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Going Blind From LASIK? How Often Does It Actually Happen?

Johnny Khoury, M.D.

Medically Reviewed by Johnny Khoury, M.D.

Fact Checked
9 sources cited

Last Updated

There is no evidence of anyone going blind from LASIK. 

There are risks to the surgery, especially for people who have pre-existing eye disorders, who are on certain medications, and pregnant women. Complications can arise after LASIK, but these are usually due to poor aftercare standards and rarely a result of the surgery itself. 

Your ophthalmologist will give you clear instructions on how to protect your eyes after the operation. Following their instructions carefully can ensure the best healing process for your eyes following LASIK. 

LASIK & Safety

LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis, or corneal reshaping, where the cornea is surgically improved to improve its refraction) is the most frequently performed surgery to correct problems with vision. LASIK can be a long-term alternative to wearing corrective eyewear. 

There are no documented cases of legal blindness arising directly from LASIK surgery. The Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery cautions that success rates can vary from patient to patient, but the average success rate of LASIK surgery hovers between 92 percent and 96 percent (that is, between 92 percent and 96 percent of patients achieve 20/40 vision, or even better). 

While all forms of surgery carry a degree of risk due to side effects and complications, LASIK is widely thought of as a safe procedure, with a complication rate so low that it is one of the safest elective surgical procedures today. LASIK is also one of the most studied elective procedures that is currently performed, meaning that the likelihood of losing vision as a result of LASIK surgery is miniscule. 

Complications From LASIK Surgery

In instances where there are complications that develop after LASIK surgery, these are typically due to secondary health issues and not a result of the surgery itself. If a patient does not follow proper aftercare procedures, for instance, they are at risk for infections that can develop into serious complications, like loss of vision. Like with any surgery, it is vital for patients to give themselves time and a good environment in which to heal. 

Patients who do not use their prescribed eye drops, who strain their eyes soon after their LASIK surgery, or who prematurely return to activities that put their eyes at risk (such as swimming, contact sports, being in the sun, or even having a lot of screentime) can prevent their eyes from healing after LASIK surgery. This can lead to a slower recovery time, pain or discomfort in the eyes, and even loss of vision. 

Following proper aftercare guidelines, on the other hand, can make LASIK surgery a success. 

Complications can also be an issue if the LASIK surgery has to be more invasive, such as in cases where a doctor has to make a greater correction to restore vision. The more of the cornea that needs to be treated, the longer the healing time will be, and the more sensitive the patient’s eyes will be after surgery. 

man rubbing eyes

In these cases, it is all the more important to exercise proper aftercare standards. Putting any stress on the eyes too soon can easily undo the work of the surgery or cause further vision problems. 

Complications are also more likely to occur when LASIK is more invasive due to a more significant correction being made. For instance, if more of the cornea needs to be altered, the healing time is likely to be longer and the risk factors can go up.

In these cases, it is all the more important to exercise proper aftercare standards. Putting any stress on the eyes too soon can easily undo the work of the surgery or cause further vision problems.

Minimizing the Risks of LASIK

There are potential side effects of LASIK surgery, so how can they be minimized? Even as LASIK has the least amount of risk for mild to moderate nearsightedness, the level of risk increases with the significance of the nearsightedness or farsightedness being addressed.  

In order to minimize any risks from LASIK, your ophthalmologist will set out eligibility requirements for the procedure. They include the following: 

  • You have to be at least 18 years old.
  • Your corneas should be thick enough for the procedure (between 450 to 550 microns thick, to accommodate an incision and flap about 160 microns).
  • Your pupils should be of regular size (2 to 4 mm in diameter in bright conditions, and 4 to 8 mm in dark conditions).
  • Your prescription needs to be stable for at least a year before your surgery date (that is, you cannot get LASIK if your vision is getting progressively worse due to other health issues).
  • You should be in good health and not have any medical or health issues that would complicate the surgery or your healing period.
  • You may not be eligible for LASIK if you play contact sports or engage in other activities where your eyes might be physically harmed.

Can You Go Blind From LASIK?

patient receiving cataract surgery

There are no documented cases of anyone going blind from LASIK.

Surgical complications from LASIK are very rare, but they do occur, usually as a result of other medical or health issues, the degree of treatment required, or improper aftercare and recovery. 

Overall, less than 1 percent of patients who receive LASIK experience such complications, meaning any complications stemming from LASIK are extremely rare. 

References

  1. LASIK Outcomes: How Are We Doing And Can We Do Better? (August 2016).  Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery.
  2. Complications of Laser-assisted In Situ Keratomileusis. (June 2021). Indian Journal of Ophthalmology.
  3. What Should I Expect Before, During, and After Surgery? (July 2018). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  4. Refractive Eye Surgery: Helping Patients Make Informed Decisions About LASIK. (May 2017). American Family Physician.
  5. When Is LASIK Not for Me? (July 2018). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  6. Should I Get LASIK If I’m Breastfeeding? (June 2018). Ophthalmology and Therapy.
  7. How Does Pregnancy Affect LASIK? (August 2012). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
  8. Improving Patient Communication on LASIK Benefits and Risks. (September 2022). JAMA.
  9. Facts About LASIK Complications. (December 2018). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

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