LASIK is the most common refractive eye surgery, partially due to the fact that the risks and complications are low. The majority of patients don’t experience any long term complications as a result of the surgery. Nevertheless, as with any surgical procedure there are some risks, however rare they are and it is important to know them and to discuss them with your eye doctor or surgeon prior to undergoing the surgery.
Side effects of LASIK
There are a number of side effects that are somewhat common immediately post-op and in some instances can last longer – sometimes indefinitely. Those include:
About half of LASIK patients experience dry eyes, which are usually a temporary side effect that resolves within 3-6 months after the surgery. Your doctor will likely prescribe artificial tears in the days and weeks following the surgery which should be continued as long as the symptoms persist. Because of this, it is usually recommended that patients with a history of chronic dry eyes opt for another type of refractive surgery such as PRK, another style of laser refractive surgery with reduced risk.
Eye Infection or Irritation
While not common due to the eye drops and checkups prescribed post-surgery, there is a chance of developing an eye infection. If this does occur, it can be treated with antibiotic eye drops, anti-inflammatories or sometimes may require other treatment such as oral antibiotics. If you are experiencing symptoms of an eye infection such as redness, pain, discomfort, discharge or any change in vision, see your eye doctor immediately. As a precaution, it is imperative to follow your surgeon’s instructions for your post-operative care including prescription medications and doctor’s visits.
Following surgery, you may experience certain vision issues such as such as poor night vision, double vision, halos around lights or glare. These side effects are common and can last up to a few weeks, but typically go away. Some patients report a lasting reduction in vision in low light conditions and may require vision aids for seeing better at night.
Other risks of LASIK include surgical errors, many of which can be corrected by a follow-up surgery. These include:
Overcorrection or Undercorrection
The key to vision improvement in LASIK is accurate reshaping of the corneal tissue. If too much is removed or not enough is removed, your vision will remain imperfect and when possible may require a follow up procedure to obtain the clear vision being sought.
Perhaps the greatest risk involved in LASIK is the accurate creation and healing of the flap of the cornea that is lifted to reshape the underlying tissue and replaced after. If the flap in the cornea is not made accurately, cut too thick or too thin and not carefully replaced back on the eye, it can cause complications in the shape of the eye surface and therefore clear vision. Studies indicate that these complications occur usually in under 6% of cases and the experience and skill of the surgeon play a large role.
There can also be complications in the healing process of the flap which include infection or excessive eye tearing.
There is a chance, albeit small that the surgery can result in a loss of vision or reduction in visual clarity due to complications with the surgery.
It is quite rare for any permanent damage or vision loss to occur as a result of LASIK and usually any vision problems can be corrected by a follow-up procedure. However, as with any surgical procedure, there are risks, so it is important to reduce your risks by finding an experienced surgeon and carefully considering your suitability for the surgery in the first place.