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LASIK Side Effects

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LASIK is a very safe, effective way to permanently change your vision. Like all surgeries, LASIK can cause side effects, but they are usually mild and resolve quickly. 

Tissues tend to swell as they heal, and symptoms like itchiness and dryness develop. Most LASIK side effects fade as your eyes heal.

Key Facts About LASIK Side Effects

  • Side effects are a normal part of the healing process. They don’t last long and usually dissipate as your tissues recover. 
  • Complications (problems that persist after your tissues heal) are very rare. 
  • Technological improvements in hardware and software make LASIK even safer and more efficient than it’s ever been. 
  • Your surgeon will evaluate your eyes and ensure you’re a good candidate for the procedure. A careful exam ensures the surgery is only performed on eyes with low risk of complications.

What Are the Side Effects of LASIK?

It’s normal to feel discomfort, itchiness, or soreness after LASIK. These symptoms improve considerably within a few days of surgery, per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Your symptoms can vary slightly depending on the LASIK type you have.

Side effects are temporary issues caused by a medical procedure. Like all surgeries, LASIK can cause side effects. But LASIK is one of the most studied and scrutinized outpatient surgeries performed within the United States. Study after study and full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration prove its safety. 

During bladeless LASIK procedures, doctors use a laser to create a corneal flap, pushed up to reveal deeper tissues. Lasers reshape these corneal layers, permanently altering your vision. Nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism can all be treated with LASIK. 

The success of LASIK is unprecedented. Advanced LASIK surgery providers, like NVISION, have success rates of 99% in achieving 20/20 vision.

Traditional LASIK Side Effects

Traditional LASIK involves using lasers to reshape tissues accessed via a flap created with a blade. This type of surgery can cause side effects.

Common side effects associated with traditional LASIK include those listed in the following table:

SymptomDescriptionRecovery Time
Dry eyesMost common symptom after LASIK. Almost everyone develops this issue as their eyes heal.Varies, as part of the healing process
Light sensitivityBright lights can be hard for healing eyes to handle. This may fade as tissues heal and pupils respond properly.Varies, improves as healing progresses
Blurry visionObjects may seem grainy or fuzzy, especially in the first few days of the healing process.Usually resolves incrementally
Glare, halos, and starburstsIssues involve light distortion as your eyes heal. May diminish as swelling reduces and pupils start working properly.Improves as swelling reduces and healing progresses
Double visionSome people see ghost images as their eyes heal. This problem is typically apparent in the first few days after surgery.Usually resolves in the first few days post-surgery
Flap sensitivityThe corneal flap created in LASIK heals within a few months. Eyes must be protected to ensure it stays in place.Heals within a few months

Bladeless LASIK Side Effects

In bladeless LASIK, doctors use a laser to create the flap that exposes lower tissues. Side effects from this method are very similar to traditional LASIK, but a few important differences exist. 

Bladeless LASIK side effects are typically very mild when compared to traditional LASIK. You may still experience dry eye and visual disturbances, but your tissues won’t swell as much, so your problems may be less significant. 

The flap created with bladeless LASIK follows the precise shape of your cornea. It may be less sensitive and heal more quickly as a result. 

Custom LASIK Side Effects

Custom LASIK refers to surgeries that intricately map your cornea before LASIK begins. Your doctor uses this data to guide each cut during LASIK. Side effects from this surgery tend to be less significant than those seen in traditional LASIK. 

You may experience dry eye and visual disturbances, but these symptoms are generally even milder than what traditional LASIK can deliver. Mapping ensures your doctor doesn’t take more tissue than is required.

LASIK Side Effects vs. Complications

When comparing the pros and cons of getting LASIK, it’s critical to understand the differences between side effects and complications. A side effect is an expected part of the healing process that fades. A complication is a persistent problem. 

Researchers often bundle side effects and complications into one category, making measuring the long-term risks of LASIK more challenging for patients. 

But the FDA performed a long-term study of patient satisfaction and outcomes following LASIK. In this study, more than 95% of patients were satisfied with their vision following LASIK. And less than 1% of participants experienced major difficulties in performing usual activities without corrective lenses. 

Study results like this demonstrate that the overwhelming majority of patients do not experience complications after LASIK. 

Among the small percentage of people who develop complications, these issues appear:

  • Persistent dry eye
  • Flap healing problems
  • Vision issues

Some complications can be corrected. For example, people who experience undercorrection during LASIK may benefit from a touchup surgery. And some cases of dry eye respond to treatment.

How to Minimize the Risks of LASIK

Working with a good LASIK surgeon at a reputable practice is the best way to reduce your risks. A qualified doctor will ensure you’re a good candidate before the procedure starts. Taking care of your eyes after surgery is important too. 
Some conditions and lifestyle choices could increase your risk of difficulties after LASIK. If you have one of the following factors, your doctor may recommend alternatives to LASIK:

  • Your vision isn’t stable. If you need new glasses or contacts every year, LASIK may not provide satisfactory results over the long term. Your doctor will likely advise you to wait until your vision stabilizes. 
  • Your profession bans some types of LASIK. Pilots, professional athletes, and similar professionals may be banned from LASIK due to their work. 
  • You’re managing underlying conditions. Autoimmune diseases, diabetes, and HIV can all impair your healing. Medications you use for your skin or muscles may hurt your recovery too.
  • Your eyes aren’t appropriate for LASIK. Some people have eyes that are too pointed, contain very large pupils, have thin corneas, or are naturally dry. These conditions raise your risk of complications.

A comprehensive exam can help your doctor spot these conditions and guide your LASIK decision.

At NVISION Eye Centers, we take patient safety seriously. Our surgeons have performed more than 2 million successful eye surgeries, using the latest technology and practices. We clearly inform patients of the risks and benefits, so there are no surprises along the way. Reach out today to set up a free consultation.

LASIK Side Effects Frequently Asked Questions

Is LASIK surgery safe?

Yes. Few people feel pain from LASIK, and most people get the visual results they want. It has repeatedly been proven safe and effective with a very low risk of complications.

How long do LASIK side effects last?

Most LASIK side effects get dramatically better within a few days of surgery. It can take longer for your eyes to heal fully, but most other side effects resolve within a few months.

Are there long-term side effects of LASIK?

Long-term LASIK side effects (or complications) are incredibly rare.

Has anyone ever gone blind from LASIK surgery?

There is no evidence of anyone going blind from LASIK

What is the most common complication of LASIK surgery?

Flap issues caused by poor healing after surgery are among the most common LASIK complications. These are rare.

References

  1. Long-Term Outcomes of PRK, LASIK, and SMILE. (July 2021). Ophthalmologe.
  2. What Should I Expect Before, During, and After Surgery? (July 2018). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  3. Post-LASIK Dry Eye Disease: A Comprehensive Review of Management and Current Treatment Options. (April 2023). Frontiers in Medicine.
  4. LASIK Quality of Life Collaboration Project. (June 2021). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  5. Complications of Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis. (July 2021). Indian Journal of Ophthalmology.
  6. LASIK Interface Complications: Etiology, Management, & Outcomes. (August 2014). Journal of Refractive Surgery.
  7. Dry Eye Post-Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis: Major Review and Latest Updates. (January 2018). Journal of Ophthalmology.

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