There is no set limit on the number of times a person can get LASIK eye surgery. It depends on the thickness of the corneas and overall eye health.
Most often, patients achieve the desired result after one LASIK procedure. However, a follow-up procedure, commonly known as LASIK enhancement, may be needed in rare cases.
A repeat LASIK procedure may also be recommended if a patient’s vision changes after the initial surgery.
Why Would Someone Need LASIK More Than Once?
A patient may seek enhancement to address uncorrected vision problems. Retreatment is often sought to enhance the effectiveness of previous surgical procedures or to correct vision changes.
Generally, people may need LASIK more than once if they didn’t achieve the desired results with the first surgery. In the case of undercorrection, an enhancement procedure can usually work quite well. The surgeon can remove more of the cornea in the second procedure.
If overcorrection is an issue, this can also frequently be addressed in an enhancement. However, the surgeon will need to ensure there is sufficient corneal thickness for the procedure.
It’s usually recommended to wait at least three months after the initial surgery before getting an enhancement. Second or third LASIK surgeries may also be performed years later to correct new vision issues.
Risks of LASIK Enhancements
Since LASIK involves removing corneal tissue, a patient’s cornea will be thinner after the initial surgery. The biggest risk with LASIK enhancements is that the cornea may eventually become too thin.
Your surgeon will assess your corneal thickness prior to any enhancement procedure to ensure you are a good candidate. If it is determined that your corneas are not thick enough, you cannot get LASIK again.
Like initial LASIK surgery, enhancements are considered very safe. Potential risks are the same as with a first LASIK procedure, such as these:
- A sensation of itchiness
- Halos around light
- Glare with nighttime vision
- A sensation of dryness
- Eye dryness
These symptoms generally resolve within 6 to 12 months.
Considerations for Repeat LASIK Procedures
LASIK surgery is a permanent surgery, as it consists of permanently removing a tiny amount of corneal tissue. This corneal tissue does not grow back. For most patients, improved vision lasts for many years and possibly a lifetime.
To manage expectations, it is useful to know that LASIK treats conditions that exist at the time of surgery. It does not correct progressive vision issues or problems related to the natural aging process.
Presbyopia is the natural deterioration of your up-close vision, related to aging. LASIK does not address or prevent presbyopia, so you will still experience these up-close focusing issues as you age.
Monovision LASIK, in which one eye is corrected for distance vision and one for up-close vision, may help to lessen some of the vision issues related to presbyopia. However, this procedure won’t work for everyone, and some patients have a tough time adjusting to the results of the surgery.
Talk to your surgeon about what to expect with an enhancement procedure. Make sure you have realistic expectations before you commit.
Alternatives to Secondary LASIK Procedure or Enhancements
In some cases, your doctor may determine that a repeat LASIK surgery is not the best approach to accomplish your vision goals.
An alternative to LASIK is PRK, or photorefractive keratectomy. This surgery can be an attractive alternative for patients who have very thin corneas.
If corneas are too thin for LASIK enhancement surgery, PRK can be a good choice. With PRK, the surgeon won’t need to recreate a flap in your cornea, so the healing process can be simpler.
If your vision has deteriorated after LASIK, see your eye doctor to identify the underlying cause. If vision loss is due to cataracts, you can have those removed via surgery. If a new refractive error is present three months after cataract surgery, you may be able to get LASIK enhancement to correct it.
Can LASIK be repeated years later?
Yes, LASIK can be repeated years after the original surgery. Some patients have enhancements 10 years or more after the original procedure.
How is retreatment changing as LASIK technology improves?
LASIK technology has improved greatly over the years, and it boasts incredibly high success rates with a low risk potential.
The percentage of patients who need enhancement surgery has decreased as advances in LASIK surgery have improved results. According to a 2017 Israeli study of over 9,000 LASIK surgeries, the retreatment rate was less than 1 percent at the end of the study. Retreatment was more common in older patients as well as those with greater vision problems before surgery.
Can vision get worse after LASIK?
The changes made to your cornea during LASIK are permanent. Your refractive error will not reverse to how it was before the procedure.
With age, however, eyes change. While LASIK corrects vision problems that are present at the time of surgery, age-related farsightedness will develop as you age. You may eventually need reading glasses despite successful LASIK surgery.
How long does LASIK last?
LASIK results can last your entire life. Most people enjoy clear vision for at least 10 years, and for many, those results span 20 years or more.
Experts agree that LASIK permanently corrects the vision prescription that exists at the time of surgery. This includes corneal imperfections creating nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.
A 2016 study confirms that five years after LASIK, patients report a high quality of life and high satisfaction rates. In this study, 94 percent of patients were not wearing distance prescription lenses five years following LASIK.
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Pros and Cons of LASIK: Are the Risks Worth the Cost? (December 2017). Health & Wellness Topics, Health Tips & Disease Prevention. University of Michigan Health (UOMH).
PRK – Procedures. Flaum Eye Institute. University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC).
Myopic Laser in Situ Keratomileusis Retreatment: Incidence and Association. (October 2016). Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery (JCRS).
Patient-Reported Outcomes 5 Years After Laser in Situ Keratomileusis. (June 2016). Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery (JCRS).
Micro-Monovision LASIK as a Treatment for Presbyopia. (June 2015). Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.
Treatment Landscape for Presbyopia Evolving Toward Noninvasive Options. (September 2021). Ocular Surgery News.
Would You Consider PRK as a Re-Treatment After LASIK? (October 2011). Ocular Surgery News.
PRK Versus LASIK After Cataract Surgery. (July 2016). Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today.
Last Updated April 12, 2022
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