One of the big questions about LASIK eye surgery is, “How long does it last?” According to the Flaum Eye Institute at UR Medicine, laser vision correction is permanent. For many people, this corrective surgery lasts a lifetime.
LASIK is an effective surgery for fixing the conditions that exist at the time of the surgery. Some eye conditions may develop due to age after LASIK, such as age-related farsightedness, cataracts, or glaucoma. If there is some change in your vision caused by genetics, the surgery does not prevent it from occurring.
What Factors Affect Vision After LASIK?
After the LASIK procedure, it is common to have some vision changes, even though the surgery has a very high patient satisfaction rate
Some people who have LASIK will need an additional surgery, called enhancement surgery. This may be because they didn’t achieve the desired results from their initial surgery.
In some cases, the benefits of LASIK may decrease over time due to natural anatomical changes to one or both eyes. This can include changes due to natural aging (presbyopia), cataracts, and glaucoma.
- Presbyopia: The human eye can become more rigid over time affecting visual acuity. People experience this natural deterioration of vision, known as age-related farsightedness, regardless of whether or not they have had LASIK.
Presbyopia means “old eye.” For many people, presbyopia starts to occur after around 40 years old when they start to need reading glasses to see clearly up close. Monovision LASIK may be an option to correct for presbyopia.
- Cataracts: This is a condition that can accompany natural aging. Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy, affecting vision. Cataracts are just as likely to form on someone who has had LASIK.
- Glaucoma: This is a condition where there is excess pressure in the eye. If untreated, it can result in blindness. Like the other conditions, LASIK does not prevent the future development of glaucoma.
Vision Changes After LASIK
After LASIK surgery, some people experience dry eye, blurry vision, or mild discomfort.
Symptoms related to eye dryness may include discomfort, a gritty feeling in the eye, redness, and fatigue. For most patients, these symptoms are minimal and often resolve after a few weeks.
Impaired nighttime vision can include symptoms such as seeing halos, glares, or starbursts around lights at night. This may be more likely to happen if driving at night.
Others find that their vision is slightly blurry after the procedure. According to some studies, this may be because patients who have had LASIK are more aware of their visual acuity.
While most patients find their vision improves significantly following LASIK, some people experience blurry vision for a period of time. Full recovery varies from individual to individual. For some people, it may take three to six months for their vision to completely stabilize.
According to the FDA, the newest lasers have significantly reduced negative side effects compared to earlier technology.
LASIK Enhancement or Retreatment Procedures
According to Michigan Health, people who have a higher prescription before LASIK are more prone to see a decline in vision quality over time. This is known as myopic regression. Talk with your doctor about your potential risk for this.
Options for LASIK enhancement procedures vary and depend on specific criteria, such as the thickness of the cornea, age, and specific medical conditions.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the thickness of your cornea determines how many times you could have LASIK eye surgery. Each time the surgery is performed, the cornea gets thinner. If the eye becomes too thin, your surgeon will not be able to perform LASIK surgery.
However, if the cornea is too thin, you still have options for retreatment. A surgery called PRK, or photorefractive keratectomy, may be possible. This procedure only uses lasers on the surface of the cornea.
Talk with your ophthalmologist to evaluate your most effective options if you didn’t achieve the level of correction you desired with your surgery. Before having an enhancement procedure, your doctor will perform an exam and discuss all your options with you.
Reasons for LASIK Failure
It’s rare that LASIK fails altogether, but in some instances, patients may not achieve their desired level of vision correction. These are potential reasons for this:
- Overcorrection: This means that too much corneal tissue is removed during surgery. This can often be fixed with an enhancement.
- Under-correction: This occurs when not enough tissue is removed. Again, this can be fixed with enhancement surgery.
- Complications with the flap: If the corneal flap tears after surgery or if there is a complication, this may need to be corrected with surgery.
- Infection or swelling: The Federal Trade Commission notes corneal infection or inflammation can result from LASIK. This may require additional treatments or surgery.
Ways to Adapt to Vision Changes After LASIK Without Additional Surgery
If you are happy wearing corrective eyewear for any vision difficulties after LASIK, you may be able to adapt to vision changes without additional surgery. For instance, if your vision was overcorrected or under-corrected, you could adapt by wearing contacts or glasses.
Depending on your specific condition, you may also be a candidate for additional laser surgery. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, it is important to talk with your doctor to evaluate the risks and rewards of each alternative. Working together, you can determine your best solution.
LASIK Longevity FAQs
Does LASIK last forever?
For many people, LASIK is a permanent solution, and the effects last for a lifetime. LASIK does not prevent future eye changes, so you may need reading glasses later in life due to age-related farsightedness.
How long does LASIK eye surgery typically last?
Typically, LASIK eye surgery results can last a lifetime. However, eyes do change naturally with age. These changes can create vision problems that were not present at the time of the surgery.
According to Harvard University, approximately 3 to 10 percent of patients need a second surgery, also called an enhancement. These enhancement procedures are sometimes included in the initial LASIK cost if they occur within a certain time period. Talk with your provider to learn about their surgical policy.
Can LASIK be done twice?
Yes, but it depends on the thickness of your cornea. If your cornea is too thin, you may not be a candidate for an enhancement LASIK procedure. There may be other options for corrective surgery, however. Talk with your doctor to evaluate your options.
Frequently Asked Questions. Flaum Eye Institute, University of Rochester Medicine.
What Is Presbyopia? (February 2022). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
What Are Cataracts? (September 2021). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Dry Eye After LASIK. (November 2018). Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.
LASIK — Laser Eye Surgery. (October 2020). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Meta-Analysis of the FDA Reports on Patient-Reported Outcomes Using the Three Latest Platforms for LASIK. (December 2016). Journal of Refractive Surgery.
Before Enhancing Post LASIK Patients. (October 2020). Review of Ophthalmology.
What Is Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK)? (August 2022). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
The Basics of LASIK Eye Surgery. (August 2012). Federal Trade Commission.
Understanding LASIK. Harvard Medical School.
Pros and Cons of LASIK: Are the Risks Worth the Cost? (December 2017). Michigan Health.
Micro-Monovision LASIK as a Treatment for Presbyopia. (June 2015). Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.
Last Updated September 7, 2022
Note: This page should not serve as a substitute for professional medical advice from a doctor or specialist. Please review our about page for more information.