The risks and benefits of laser vision correction shift with age, from Harvard Women’s Health Watch

Laser surgery for vision correction — also called laser refractive surgery — can free many people from their glasses and contacts, but there are special considerations that come with aging, reports the Harvard Women's Health Watch in its July 2011 issue. The risks and benefits of laser vision correction shift around midlife, so if you're considering laser refractive surgery, you need a thorough evaluation and frank assessment of what you stand to gain — or lose.

There are different types of laser refractive surgery, but they all correct vision by reshaping certain layers of the cornea — the clear dome at the front of the eye. Most people are satisfied with the results of laser vision correction, but it's important to recognize certain problems and have realistic expectations. If you're in your 40s, 50s, or 60s, certain age-related eye conditions can influence your decision to undergo the procedure, notes the Harvard Women's Health Watch. These include:

Cataract. With age, the lens of the eye can become clouded. The clouded lens, or cataract, can be removed and an artificial one can be implanted. Laser refractive surgery does not slow or prevent cataract development, so a later cataract will mean another surgery. And if you've already had refractive surgery, choosing the correct lenses for cataract surgery can be tricky. Consequently, if you undergo laser vision correction, you should fill out a card called a "K card" (available at www.health.harvard.edu/kcard) indicating your refraction before and after the procedure.

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