of your eye should be made at the right time. Your Ophthalmologist will be able to determine the best treatment for you to deliver the best visual outcome.

Envision Eye Centre is a Sydney Ophthalmology Practice in Sydney. Principal surgeon, Dr John Males, is a leading laser vision correction, corneal and cataract surgeon. Our entire team take the time to lead you on a path to better vision. Book an appointment now to discuss your options for a refractive lens exchange.

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