LASIK Eye Surgery Risks

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LASIK Eye Surgery Information

LASIK Eye Surgery Risks - Possible Laser Eye Surgery Risks, Complications & Side Effects Explained

With any surgical procedure there are potential risks involved. In the case of LASIK eye surgery, most risks and potential complications are not significantly threatening. Recent data has documented that the complication rate with LASIK is less than 1% of all procedures performed and most patients who experience LASIK complications can receive a retreatment or enhancement.  

Rarely do LASIK complications cause significant or permanent vision loss which results in the patient ending up with worse vision than prior to the LASIK eye surgery procedure.  Also, the risk of eye infections related to LASIK surgery is minimal. Patients will be given a prescription for an antibiotic eye drop medicine to use for approximately one week following LASIK to prevent infection during the early stage of healing.

LASIK Eye Surgery Risk - Overcorrection & Undercorrection

People are unique. Consequently, every eye is unique and may handle the LASIK healing process slightly differently. The treatment plan for LASIK patients is based on the average healing responses of people who have previously undergone LASIK eye surgery. Patients who are aggressive healers can result in a lens undercorrection and those who are slow healers may experience a lens overcorrection.

Generally speaking, treating higher correction levels produces a higher likelihood of experiencing either over lens overcorrection or undercorrection. In most cases, both overcorrection and undercorrection can be treated with an enhancement or retreatment procedure.  However, eyes with very thin or steep corneas or high degrees of refractive errors may not be eligible for enhancements. Therefore, patients should be sure to speak with their physicians about their potential eligibility for an enhancement.

In those few cases where a retreatment is not an option, glasses or contact lenses can be successfully used to correct the overcorrection or undercorrection.

LASIK Surgery Risk of Corneal Flap Irregularities

The first step in the LASIK procedure is creating a corneal flap. This is usually performed with a surgical tool called a microkeratome or a laser known as IntraLase. A ring is placed on the surface of the cornea and is held in place with suction. The microkeratome or IntraLase excimer laser then creates a flap leaving a small hinge to keep the flap partially attached to the rest of the cornea.

Research suggests the incidence of LASIK complications with flaps is about 0.2 percent (0.002) of all LASIK surgeries (Study of Corneal flap complications from Codet Aris Vision Institute).  In most cases, the risk of LASIK complications with flaps do not permanently decrease visual acuity. When a flap complication occurs, the surgeon will typically halt the LASIK procedure and re-position the flap. LASIK surgery can then be re-scheduled a few months later after the flap has healed and some surgeons can even continue with surgery after a LASIK complication the same day when IntraLase laser is used. Small wrinkles called striae (pronounced stri’-e) can occur in the corneal flap after LASIK surgery. Usually they do not interfere with a LASIK patient’s vision and no additional treatment is needed. However, sometimes the striae are serious enough to decrease visual acuity. In such instances, the surgeon might lift the flap, irrigate beneath it and lay it back down in the proper position.

This quick procedure is usually enough the correct the risk of a LASIK complication. There are a number of causes of flap irregularities and striae. They appear to be more common when LASIK is performed on eyes that are very nearsighted. Sometimes rubbing the eyelids before the flap has had a chance to bond can cause subtle wrinkles. Another Laser eye surgery risk can occur when patients rub their eyes after surgery. This risk can be reduced by avoiding rubbing the treated eyes for several weeks after surgery. LASIK complications can also occur if suction is lost while creating the flap.

LASIK Eye Surgery Risk of Vision Glare & Halos

Vision glare and decreased contrast sensitivity are LASIK risks and common side effects which occur in the first few days following LASIK surgery. Usually these problems diminish with time over the weeks and months following your procedure. Vision glare is a dazzling sensation produced by relatively bright light, which causes physical discomfort and/or interferes with visual acuity.

LASIK patients often report vision glare as halos or auras around lights (particularly vehicle headlights and tail-lights at night) and starbursts or streaks around streetlights. Pupil size will affect your vision quality after LASIK surgery. Patients with large pupils may have a greater risk of experiencing more glare and halos than patients with smaller pupils. Since pupils dilate in dim lighting, LASIK patients may notice reduced vision quality in a darkened environment compared to well-lit surroundings.

It is not uncommon for patients to experience eye dryness after their LASIK procedure during the first few weeks as part of the corneal healing process. Any patient who has a pre-existing dry eye condition needs be fully evaluated before their procedure. In some cases, patients with pre-existing dry eye conditions may experience worse dry eyes after LASIK treatment.

LASIK Risks of Dry Eye Symptoms: Reasons Why

It is believed that one reason dry eye symptoms occur after LASIK is because the creation of the corneal flap during the procedure disturbs some of the corneal nerves that provide feedback to the tear glands. This LASIK risk causes a decrease in the flow of tears to the eyes. As your eyes heal after LASIK, the corneal nerve endings regenerate, and the tear volume gradually returns to normal and the dry eye symptoms disappear.

Possible dry eye symptoms for LASIK patients may include: a sandy-gritty feeling to the eyes, a burning sensation, sensitivity to light, and occasionally pain in the eyes. Patients who have mild or moderate dry eyes prior to LASIK surgery may experience a greater risk of dry eye symptoms for several months or longer. These patients may even find their dry eye condition worsens. This is why some individuals with previous history of dry eyes may not be good LASIK surgery candidates due to the increased risk of complications.

Diffuse Lamellar Keratitis (DLK)

DLK is a unique risk and relatively rare post-procedure condition following LASIK surgery. It occurs when accumulation of inflammatory cells develop under the corneal flap. This condition usually occurs about one to three days after LASIK surgery, and in most cases, patients do not experience any noticeable symptoms related to DLK. Because of this, most cases of DLK can only be detected with a doctor's exam and is an easily treatable condition. This LASIK eye surgery risk is another very important reason to attend all post-operative exams and follow your treatment plan.