When you’re considering any type of surgery, you want to make sure you're making the right decision, and are appropriately informed. When you’re dealing with your eyes, there’s even more at stake! You may be wondering if LASIK eye surgery is safe, and what risks it could have on your vision.
First, it’s important to take the history of LASIK into context. LASIK was first performed in the United States in the early 1990s and was subsequently approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in the late 1990s. In the last 25 years, approximately 20-25 million eyes have been treated with this procedure. An estimated 700,000 patients undergo LASIK every year.
Is LASIK Safe?
It’s normal for eye surgery to seem stressful or nerve-racking, however there are many controls in place during surgery to ensure safety. Even with these controls in place, just like any other surgery, LASIK does carry a risk of complication. When considering this elective surgery, you’ll want to talk to your surgeon about the benefits and risks. They can provide you with realistic expectations for the procedure. It’s important to communicate how you use your eyes in everyday life, including work and leisure activities, so that your surgeon can better understand your visual needs. If you or your surgeon decide that LASIK is not the best choice for you, there may be alternatives. These include eyeglasses, contact lenses, or perhaps a different type of eye surgery.
In order to be a candidate for the LASIK procedure, there are certain parameters that your eyes must fall into. Your surgeon will be examining your eyes and taking several measurements to ensure that you meet their criteria. Your surgeon wants your procedure to be safe, effective, and successful, just as much as you do.
The overwhelming majority of patients who undergo LASIK are happy with their results. Specifically, multiple studies have shown an average satisfaction rate of 95%. Overall, the risk of complications is low.
LASIK Success Rate
There are various ways to measure the success of a surgical procedure. With respect to LASIK, visual acuity is a high priority, visual acuity is a measure of the sharpness of your vision. More than 90% of patients can see 20/20 or better after LASIK and, 99% can see 20/40 or better. There are other measures of visual quality as well, such as contrast sensitivity.
Ultimately though, the best measure of success is whether the surgery meets your expectations. Did it help you to achieve your visual goals? Is your life enhanced? Are you less dependent on glasses and contacts?
Before undergoing refractive surgery, ask yourself what you expect to get out of it. Why are you considering getting LASIK? How do you think the procedure will enhance your life? Setting realistic goals ahead of time will allow you to have a practical discussion with your surgeon prior to having surgery.
LASIK Side Effects and Complications
LASIK is overwhelmingly safe but does have a risk of complication, just like any other surgery. There are several factors that may increase the risk of complications, your surgeon will discuss these with you prior to surgery. Some examples include things like dry eyes, large pupils, thin corneas, pregnancy, and more.
Some LASIK Side Effects
Here are some common side effects of LASIK. These often get better with time, with most of them disappearing altogether within 3-6 months after surgery. However, in some rare cases, these symptoms may be permanent:
- Blurry vision
- Difficulties with night driving
- Glare, halos or starbursts around lights
- Light sensitivity
- Reduced contrast
Some LASIK Complications
Most LASIK complications are treatable without any decrease in vision. Some complications include:
- Inflammation or infection: Surgery induces inflammation, which generally quiets down over time. Anti-inflammatory medications are used postoperatively to help prevent this. Antibiotics are also used to minimize the risk of infection. Still, in some very rare cases, despite all precautions and proper use of medications, persistent inflammation or infection will occur.
- Problems with the corneal flap: Another rare occurrence is when the corneal flap doesn’t heal properly. This can be due to a disruption postoperatively, for example by trauma to the eye. Treatment may involve additional surgery to resolve the issue.
- Corneal ectasia: Ectasia describes a bulging of the cornea that can occur after LASIK. This can affect visual acuity and may need treatment in the form of hard contact lenses and/or additional surgical procedures.
- Over- or under-correction: Despite the most sophisticated of calculations preoperatively, sometimes the laser treatment over- or under-corrects a patient’s refractive error. In some cases, enhancement surgery may be needed to correct this.
- Decreased vision: Although very rare, there is a chance that vision will not be as good postoperatively as it was preoperatively, even with glasses or contact lenses.
How to Increase Your Chances of LASIK Success
When considering LASIK, there are a few things you can do to maximize your chance of success.
- Choose a licensed and board-certified ophthalmologist: Medical doctors are legally allowed to perform services outside of their specialty. The most qualified person to perform your surgery is a specialist in the field, who has extensive experience. You’ll want to make sure you’re having LASIK with a licensed and board-certified ophthalmologist, rather than a plastic surgeon for example.
- Be informed: Make sure you feel comfortable with all the information you’re given throughout the process. Ask questions if you don’t understand something.
- Talk to other patients: Ask friends about their experience with LASIK surgery. This can be valuable to gain some insight, but it’s also important to understand that everyone's experience is different. Everyone’s eyes are unique and one LASIK patient’s experience may not necessarily reflect another’s.
- Follow instructions: Your surgeon will be providing you with very specific pre- and postoperative instructions. It is imperative that you follow these meticulously, as they can have a great impact on your eventual outcome.
Not Sure about LASIK? Get All Questions Answered with Kraff Eye Institute!
There is a lot to think about when considering LASIK eye surgery. Discussing all of your questions and concerns with your surgeon upfront is imperative. Write down your thoughts and goals before scheduling your consultation to ensure a productive discussion. Dr. Kraff is an industry leading LASIK surgeon, who will work to help you achieve your goals, and provide you with the best chance at a successful procedure!