LASIK Risks: A Straight AnswerAuthor: Dr. William Tullo
January 10, 2014
A majority of people never have a LASIK complication, but you might have wondered what risks this procedure carries.
Here are some of the most common possible risks of LASIK. It’s important to discuss these risks with your LASIK eye surgeon or optometrist before your procedure.
Remember, most patients don’t experience LASIK complications, but complications do happen. There are also common side effects that are more common in the early post-operative period; these usually resolve over time but may not. Side effects and risks include these:
1. Dry eyes
Dry eyes are a common and usually temporary side effect of LASIK, affecting about half LASIK patients. All refractive surgery patients are asked to use artificial tears in the early post-operative period. The dry-eye feeling, which some describe as “sandy or gritty,” typically disappears after three to six months. Your doctor might prescribe additional eye drops. If you already have dry eyes, PRK, another kind of laser vision correction, may be better a better option for you.
Infection can occur after LASIK or PRK. It is important that you attend all of your early post-operative appointments and use all of your medications as prescribed. An eye infection can be treated with medicine, including antibiotic drops, but in some cases may require additional treatment. It is imperative that you contact your doctors immediately if you have any change in your vision or increase in discomfort during the early post-operative period.
3. Residual refractive error: over or under correction
Patients with a very high prescription might not get as good initial results as those with a lower prescription. Residual refractive error, if significant can often be fixed with a follow-up procedure often called an enhancement.
This condition can occur if a patient has an underlying corneal disease such as keratoconus. The main symptom is increased astigmatism, causing blurred vision and a loss in the patient’s best corrected vision. It’s worth noting this is incredibly rare, and your doctor will complete testing prior to surgery to try to identify an underlying corneal disease. The big point here is that if your doctor suggests you are not a candidate for LASIK, trust his or her judgment.
A LASIK patient’s results may regress with time. Many LASIK providers offer enhancements, sometimes for life, if your vision regresses after surgery and additional surgery is safe to perform. Make sure you know your LASIK surgeon’s policy on enhancements and the charges that might be associated with them before scheduling your procedure.
6. Glare and halos
Night-vision disturbances such as glare and halos are potential LASIK risks. Glare and halos affect the way your eyes see light, mostly at night or under dimly lit conditions. In most but not all cases, these symptoms decrease over time. A small number of patients do report significant night-vision disturbances, even one year after LASIK surgery.
7. Flap complications
Among patients who get Bladeless LASIK, flap complications occur in less than one half of one percent, according to one study. After LASIK, it’s important to let the corneal flaps heal by not rubbing or bumping your eyes. If there is injury to the eye, the flap could be moved slightly, resulting in a wrinkle in the flap. If that happens, a patient might require an additional procedure in which the surgeon smoothes the wrinkled flap.
8. Vision complications
Rarely, LASIK can worsen vision. This makes it important to choose your LASIK surgeon carefully and to ensure that he or she uses the most updated technology.
9. Epithelial ingrowth
Sometimes during healing corneal tissue grows under the LASIK flap. When this happens, it’s called “epithelial ingrowth.” Symptoms of epithelial ingrowth include blurred vision and slight discomfort. If the epithelial ingrowth affects a patient’s vision, the surgeon can perform additional surgery to remove this tissue.
This is not a comprehensive list of LASIK risks. Some patients may be at risk for more or fewer complications. Your doctors can tell you which risks are involved with your procedure and specific to your eyes.
Selecting an experienced, trustworthy surgeon can greatly reduce your LASIK risks. This is also true of picking a surgeon who uses the most updated LASIK technology.