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LASIK Benefits and Risks

By Jennifer Kimberly
The LASIK Procedure | Am I a Candidate? | Financing LASIK


All surgeries have risks and benefits and when deciding whether to have a particular surgery like LASIK, it is a good idea to be well-informed on its particular risks and benefits.

LASIK Benefits
LASIK is transformative. It changes your life by giving you vision far superior to what you may have had previously. Specifically, you will also have:

  1. Speedy results. The LASIK surgery itself is very brief, just a few minutes for each eye. The next day you will be astonished at how clearly you can see. You might notice it the same day, although many people feel like keeping their eyes closed the rest of that day and sleeping.

    Your vision makes most of its improvement very quickly in the days following your surgery. Full and complete recovery is considered to be three months. In that period you will recover from the initial dryness in your eyes and your vision will settle into its new clarity and ease.

  2. Freedom from eyewear. Many people achieve 20/20 vision or better and of the rest, most achieve 20/40 vision, which is still very good. It depends on what your vision was like to start with. You will probably not need glasses or contact lenses for most activities. This is especially liberating if you play sports, whether amateur or professional, and will surely improve you confidence and performance.

    All LASIK graduates love not having to clean and replace contact lenses and keep track of glasses. You will also be free of any discomfort involved in wearing those vision aids – the weight on the nose of glasses, the possibility of contact lenses getting dust beneath them and the eye irritation consequent to that.

  3. Future expense avoided. LASIK vision improvement is permanent. You will need no more appointments for prescription updates. There will be no further need to replace lost or broken glasses or to keep up with changing eyeglass fashions.

About Surgical Risks
Like all surgeries, LASIK has minor side effects, such as temporarily dry eyes. Side effects clear up within the recovery period, by themselves or with minor help. They are not the same thing as surgical complications.

All surgeries have some risk of true complications. One reason is that every human being is different and may respond unexpectedly to things like anesthesia, incisions, medications, dressings etc.

  • Nobody knows what allergies they might have until they have the first allergic reaction to each allergen
  • Genetics often plays a role in the body’s reactions to surgery
  • Speed of recovery differs from person to person according to their nutrition, level of activity, adherence to the surgeon’s recovery instructions etc.

LASIK Patient Screening
All reputable LASIK surgeons screen their patients very carefully. This is because not everybody is a good candidate for LASIK and surgery performed on a poor candidate is far more likely to have complications. So by choosing only the best candidates, a LASIK surgeon dramatically lowers any risk of complication. There are other vision correction procedures for poor LASIK candidates, such as iLASIK and PRK.

When consulting with possible surgeons be sure to inform him or her of all your medical conditions because some may affect your LASIK outcome. In particular, if you have any problems with the retina, your LASIK surgery may be compromised.

Use of Wavefront Technology
Custom LASIK is the term for LASIK done after a wavefront diagnosis. The best LASIK surgeons use this technology because it is a far more precise way of determining your eyes’ exact aberrations. Early LASIK procedures used the standard diagnosis used for glasses and contacts.

Custom LASIK gives you better results for night vision because it is based on this more detailed diagnosis of each of your eyes. The night vision issues that were typically regarded as “complications” of early LASIK surgeries are not usually an issue after Custom LASIK.

Possible LASIK Complications
LASIK complications are very rare. But even with the best surgeons, best-screened patients, and best equipment, there is a small risk of certain complications:

  • Over- or under-correction – this can be corrected with an additional laser treatment

  • Flap problems – the corneal flap sometimes forms wrinkles as it heals. This is less likely if you follow your eye surgeon’s post-op instructions. If the eyes sustain a trauma or impact that could dislodge the flap. It can be repositioned and wrinkles can be smoothed out so the flap can end up healing correctly. See LASIK Flap Complications for more information.

  • Infection or inflammation beneath the flap – again, if you follow your eye surgeon’s directions this will be very unlikely. Antibiotic eyedrops are routinely prescribed for use during recovery. If necessary there can be other antibiotic medication, either systemic or local, or a topical steroid, and close monitoring. Infection sometimes happens when dust or grit gets beneath the flap and it is called Diffuse Lamellar Keratitis (DLK), nicknamed "Sands of Sahara".

  • Ectasia – bulging forward of the cornea that distorts vision. This will typically be avoided by proper patient screening and by your choosing a properly-qualified and well-experienced LASIK surgeon. It would be treated with rigid contact lenses or special implants.

  • Chronic Dry Eyes – the eyes are typically dry immediately after LASIK and usually resume normal tear production within the three-month full recovery period. Moisturizing eyedrops are routinely prescribed. In rare cases, the dryness persists and becomes Dry Eye Syndrome. Moisturizing eyedrops with no preservative can manage it.

Steps to Avoid LASIK Complications

  1. It cannot be stated often enough that you should choose a well-trained and experienced LASIK surgeon. Do NOT choose just the cheapest you can find. Some eye surgeons cut corners in their practice and do inadequate patient screening. You want a surgeon who will give you his full personal attention from the day of your initial consultation to your final follow-up appointment and even beyond, if you have any future problem like an accident that damages your eyes. Please see How to Choose a LASIK Surgeon for more information.

  2. Inform yourself of LASIK and its risks and benefits before going ahead with the surgery. Be aware of what you are doing and if you feel any apprehension about your eye surgeon, find another one.

  3. Choose a LASIK surgeon you can trust and then follow his or her directions to the letter. Those pre- and post-op instructions are for your benefit and you violate them at your own risk.

LASIK vision correction has a miraculous effect on those for whom it is fully successful, which is most LASIK patients. You can be one of them. For a historical perspective on LASIK and to understand how lucky we are to have it available, please see The History of Ophthalmology.

Please explore our website for more information and if you would like to find a well-educated and experienced LASIK surgeon in your area, please contact us.

More articles on the risks of LASIK:

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