Older eyes on Lasik

Procedural improvements erase past skepticism, local surgeons say

4:42 PM, Mar. 30, 2012  |

Dr. Gary A. Varley performs laser eye surgery on a patient at the Cincinnati Eye Institute.

Dr. Gary A. Varley performs laser eye surgery on a patient at the Cincinnati Eye Institute. / Provided


Tired of wearing glasses or contacts to help them see clearly, more and more people are turning to laser vision correction for a more permanent fix. For patients middle aged and older in particular, the surgery is becoming increasingly popular.

“It’s definitely been a trend,” said Dr. Vincent Marino, D.O. at Lasik Plus in Kenwood. “We’ve been doing laser vision correction at Lasik Plus since 1995; early on, we were typically seeing younger people as a general trend. As time has passed, we are definitely seeing more of a trend of people in their 40s and 50s, and even 60s.”

Contributing to the increase in popularity among that demographic is an increase in acceptance of the surgery among the general population, according to Dr. Gary Varley, medical director at Cincinnati Eye Institute in Blue Ash.

“Lasik is now a well known, fairly well understood procedure,” he said. “Ten years ago, patients would still say ‘That’s too new’ or ‘I don’t know anything about it.’ ”

And as they get older, patients are more likely to be able to afford the procedure, the average cost of which is about $2,100 per eye, he said. Plus, vision correction can become more and more of a hassle as we age.

“When they get over 40, now they need reading glasses,” Dr. Varley said. “If they have contacts, they have to get reading glasses; if they have glasses, they have to get bifocals.”

Unfortunately, laser surgery won’t mean leaving those reading glasses behind: Although it can correct farsightedness, nearsightedness and astigmatism, Lasik can’t fix pre sbyopia, the age-related loss of focusing that necessitates them.

Instead, Dr. Marino said patients can get the surgery to correct their eyes for distance and continue to use reading glasses, or they can try mono vision correction, which is also becoming more and more popular.

“In one of the eyes, we correct them for distance; in the opposite eye, we leave them a little bit nearsighted, so they can use that eye for reading,” Dr. Marino said. “For individuals wearing mono vision contacts, we can mimic that quite well.”

Having the surgery at an older age doesn’t pose additional risks, Dr. Marino said.

“Someone over 40, it’s just as possible for them to get a good outcome as it is for a younger person,” he said. About 75 percent of patients make good surgery candidates, he said.

What factors make someone a good or bad candidate? Dr. Varley lists the following:

• Degree of focusing error: The bigger the abnormality or the thicker the glasses, in general, the harder it is to get your vision as perfect as you want.

• General eye health (must be free of glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts and severe dry eye), shape of the cornea and size of pupils.

• The personality of the patient: “If you have a type A personality that (believes) everything is black and white, they may not be as happy with the outcome as someone who’s more easygoing and accepting,” he said.

General eye health can limit on older patients who want surgery, as they’re more likely to develop those diseases, Dr. Varley said.

For all patients, Dr. Varley recommends that they choose a surgeon and a center that makes them feel comfortable, and make sure their surgeon understands their goals.

“You can’t take LASIK back and say that it doesn’t work,” he added.