Ask an Eye M.D. Answer Archive

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Question:
Should you have LASIK if you have cataracts?  

Answer:
LASIK and cataract surgery are two different procedures to improve vision by correcting two different problems: two different roads to the same goal.  

LASIK corrects focusing disorders like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism by reshaping the cornea (clear window) of the eye.  The presence of a small amount of cataract would not diminish the results of LASIK, but you should be concerned that the cataracts might grow in the near future, obstructing vision and thus requiring cataract surgery. This would necessitate 2 surgeries on each eye rather than one. LASIK is not usually covered by insurance as it is cosmetic, elective.  

Cataract surgery replaces the focusing lens of the eye that has become clouded due to aging or other causes. Here, the cataract is removed and an intraocular lens is placed within the eye to replace the focusing effect of the human lens that was just removed.  The shape of the cornea (see above) is not significantly changed as in LASIK. Cataract surgery is covered by most insurance providers once the cataract has reached the definition of mature, which can vary from state to state.  

Not to confuse you, but some people who desire LASIK might not be good candidates for traditional refractive surgery (LASIK or PRK) and can be helped by having their focusing lens removed and intraocular lenses implanted prior to the development of cataract. You might think of it as a refractive lens exchange or a cataract surgery, without a cataract.  This is not customarily covered by insurance providers as it is usually cosmetic in nature.  

I suggest you consult your ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) for additional information and discussion on these topics.

Answered by: Wayne Bizer, DO Dr. Wayne Bizer

Categories: Cataracts, Eye Surgery, Vision Correction

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Answered: Jun 18, 2012

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