Research conducted on people who had LASIK surgery suggests that the benefits persist even 10 years later. (Learn more) But you may still read reports of benefits fading and poor eyesight returning. There are several explanations.
Your eyes can change with age, leading to blurred close vision. (Learn more) Your prescription can change after surgery, requiring an additional level of correction. (Learn more) Poor lifestyle choices can also impact your vision over time. (Learn more)
Let's dive into the specifics of LASIK surgery and its benefits, so you can make an informed choice.
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LASIK Length: What the Research Says
In order to determine how long LASIK benefits last, researchers measure visual acuity right after surgery, and they take additional measurements of acuity as time passes. If those values change, it seems to suggest that the benefits of surgery can also fade a bit with time.
When LASIK was new, there were many studies just like this performed all across the country. Now that LASIK is considered a standard surgical procedure, there are fewer studies performed. But modern studies do suggest that people who have surgery experience benefits that persist over time.
For example, in a study published in the Middle East African Journal of Ophthalmology, researchers followed people for 10 years after LASIK surgery. They found that 98.5 percent of patients were either satisfied or very satisfied with the results of surgery after 10 years.
Researchers in this study did not measure visual acuity, but they used a questionnaire that addressed that issue along with quality of life. People were asked about troublesome post-surgery symptoms, for example. Since so many were pleased 10 years later, this seems to suggest that the surgery's benefits do not fade with time.
This is to be expected, as LASIK is a permanent solution to an existing vision problem. During LASIK, surgeons remove tissue that keeps images from focusing on the proper part of the retina. With that tissue removed, the underlying vision issue is amended. This is a permanent solution, but there are some other issues that can cause a new vision problem to appear.
Your Eyes Change With Age
LASIK is meant to address:
- Nearsightedness, in which items at a distance seem indistinct.
- Farsightedness, in which close items seem indistinct.
- Astigmatism, in which portions of the visual field always seem fuzzy.
Any of these issues could cause you to reach for glasses or contacts when you want visual clarity. But these are not the only issues that can blur your vision. Presbyopia happens to everyone with age, according to the National Eye Institute.
Presbyopia is caused by hardening of the lens of the eye, paired with weakened muscles that control the lens. This process can make items close up seem blurry and indistinct, and it is the reason many older people need some form of reading glasses in order to focus on things close at hand.
LASIK is not meant to address this issue, and having LASIK cannot prevent this issue from happening to you. It is a natural process, and it can be blamed for a deterioration of LASIK benefits. If you have surgery and develop crisp vision, and then that crisp vision begins to fade, you may naturally blame your LASIK surgery. In reality, age-related changes could be to blame.
Your Prescription Can Change
While LASIK can correct an issue that causes nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism, it cannot prevent future changes from happening. As the American Refractive Surgery Council points out, the underlying issue that caused your vision loss can progress. Just as you may have needed stronger glasses due to changing vision, you may also find that your vision acuity can fade after LASIK. The surgery cannot be considered a failure. Instead, your eye health issue is growing in severity.
This process can happen to people who have any type of visual acuity problem, and research published in the journal Ophthalmology suggests that people with different types of vision loss experience a similar level of benefit from LASIK surgery. Here, 95.3 percent of those who were nearsighted and 96.3 percent of those who were farsighted were happy with the results of surgery. But some types of vision loss can be a bit more persistent.
For example, researchers writing in Optometry Times suggest that some forms of farsightedness are caused by a cornea that has grown steep through additional cells. At times, people who were farsighted can have some corneal cells grow back, and that can negate the benefits of LASIK. This is rare, researchers say, but it can happen.
How to Protect Your Vision After LASIK
As mentioned, LASIK is a permanent procedure that is designed to amend an underlying issue that impacts your ability to see clearly. A LASIK procedure cannot be undone, but the benefits can be undermined by other issues that can take hold with time. You can also make a vision issue worse through poor life choices.
For example, as the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) points out, the sun's rays can damage the retina, and they can spark cancerous changes within the eye. Both of these issues can impede clear vision. Wearing sunglasses that block UV rays can help you prevent these issues from taking hold.
AAO also reports that 2.5 million eye injuries happen within the United States every year. Wearing eye protection can help to prevent those injuries, and that protection is vital after LASIK. The flap in the eye created during LASIK is vulnerable to future injury, and if it is dislodged, you may need another surgery to fix the issue. Wearing protection can help prevent that damage.
Underlying health issues, such as diabetes, kidney disease, and heart disease, can also take a toll on your eye health and your vision. Visiting your doctor regularly and addressing health issues when they appear could be another way to ensure that your vision stays clear.
Get the Truth About LASIK
If you're not certain how LASIK works and if it's right for you, speaking with a professional can help. A trained professional can examine your eyes, explain LASIK surgery, and help you understand if it is the right solution for your vision issue. To find a professional near you that can perform the examination you need, contact us.
Functional Outcome and Patient Satisfaction After Laser In Situ Keratomileusis for Correction of Myopia and Myopic Astigmatism. (January 2015). Middle East African Journal of Ophthalmology.
Facts About Presbyopia. (October 2010). National Eye Institute.
Ask The Doctor: How Long Does LASIK Last? (May 2016). American Refractive Surgery Council.
LASIK World Literature Review: Quality of Life and Patient Satisfaction. (April 2009). Ophthalmology.
How to Manage Vision Changes Over Time Post-LASIK. (July 2017). Optometry Times.
Top 10 Tips to Save Your Vision. (September 2015). American Academy of Ophthalmology.