Can I Get LASIK if I Have Cataracts?

Posted by: Missouri Eye Institute in Blog on January 29, 2021

Blurry image of family

If you live long enough, cataracts are practically a rite of passage into old age. The National Eye Institute estimates that cataracts affect approximately 24.4 million Americans over the age of 40, and that figure is expected to double by the year 2050.

In fact, more than 60 percent of individuals over the age of 80 will deal with cataracts, the leading cause of blindness in older adults. The gradual clouding of the eye’s natural lens creates blurry, hazy vision that is a bit like looking through the world through a foggy window. It’s no wonder so many patients ask us “Can I get LASIK if I have cataracts?” Unfortunately, this isn’t a simple yes or no question.

What factors are at play with cataracts and LASIK?

For many people with cataracts, there are separate vision issues that also contribute to poor eyesight. On top of clouding, there may be nearsightedness, farsightedness, “over 40 vision” (presbyopia) or astigmatism that also make it difficult to focus at one or more distances.

When the cornea is misshapen—this is called a refractive error—the light that enters the eye can’t focus properly on the retina. It may instead focus in front of or behind the surface of the retina, causing nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and other visual disturbances. LASIK corrects this by reshaping the cornea. 

However, LASIK can’t “correct” or “reverse” cataracts. Since the cataract is a clouding of the natural lens of the eye, it must be surgically removed to restore clarity. Because of this, ophthalmologists usually can’t use LASIK eye surgery to correct cataracts. (One possible exception would be congenital cataracts that have been stable for a long time and are too small or mild to affect vision.)

The good news is that LASIK may be an option once the cataracts have been removed, although one of several LASIK alternatives may be more appropriate. 

Cataracts and Multifocal IOLs

It is extremely common for cataract patients to address other vision issues at the same time as their cataract surgery. During cataract surgery, your surgeon will first remove the cataract (which affects the natural lens of the eye), and replace it with an intraocular lens, or IOL. 

Many patients elect to have their cataract replaced with a multifocal IOL, which can provide clearer vision at multiple distances. 

We offer a number of multifocal lens technologies, and depending on a patient’s hobbies, career and vision goals, the surgeon will recommend the appropriate lens and treatment method.

A Word About Investing in Your Vision

Medicare and insurance will cover the cost of basic manual cataract removal surgery; however, most plans will not cover the investment for multifocal IOLs. That means you’re likely to have some out-of-pocket payments with a multifocal IOL.

If you have a health spending account or flex spending account available to you, you can contribute up to $2,750 pretax income into this account to use toward vision correction. Depending on your vision needs, this may be sufficient to cover the surgical fee. 

If not, or if you have no flex account option available to you, talk to your surgeon’s office about payment options. For many patients, the investment in vision correction surgery ultimately costs less than a lifetime of corrective eyewear, and many patients describe the added convenience and freedom as “priceless!”
Missouri Eye Institute offers convenient and affordable payment plans for laser eye surgery and cataract surgery. Visit our website to request a consultation, or call (800) 383-3831 now.


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