Most people who wear glasses or contact lenses are at least interested in what laser eye surgery has to offer. Parents who have children who wear glasses often want to know if the procedure is suitable for them and what are the issues surrounding the surgery. Let’s first explain some of the different terminology that you are likely to hear mentioned about laser eye surgery, so you can understand it a little better. Here goes:
Lasik: Lasik is in fact a type of laser eye surgery and not everyone having surgery will have Lasik. Lasik is the most commonly carried out laser eye surgery procedure as it has an extremely quick and normally pain free recovery period. Most people can get back to work, parenting etc within 24 hours of having the procedure.
PRK: PRK is the other type of laser eye surgery and is sometimes referred to as Lasek. PRK is less popular as the recovery period can be as much as one week and some people can experience considerable discomfort during the recovery period. This poses more of a problem for parents as they may not be in the right frame of mind to look after their children for a longer period! PRK will generally only be carried out if it is advised by the surgeon as a result of tests that are carried out during the laser eye surgery procedure.
Intralase: Intralase is a recent development in Lasik eye surgery and results in a safer, more accurate procedure. Recovery time is generally even quicker when compared with standard Lasik. Intralase describes the way in which the inner layer of the eye is accessed during surgery. Standard Lasik uses a blade (surgical knife) to do this, whereas Intralase uses a laser.
Wavefront: Wavefront (also called custom) laser eye surgery can be used with both PRK and Lasik and increases the chances of achieving 20:20 vision following surgery. It provides a more accurate laser eye surgery procedure as it takes a more thorough reading of the surface of the eye before applying the laser correction.
Can my child have laser eye surgery?
Children unfortunately are not suitable for laser eye surgery for the simple reason that their eyes are still growing and their prescription is likely to change. The minimum age for laser eye surgery is 18 years old but the most important thing is that the eyes are no longer changing. To carry out laser eye surgery on an 18 year old, the surgeon will want to see that the prescription has been stable for at least 2 years. There are a few other factors to consider with children and laser eye surgery and they are as follows:
Astigmatism: If you child has astigmatism don’t worry as laser eye surgery is now extremely effective at treating it. Laser eye surgery can treat up to 6 dioptres (this is what prescriptions are measured in) of astigmatism and this will cover about 95% of the children.
High prescriptions: If your child has a high prescription then you also need not worry as the treatable range of prescriptions for laser eye surgery has grown significantly over the past 5 years. Laser eye surgery can now treat around 99% of all prescriptions.
Lazy eye: If you child has a lazy eye then unfortunately laser eye surgery is unlikely to be able to fix it. Laser eye surgery can only hope to give you the same vision that is currently achievable with your child’s glasses or contact lenses. For example if your child can only see the biggest letters on the vision chart at the Optometrist with their glasses on then is all they will be able to see following laser eye surgery.
In summary if you have a child with poor vision then chances are once they reach the age of 18 years old laser eye surgery will be able to treat them successfully. Until then, contact lenses are an excellent solution as they provide a easy and inexpensive alternative to spectacles.
Tim Harwood is an Optometrist from the UK who also writes for Treatmentsaver a website specialising in laser eye surgery