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Do the Effects of LASIK Diminish or Wear Off Over Time?

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The effects of LASIK don’t wear off or regress, but eyes may continue to change and age with time. This can result in later vision changes, but these are new issues, not the effects of LASIK wearing off.

To understand this, it’s important to know that LASIK works by reshaping the cornea to remove imperfections that are causing vision problems. Sometimes, over an extended period of time, the vision problem that was originally treated with LASIK will progress and new imperfections will develop on the cornea. 

Another issue that may occur is the lens of the eye (a different part of the eye than the cornea that was treated with LASIK surgery) ages and becomes unfocused, or cloudy. This may be caused by presbyopia (age-related farsightedness) and cataracts. LASIK doesn’t prevent or cause either of these issues, and it also won’t affect your treatment options for these conditions.

How Long Does LASIK Last?

LASIK surgery corrects a refractive error that causes vision problems, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. It does this by using a laser to reshape the cornea. With this reshaping, the imperfections on the cornea that were causing the prescribed vision problem are removed, and vision is corrected. 

The imperfections removed with LASIK are permanently removed. However, the eyes continue to age and change after LASIK surgery. This can result in further vision problems that require additional treatment. 

Generally, LASIK surgery is a safe and effective surgery for corneal vision correction, with long-lasting results. 

In a 2016 study, it was found that 94 percent of LASIK patients did not have to wear corrective lenses five years after undergoing the procedure. 
Another large-scale study (also reported in 2016) found a retreatment rate of less than 2 percent for patients in a five-year period after receiving LASIK surgery.

Are you a good candidate for LASIK? Could one short surgery change your life for the better? Answer just four simple questions and get an answer in seconds with our free quiz.

Does It Wear Off or Diminish Over Time?

The removal of corneal imperfections from LASIK is permanent. But LASIK surgery doesn’t prevent other vision problems from forming after treatment. And because vision problems progress with time, and aging is a major factor in many vision problems (such as cataracts), the longer the period after LASIK surgery, the more likely it is that someone will develop an unrelated vision problem. 

When you meet with your eye specialist before LASIK, they’ll examine your eyes to determine your overall eye health and what corneal vision problems (nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism) need to be corrected. A treatment plan can then be created. During the LASIK surgery, the corneal vision problems will be corrected.

What your eye specialist cannot determine before, during, or immediately after LASIK surgery is how your eyes will change in the years following the procedure. Individuals have unique eyes and vision, and their overall health can factor in as well. 

Some people may develop cataracts. While one person’s nearsightedness may be corrected and stop advancing altogether with LASIK surgery, another individual’s nearsightedness may be fixed during LASIK surgery but then gradually develop again with time. After 10 years, some people may require treatment again. 

Some factors that could increase the risk of worsening eyesight over time include the following:

  • Hormone problems
  • Irregular healing of wounds or illnesses
  • Pregnancy
  • Hypertension

LASIK: Who’s a Candidate for Retreatment?

If your vision has changed following LASIK, you could potentially get another LASIK procedure to correct your vision again. You will only be eligible if you have not changed your glasses or contact lenses prescription in the past year, indicating that your eyes are not changing rapidly.

You can’t be taking medications that cause visual fluctuations. And your cornea must be thick enough for another surgery. Some people are simply not a good candidate for a follow-up LASIK surgery.

There Could Be an Underlying Cause of Poor Eyesight After LASIK

If your vision is changing and you have had LASIK to correct a refractive error already, there may be another underlying reason that you are having trouble seeing clearly.

For example, both glaucoma and cataracts may cause blurry vision as an early symptom of the condition. Getting regular eye exams can help your eye doctor diagnose these conditions and monitor potential problems like small spots or high intraocular pressure that might lead to these conditions. Neither cataracts or glaucoma can be treated with LASIK or similar vision surgeries. 

Your eyes may develop additional vision issues, including more serious ones like glaucoma or cataracts, as you get older. Even after having your vision corrected with LASIK, it is important to get regular eye exams. Contact your optometrist or ophthalmologist as soon as possible if your vision quickly changes, or you struggle with blurry or poor eyesight after LASIK.

LASIK Effects FAQs

Will I need a LASIK enhancement?

Most people don’t need LASIK enhancement. Only about 1 to 5 percent of people who undergo LASIK need a touch-up later.

You might need LASIK retreatment if your vision isn’t as clear as you’d like after following the aftercare procedure for three months following your initial surgery.

You might also need retreatment several years later if you notice that you can’t see as clearly as you could right after surgery. It doesn’t mean the treatment wore off. It’s just that your vision deteriorated over time for other reasons. Age is a likely contributing factor.

If you think you’re a candidate for a LASIK touch-up, your doctor will determine if your cornea is thick enough to support an enhancement.

Will the type of LASIK impact how long it lasts?

No. All forms of LASIK treatment are permanent solutions, so you will have the same outcome whether you opt for LASIK or even another procedure like SMILE or PRK.

All types of LASIK reshape the surface of your cornea, and these are permanent changes. Your vision could change later, and you may develop age-related farsightedness. LASIK does not do anything to prevent future vision changes.

Will I need to wear glasses or contacts after surgery?

Not everyone heals the same way or responds to LASIK in the same way. You may have some difficulties focusing on objects immediately after the surgery. Because an ophthalmologist will monitor your vision for several weeks after surgery, it’s possible that you will need help from prescription glasses or contact lenses.

If you wear contacts, you can only wear the gas-permeable type. Regardless, this assistance (including wearing glasses) should be temporary. Your vision should stabilize and improve within three months, which is the point of having the procedure.

References

  1. What Is LASIK? (July 2018). United States Food and Drug Administration.
  2. When Is LASIK Not for Me? (July 2018). United States Food and Drug Administration.
  3. If You Had LASIK Surgery Over 15 Years Ago, and Your Vision Is Starting to Get Worse, Can You Have It Done Again? (April 2017). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
  4. Clinical Outcomes After Topography-Guided LASIK: Comparing Results Based on a New Topography Analysis Algorithm With Those Based on Manifest Refraction. (June 2020). Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery.
  5. Outcome of a 10-year Follow-Up of Laser In Situ Laser Keratomileusis for Myopia and Myopic Astigmatism. (December 2014). Taiwan Journal of Ophthalmology.
  6. Twelve-Year Follow-Up of Laser In Situ Keratomileusis for Moderate to High Myopia. (May 2017). BioMed Research International.
  7. LASIK – Laser Eye Surgery. (December 2019). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
  8. Functional Outcome and Patient Satisfaction After Laser In Situ Keratomileusis for Correction of Myopia and Myopic Astigmatism. (January—March 2015). Middle East African Journal of Ophthalmology.
  9. Effect of Age on Visual and Refractive Results after LASIK: Mechanical Microkeratome Versus Femtosecond Laser. (March 2019). International Journal of Ophthalmology.
  10. Refractive Eye Surgery: Helping Patients Make Informed Decisions About LASIK. (May 2017). American Family Physician.
  11. Symptoms and Satisfaction of Patients in the Patient-Reported Outcomes With Laser In Situ Keratomileusis (PROWL) Studies. (January 2017). JAMA Ophthalmology.
  12. Patient-Reported Outcomes 5 years After Laser in Situ Keratomileusis. (2016). Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery.
  13. Myopic Laser in Situ Keratomileusis Retreatment: Incidence and Associations. (2016). Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery.

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