If you suffer from vision problems, you have probably longed for the ability to see without the aid of glasses or contacts. To wake up and get out of bed without reaching for your glasses, to see the alarm clock without squinting, to go for a run without glasses slipping down your nose—this would be a dream come true! You may have read about LASIK surgery and have even practiced the scenario in your mind about qualifying for LASIK. Afterall, it can reduce your dependence on glasses and contacts and finally bring the freedom that you have been envisioning! But if you’re considering any surgery, including LASIK eye surgery, you will naturally wonder if the procedure is safe for you.
What is LASIK eye surgery?
LASIK is a two-step surgical procedure that can be used to treat nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. The first step in the procedure is for the LASIK surgeon to make a small flap in the cornea (the outermost clear covering of an eye). This can be done using a blade or a laser, depending on the surgeon’s preferred surgical technique. For the second step, the surgeon will gently lift the flap to allow a different laser to reshape the cornea to the exact specifications of that patient’s eye prescription. Then, the corneal flap will be laid back into place, and the healing will begin.
Is LASIK surgery risky?
With any surgery, there exists the possibility of experiencing certain side effects or complications. Some of the possible complications of LASIK include inflammation or infection, issues with the corneal flap and dry eyes. However, LASIK has been approved by FDA since 1999 and has an impressive track record for effectiveness and safety – both of which contributes to LASIK’s sustained popularity.
In fact, LASIK is one of the most well studied elective surgeries performed today. Recent clinical data estimates a patient satisfaction rate of greater than 96%, which also demonstrates the safety standard of LASIK procedures. Research also estimates the rate of truly significant complications from LASIK eye surgery at less than 1 percent, making LASIK one of the safest elective procedures performed today.[i]
What are the potential side effects of LASIK surgery?
Possible side effects that LASIK patients may experience include:
Undercorrection/Overcorrection: This occurs when overall laser tissue removal is less than intended (undercorrection) or more than intended (overcorrection), because of one’s own unique biological characteristics. One of the clinician reasons are under- or over-response by the corneal tissues to the planned laser treatment. Regardless of the exact reasons involved, most patients will require only a minor laser touch up (LASIK enhancement) after having healed from the first laser treatment.
Haloes, glare, and issues with night vision: Some of the more common side effects that your LASIK specialist will advise you of include seeing haloes (rings of light), glare from light, or having difficulty seeing at night. When these do occur in patients, they typically resolve on their own in days to weeks.
Dry eyes: Although not all patients are symptomatic, we do expect patients to experience temporary dry eyes after LASIK. This also typically resolves itself within the first year, and it can be treated using eye drops in the meantime. Fortunately, 93% of patients report to not have dry eye symptoms or have returned to their baseline comfort at 12 months[ii]
Can you go blind from LASIK?
People often cite the fear of going completely blind as a concern when considering LASIK. While it is natural to be protective about your vision, there has never actually been a reported patient case where LASIK eye surgery was the primary cause of total blindness.[iii]
Will I need to have repeated LASIK procedures?
A common misconception is that LASIK “wears off” and a patient will need to keep having LASIK procedures every few years in order to maintain the original laser vision correction effects. However, this is not the case. Once LASIK corrects your vision by reshaping tissue underneath the corneal flap, this new tissue shape under corneal flap is permanently maintained under normal physiological situations.
However, like all living things, your own prescription requirements may change over time. For example, all patients will enter a life stage when they need computer or reading glasses (presbyopia), which mislead patients into thinking that LASIK effects have “worn off”. Additionally, patients’ own nearsightedness or farsightedness can naturally progress on its own after LAISK. Fortunately, your eyes may change, but your distance prescription needs don’t generally degrade back to where they were prior to LASIK. In these situations, a new consultation exam with your LASIK specialists can help you figure out if LASIK enhancement can help you.[iv]
Is LASIK painful?
Most LASIK patients report experiencing mild pressure during the procedure, but not pain. Because of the level of comfort during LASIK surgery, patients do not require general anesthesia; instead, eye drops are used to numb and clean the eyes. You may also be offered a mild sedative to relax you prior to the procedure.
How do I know if I am a candidate for LASIK?
The best way to know if you would make a good candidate for a LASIK procedure is to have a consultation with a LASIK specialist. There are certain criteria that help determine whether LASIK is too risky for a given patient. For instance, if you have diabetes or autoimmune diseases like Sjogren’s Syndrome, you may not be good candidate for LASIK. Your LASIK specialist will go over your history with you to ensure that you’re the right fit or LASIK.
If you’d like to find out if you are a candidate for LASIK, schedule a free consultation at a location near you.
[i] American Refractive Surgery Council. (2016). Is LASIK safe? What you need to know. https://americanrefractivesurgerycouncil.org/lasik-safe-need-know/
[ii] Murakami Y, Manche EE. Prospective, randomized comparison of self-reported postoperative dry eye and visual fluctuation in LASIK and photorefractive keratectomy. Ophthalmology. 2012 Nov;119(11):2220-4.
[iii] American Refractive Surgery Council. (2017). LASIK complication rate: The latest facts and stats you should know. Retrieved from https://americanrefractivesurgerycouncil.org/lasik-complication-rate-latest-facts/
[iv] American Refractive Surgery Council. (2016) Ask the doctor: How long does LASIK last? Retrieved from https://americanrefractivesurgerycouncil.org/how-long-does-lasik-last/