The long-term effects of LASIK are positive with most people experiencing continued improved vision. The potential for long-term negative effects from LASIK is very small.

LASIK surgery is a form of refractive surgery that can permanently correct a person’s refractive errors. Major complications are rare but possible, with most experts considering the procedure to be an overall safe and effective way to correct refractive errors in eligible candidates.

However, LASIK surgery does not prevent the eye from developing vision problems in the future, so a high level of visual acuity cannot be guaranteed long term. This is because the eye can change, particularly with aging, not because the effects of LASIK are temporary.

How Long Does LASIK Last?

The effects of LASIK are lifelong since it permanently reshapes the cornea. While it is still possible for your vision to change for reasons unrelated to LASIK, such as aging, LASIK’s results are permanent.

With this said, the FDA and other experts correctly note that there is a lack of long-term data on LASIK. It may affect patients over time in ways that are not yet understood. Still, it is considered a safe and effective form of refractive surgery.

Long-Term Benefits of LASIK

LASIK is a type of refractive surgery. This category of surgery is intended to help correct farsightedness, nearsightedness, and astigmatism.

In the case of LASIK, experts claim it is a good option for a wide pool of candidates. Eligible candidates generally meet the following criteria:

  • Age 18 or older, preferably over 21 years old (since the eyes are more stable at this point)
  • Stable refraction for at least one year
  • Astigmatism no worse than 5 diopters (D)
  • Hyperopia no worse than +6 D
  • Myopia no worse than –12 D

LASIK boasts incredibly high patient satisfaction rates — over 96 percent. Many patients achieve a high level of visual acuity once their vision has fully stabilized after their procedure, allowing them to perform activities such as driving or reading without further corrective measures.

Potential Side Effects & Complications

LASIK is considered a safe procedure, and major complications are rare. However, all eye surgery has risks.

Working with an experienced surgeon who is using the latest technology reduces the risk of 'traditional' LASIK complications to miniscule rates.

LASIK involves cutting a flap into a person’s eye, which can become dislodged under the wrong circumstances. This could cause a person to need further surgery and potentially experience long-term side effects as a result.

A small portion of people who get LASIK may experience long-term visual symptoms, such as seeing halos or starbursts around lights, particularly at night. Some develop dry eye, which can sometimes become a chronic condition that persists even after their eye has healed and their vision has stabilized. For most people, these side effects dissipate within six months after surgery.

Surgeons cannot guarantee a particular level of visual acuity for patients who undergo LASIK. While most eligible patients will see significant improvement in their vision, exact guarantees (such as 20/20 vision) are not possible. Businesses that claim or heavily imply that such results are guaranteed should be avoided.

A very small percentage (as little as 0.1 percent) of patients may experience an eye infection or similar complications following surgery. This is often due to outdated technology and surgical methods. This is usually easily treated if reported to a doctor as soon as an issue is noticed.

While some sources claim blindness is a potential complication of LASIK surgery, and it is logically possible under the right circumstances, there are no confirmed cases of blindness caused by the procedure.

Reducing Your Risk of LASIK Complications

Following your doctor's recommendations and getting regular checkups during your healing process are the best ways to reduce your risk of post-LASIK complications.

Two of the biggest risks to your recovery after LASIK are contact sports and water.

Heavy physical activity, which can also include some kinds of labor, has the potential to dislodge the flap cut in your eye during your surgery. Likewise, water can get into your eye and dislodge or otherwise get under your flap while swimming or using a hot tub.

Most experts recommend waiting at least a month after surgery before starting these activities again, and you should make sure to get permission from your doctor before doing so.

Vision Changes After LASIK

The results of LASIK are permanent since the cornea is reshaped, but nothing about the procedure prevents further vision changes. If a person’s vision changes due to other conditions, they can still see a loss in their visual acuity after LASIK.

The human eye can change shape as we age, which can cause a person to develop or otherwise experience a worsening of refractive errors. Age-related farsightedness is very common with age, necessitating the use of reading glasses for many people.

LASIK Enhancements

One study showed that about 3 percent of LASIK patients were not satisfied with their vision after the surgery. In these situations, the patient and their doctor may decide they can benefit from a LASIK enhancement procedure, which is similar to a standard LASIK surgery.

The flap formed during the initial surgery is reopened, and the eye’s shape is further refined to improve the person’s vision. An enhancement procedure is often very fast, as the level of correction needed is much less than what was required during their initial visit.

Not all patients who undergo LASIK can benefit from an enhancement procedure. A doctor may decide that further surgery presents too much risk to the patient’s eye. LASIK thins the cornea and can weaken the structural integrity of the eye too much to justify further surgery in some cases.

Long-Term Effects of LASIK FAQs

  • Will I need LASIK more than once?

    Most people only need LASIK once. They get their desired level of visual acuity with their initial LASIK procedure.

    A very small percentage of people require an enhancement surgery after their initial LASIK surgery. This is only needed when the desired level of vision correction is not achieved in the initial surgery. Again, this is very rare.

  • How long do the results of LASIK last?

    The results of LASIK are permanent as part of the cornea is cut away. While unrelated changes can still occur, such as age-related vision deterioration, LASIK’s results do not fade.

  • Are there negative long-term effects of LASIK?

    While there is the potential for long-term negative effects, such as dry eye or halos around lights, these side effects most often resolve within three to six months. Patients are overwhelmingly satisfied with the results of LASIK, and long-term complications are very rare.

References

LASIK — Laser Eye Surgery. (October 2020). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

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.

Refractive Eye Surgery: Helping Patients Make Informed Decisions About LASIK. (May 2017). American Family Physician.

What Are the Risks and How Can I Find the Right Doctor for Me? (August 2018). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Traumatic Corneal Flap Displacement After Laser in Situ Keratomileusis (LASIK). (April 2017). International Medical Case Reports Journal.

Night Vision Disturbances After Successful LASIK Surgery. (April 2007). British Journal of Ophthalmology.

What Should I Expect Before, During, and After Surgery? (July 2018). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Corneal Healing After Uncomplicated LASIK and Its Relationship to Refractive Changes: A Six-Month Prospective Confocal Study. (May 2004). Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.

Refractive Eye Surgery: Helping Patients Make Informed Decisions About LASIK. (May 2017). American Family Physician.

Chronic Dry Eye Symptoms After LASIK: Parallels and Lessons to Be Learned From Other Persistent Post-Operative Pain Disorders. (April 2015). Molecular Pain.

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