The most common sexually transmitted infection (STI), human papillomavirus (HPV), has been connected to conjunctival neoplasia, a tumor on the surface of the eye.
Generally, HPV does not impact the eyes. For most people with HPV, eye surgery like cataract surgery or LASIK is generally safe.
Talk to your doctor to determine your risks. Be sure to tell them if you have HPV before having any procedures done on your eyes.
HPV & the Eyes
Typically, health problems related to HPV impact the regions of the body where intimate contact was made, such as the genitals, anus, or mouth.
There have been some reports linking HPV with conjunctival neoplasia and potentially squamous cell carcinoma of the conjunctiva (SCCC). These are tumors that occur on the surface of the eye between the eyelids. HPV infection in the conjunctiva of the eye is believed to occur from touching the eye with contaminated fingers.
There is some controversy surrounding the potential link between HPV and conjunctival neoplasia, however. Research indicates that the connection is tenuous at best, and it is most likely that HPV is not a causal factor for ocular surface diseases but a concurrent development instead.
People with lowered immune systems or immune system deficiencies can be at a higher risk for viral infections like HPV, eye infections, and cancers.
HPV, therefore, is not generally considered to affect the eyes, although you can suffer from tumors on the surface of the eye and HPV at the same time. These conditions are thought to occur simultaneously as the result of similar risk factors (such as being elderly or immunosuppressed, for example), but one does not likely cause the other.
Getting LASIK or Cataract Surgery With HPV
Since HPV generally does not impact the eyes, both LASIK and cataract surgeries should be completely safe for people with HPV. It is important to let your doctor know if you have HPV, as there are special precautions they may need to take.
It is possible to spread HPV through heat-generating devices, such as lasers, during surgery through what is called surgical smoke. Health care providers will need to ensure they are properly protected from surgical smoke during surgery.
Your doctor will help you determine if you are a good candidate for cataract surgery or LASIK based on:
Your general health and well-being.If your immune system is also compromised, which is often the case with HPV, you may need to treat the virus and build up your immune system (allowing an acute infection to clear) before undergoing surgery.
The level of correction needed.LASIK requires your vision to be stable and within FDA-approved correction parameters for surgery to be considered. Cataract surgery is best performed when the cataracts have clouded the lens to the point of interfering with daily life tasks like reading and driving.
Your eye health.Your eyes need to be healthy enough for surgery. For LASIK, your pupils need to be small enough and corneas should be thick enough.
Your age.For LASIK, you need to be at least 18 years old. For cataract surgery, you can be any age, though there are just special considerations for adults over the age of 65.
If you have HPV, it does not mean that you cannot get LASIK or cataract surgery, but it may mean that you will need to wait for the infection to clear up before the surgery is performed. Surgery has some risks, and an acute HPV infection can impede the healing process and make it harder for your immune system to function properly.
Talk to your doctor about your HPV and your surgical options.
During the consultation, we will ask you about your eye health history and your medications, and perform some tests. You will then be examined by the surgeon who will discuss your treatment options. Your personal Patient Counselor will help you throughout the process.
Your Counselor can review payment options and schedule you for surgery and related appointments, such as pre- and post-operative exams. Prior to your procedure you will have a dilated eye exam, and you should discontinue wearing your contact lenses and begin taking eye drops as instructed.
Plan to be at the center for two to three hours the day of your procedure. ICL eye surgery is a fairly brief outpatient procedure. Your surgeon dilates your eyes, and gives you a local anesthetic to numb the area. A tiny incision is made, and the clear lens is slipped between your iris and your eye’s natural lens. The day of your procedure should be a day of rest.
Your Patient Counselor will give you detailed post-operative instructions and eye drop regimen for your recovery. After ICL surgery, you’ll need several follow-ups with your eye doctor. Visual recovery is rapid, and you can expect noticeable improvement within a day or two. Most patients are generally able to return to their normal activities within two or three days following their procedure.
What Is HPV?
Human papillomavirus is extremely common and is spread through skin-to-skin contact, usually through vaginal, oral, or anal sex with an infected partner. It is a sexually transmitted infection, and 90% of the time the infection will go away on its own within a two-year period.
However, HPV infections can last longer than two years in some cases. They can be the cause of up to six different forms of cancer, generally infecting the cervix, vulva, or vagina in women or the penis in men. HPV can also cause cancers in the back of the throat, tonsils, base of the tongue, and anus in both men and women.
Cancers from HPV can be prevented with the HPV vaccine, which is recommended to be administered in two doses for those between the ages of 11 and 12.
Genital HPV Infection- Fact Sheet. (August 2019). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
About HPV. (October 2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Advances in Diagnosis and Treatment of HPV Ocular Surface Infections. (Summer 2105). Medical Hypothesis, Discovery & Innovation Ophthalmology Journal.
Detecting Human Papillomavirus in Ocular Surface Diseases. (December 2013). Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (IOVS).
Traditional Surgery vs. Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery. (August 2019). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
Health and Safety Practices Survey of Healthcare Workers. (March 2017). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Awareness of Surgical Smoke Hazards and Enhancement of Surgical Smoke Prevention Among the Gynecologists. (June 2019). Journal of Cancer.