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Health Answers

Should I consider LASIK eye surgery?

Q. Should I consider LASIK eye surgery, and when should I get it?

A. After years of managing contact lenses and glasses, LASIK eye surgery may prove to be a welcome respite for people who are nearsighted, farsighted, or have an astigmatism. But though the laser surgery has gotten safer and more effective in recent years, it may not be for everyone.

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In the United States, the average age of patients who undergo the procedure is 37, said Dr. Roberto Pineda, an ophthalmologist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear. People can begin receiving the surgery as young as 18, though most doctors recommend being at least 21. It is most effective before age 40, Pineda said, because older patients often still need reading glasses. He recommends getting the surgery in your 20s to reap the benefits for more years, but because of the cost — about $2,500 per eye — most people wait until they are financially stable.

LASIK eye surgery uses a laser to reshape the cornea — the transparent, outermost layer of the eye — so that light rays refract closer to the retina, leading to clearer vision.

Patients must have an unchanging vision prescription for at least one year and have no eye complications that could interfere with the surgery. People with moderate to severe dry eyes, abnormal corneas, or extremely poor uncorrected vision should not get the surgery, nor should pregnant women, Pineda said. Those with seasonal allergies should wait until the season is over.

“It’s become safer over the years and more predictable, and I think that the surgeons have become much better at predicting patients who are not good candidates or are not going to have a good outcome,” Pineda said.

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