While rare complications from LASIK can cause vision loss, LASIK has never been the sole cause of blindness for an individual.
LASIK surgery involves using a laser or extremely fine blade to cut the eye. As such, blindness is a small risk if complications occur. It is also possible to develop vision issues besides blindness as a result of complications caused by the surgery or your recovery.
Overall, LASIK is widely considered a very low-risk procedure. It boasts very high success rates, as more than 95 percent of patients are very satisfied with the results of LASIK.
Risks & Complications of LASIK
The FDA notes a number of complications can occur as a result of LASIK surgery. The risk potential is low, but risks include the following:
- Vision loss
- Visual distractions, such as light creating a halo effect
- Severe eye dryness
Most often, these issues resolve within six months or so, but some of these complications may be permanent.
Because of the nature of LASIK surgery, additional corrective surgery may be impossible, particularly in cases of overcorrection. A surgeon can only remove a small amount of the cornea before the risk of permanent damage makes further LASIK not a viable option for a patient.
Notably, these issues occur on a spectrum. For example, a patient’s surgery may not achieve 20/20 vision but still cause significant vision improvement.
The Facts on Your Risk of LASIK Complications
The FDA notes a few things increase your risk of complications as a result of LASIK. If you have any of the following, you may be more at risk for LASIK issues:
- Recent changes to your prescription, signaling the potential for further change
- Autoimmune diseases and conditions that affect healing
- Frequent participation in contact sports
- Significant problems with dry eyes
- Blepharitis, a condition in which inflammation occurs in the eyelids
- Large pupils, which can cause debilitating visual symptoms following surgery
- Thin corneas, which can increase the risk of cutting the cornea too thin
- Previous eye surgeries
Patients with very large refractive errors of any type may see results many would find inadequate to justify the risks and cost associated with surgery. The FDA recommends against minors getting LASIK, and no laser has approval for use on patients under 18.
Minimize Risk by Choosing Experienced Providers
You can minimize your risk of LASIK complications by choosing an experienced facility and surgeon to operate on your eyes. It is important to receive LASIK surgery only at a legitimate, licensed facility from experts in the field.
Never trust a facility promising 20/20 vision, as this is not possible to guarantee. Modern eye surgery is not precise enough for a reputable surgeon to make that promise, even though LASIK often results in vision that is 20/20 or better.
Most well-reputed facilities have an online presence, meaning you can often read reviews of others’ experiences with the clinic. Be wary of newer facilities with no online presence or established facilities that have garnered bad reviews or experienced legal trouble.
How to Minimize the Side Effects of LASIK
To best minimize the side effects and risks associated with LASIK, give yourself time to recover.
You may get the impulse to scratch or touch your eyes, but this can undo the flap cut for your surgery and cause significant complications. For similar reasons, avoid any major physical activity, especially contact sports, in the weeks following surgery.
Follow all instructions provided by your doctor and contact them if you experience any issues. Severe symptoms, such as serious pain and substantial vision impairment, are not normal and may signal something is wrong.
Your doctor will schedule several follow-up appointments after your surgery. Make sure you go to these, so they can track the progress of your recovery and guide you on the best practices to support healing.
LASIK Risks FAQs
Can you go permanently blind after LASIK?
There is no data suggesting that anyone has gone blind from LASIK as the primary cause. Severe complications from LASIK are incredibly rare. The vast majority of people who receive LASIK are satisfied with the results.
What percentage of people go blind from LASIK?
Since there are no reported cases of someone going blind solely due to LASIK, the percentage is zero.
Can LASIK cause eye damage?
Though it’s highly unlikely, complications from LASIK can cause eye damage.
In the literal sense, LASIK involves strategically cutting the eye to reshape it, which is arguably doing damage. In a less pedantic sense, true damage, such as that which permanently causes negative side effects, is very rare and usually mild. The most common side effect of note is severe eye dryness, which can lessen (although not always) over time.
Can light damage my eyes after surgery?
For the first few days of your recovery, looking at light can cause pain and irritation. While not dangerous in itself, this can cause discomfort and also increases the risk that you may touch your eyes.
It can help to avoid focusing on screens, such as your phone or computer, unless necessary. TV can sometimes cause less irritation if the screen is several feet away and the room is evenly lit.
Light may also cause visual effects, such as haloes, that can make driving at night dangerous. While these effects may not signal a problem, make sure to always keep both your own safety and that of others in mind when making decisions.
What is the standard recovery timeline for LASIK?
During normal recovery, you can expect the side effects of LASIK to lessen significantly after one to three days. At this stage, itchiness and general irritation should lessen significantly.
After four weeks, you can likely resume virtually all physical activities, including contact sports, although you should still check with your doctor. Within six months, your vision should stabilize. If the surgery was a success, your vision should be better overall than it was before the surgery.
Digital Devices and Your Eyes. (January 2022). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
What Is LASIK Eye Surgery? (August 2020). Journal of the American Medical Association.
LASIK. (March 2018). U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
LASIK Complication Rate: The Latest Facts and Stats You Should Know. (October 2021). American Refractive Surgery Council.
What Are the Risks and How Can I Find the Right Doctor for Me? (August 2018). U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
What Should I Expect Before, During, and After Surgery? (July 2018). U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
When Is LASIK Not for Me? (July 2018). U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
The Recovery of Optical Quality after Laser Vision Correction. (August 2013). Korean Journal of Ophthalmology.
Last Updated April 12, 2022
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