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LASIK can affect night vision, though the effects are usually temporary.
Trouble seeing at night (especially seeing glares or haloes around lights), difficulty with color vision at night, or struggling to see clearly at night could potentially occur after LASIK surgery. For most people, this should clear up in less than a year, but it can be disruptive, such as when driving at night. (Learn More)
Some recent studies of vision after successful LASIK procedures report that the operation may increase night vision once a refractive error has been improved. (Learn More)
LASIK Side Effects & Night Vision: What to Expect
Although LASIK surgery is one of the most common and successful eye surgeries, there can be side effects and complications associated with it, including issues with night vision. These are rare, however, and usually temporary.
Most people feel better and can see clearly enough to return to work the day after their procedure, as long as their employment does not involve heavy machinery or a lot of physical activity. However, this does not mean your eyes have fully healed in that short span of time. You may experience some side effects, as your corneas continue to heal, for the next six months.
Night vision changes can occur, and these can be troubling if you need to drive or commute at night. Although this side effect typically goes away on its own, it can be one of the more startling side effects, so it is important to understand it.
Will Post-LASIK Night Vision Effects Go Away?
Most side effects from LASIK go away on their own, usually in six months or less. You will get an eye exam the day after your LASIK operation and then have regularly scheduled exams with your optometrist or ophthalmologist after that, to ensure your eyes heal properly. This also means you can speak to a medical professional if you experience a new side effect or have a change in your vision.
Side effects are very normal during the first six months after LASIK, which is the overall healing period for your corneas. It is rare for these side effects to last as long as one year. You can use eye drops to help keep your vision clear and prevent itchiness and redness from dry eyes. While eye drops won’t help to clear your night vision, they can keep your eyes more comfortable and moisturized.
Problems with night vision include having a hard time seeing distances, difficulty seeing colors, and seeing glares around headlights or streetlights, which can make seeing other objects harder. You may see poorly overall in dim light.
Serious side effects are very rare. These may include haloes around lights, making it difficult to see indoors; sensitivity to light outside; severe dry eye that is hard to treat with over-the-counter eye drops; and changes to your night vision, so you cannot see clearly in low light.
Changes to night vision can be especially disturbing if you have good vision otherwise. For example, night vision trouble can occur in people who have good visual acuity during the day and can read letters on an eye chart with little trouble. You may also find that you have trouble seeing at dusk, in fog, or when the sky is very overcast.
An early, small-scale study of 110 eyes that had undergone successful LASIK surgery, to correct either myopia (nearsightedness) or astigmatism, found that there was an increase in participants experiencing haloes and glares around lights at night in particular. This was true even when an overall vision test found that the participants had good visual acuity and could read enough lines on the Snellen chart to have at least 20/40 vision.
In some instances, the struggle with haloes at night was correlated with a spherical aberration in the eye shape after surgery or a secondary astigmatism that had not been addressed by the LASIK procedure.
LASIK Might Positively Affect Night Vision for Some People
Contrary to the earlier study, more recent surveys of people who have undergone successful LASIK operations found improvements in night vision, especially after six months of healing. If you have an extreme refractive error, like a high level of nearsightedness or astigmatism, you may already struggle with night vision, especially when your prescription changes and you cannot see clearly anymore.
However, a study found that night vision symptoms could be improved with LASIK if you already struggled to see at night. The study involved 551 people who underwent LASIK surgery and reported their symptoms after the procedure. Most of the respondents reported that symptoms like glares and night vision issues resolved after LASIK, rather than becoming worse.
What Is LASIK? (July 2018). United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Laser Eye Surgery and Lens Surgery. (April 2020). National Health Service (NHS).
Night Vision Problem. (October 2020). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
What Are the Risks and How Can I Find the Right Doctor for Me? (August 2018). United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Night Vision Disturbances After Successful LASIK Surgery. (August 2007). British Journal of Ophthalmology.
Looking at LASIK Risks and Benefits: Night Vision Symptoms. (May 2016). American Refractive Surgery Council (ARSC).