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LASIK Complications and Long-Term Effects

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The vast majority of people who have LASIK will live a lifetime of freedom from glasses and contact lenses. LASIK is one of the safest procedures in medicine, and it is among the most studied procedures in medicine.

LASIK results are permanent. Short-term and long-term side effects are rare.

How Long Does LASIK Last?

The effects of LASIK are lifelong since it permanently reshapes the cornea. The results do not wear off.

Whether you have LASIK or not, we all start needing reading glasses or bifocals sometime in our 40s. LASIK does not prevent that. When you’re in your 40s, LASIK may be enhanced to give you blended vision, or monovision, which will allow you to see well both near and far, again giving you freedom from glasses and contacts.

If you need an enhancement years after LASIK, it is not because LASIK has worn off. It is because the lens inside the eye is changing in shape. Only 5% of patients who have LASIK need an enhancement during their lifetime.

Long-Term Benefits of LASIK

LASIK is designed to correct farsightedness, nearsightedness, and astigmatism.

Eligible LASIK candidates generally meet the following criteria:

  • Age 18 or older
  • Stable refraction for one year, defined as a change in your prescription of 0.5 diopters or less within the past year.
  • Astigmatism that is no worse than 6 diopters (D)
  • Hyperopia that is no worse than +6 D
  • Myopia that is no worse than –12 D

About 99% of patients who have had LASIK are satisfied with their surgery and would recommend it to their friends and family members. More than 98% of patients with up to -7 diopters of nearsightedness and -3 diopters of astigmatism will have 20/20 vision with both eyes open. That is an extremely high likelihood of success and satisfaction.

Patients who do not get 20/20 vision after LASIK are usually candidates for an enhancement to improve their vision and give them the freedom from glasses and contacts.

Potential Side Effects & Complications

LASIK is considered a safe procedure, and complications are extremely rare.

The most important variable to minimize the chances of LASIK side effects or complications is choosing a surgeon with vast experience performing the procedure who utilizes the most advanced technology available.

In the hands of a very experienced surgeon, the incidence of side effects or complications is extremely rare. Most side effects and complications, with availability of recent diagnostic devices and technology, are treatable.

The most common side effects in the early postoperative period after LASIK surgery are dry eyes, halos, and glare at night. Those typically dissipate within one month, but they can sometimes last up to three to six months. If these symptoms persist, they are treatable with very rare exceptions.

People who wear soft contact lenses are much more likely to report dry eye symptoms than people who have had LASIK and no longer need contact lenses.

Corneal infections that may cause permanent damage to your eyesight are rare and much less common than infections associated with long-term contact lens wear. The founder of NVISION Eye Centers, who has performed more than 150,000 LASIK procedures, reports no infections over a 30-year period of performing the procedure.

With the recent advent of topography-guided laser vision correction, even people who had LASIK many years ago and currently have symptoms of halos and glare, or poor quality of vision, can have enhancement surgery to substantially improve their quality of vision. This is very likely to get rid of halos, glare, and poor-quality vision.

Reducing Your Risk of LASIK Complications

If you use the prescribed antibiotic and steroid eye drops, and follow your surgeon’s postoperative recommendations, the risk of LASIK complications is extremely low.

If you are involved in contact sports, avoid this activity for a minimum of three months and always wear a protective eye shield. Less than one in several thousand people will experience a dislodged flap from trauma. However, dislodged flaps can be repaired to restore your vision.

Navy pilots who have had LASIK, who have had to eject themselves from their fighter jet, did not get a dislodged flap. Direct trauma to the cornea may dislodge your LASIK flap, but even then, it is repairable.

LASIK Enhancements

Less than 1% of people who have LASIK will need an enhancement during the first year after surgery. About 5% will need an enhancement sometime in the future. LASIK enhancements are safe and predictable, and complications are rare.

There is only one potential complication following enhancements that is more common than the initial surgery. Epithelial ingrowth is when the first layer of the cornea, the epithelium, grows under the flap. If that does happen, it is repaired by re-lifting the flab and washing the cells away.

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