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Is LASIK Eye Surgery Safe? Risks & Success Rates

LASIK is considered a routine procedure with very high rates of success for patients who wish to improve their vision. Although no surgery is foolproof and every surgery carries its own set of risks, LASIK has a particularly low rate of complications.

LASIK Success Rates

The Middle East African Journal of Ophthalmology asserts that 95.4 percent of patients studied who underwent LASIK surgery were satisfied with their results. Out of 2,198 patients surveyed, 2,097 were happy and reported improved overall vision.

This same study asserts that 16.3 million LASIK procedures have been performed worldwide. There is more than a decade of clinical evidence and studies that support this overall success rate. 

The first LASIK procedure was performed in the early 1990s. Since that time, the procedure and technologies involved have gone through innovations that have only increased the procedure’s success rate. LASIK surgery is widely considered to be among the most successful elective procedures available.

Is LASIK Safe?

People might have reservations about LASIK because they do not want to jeopardize their vision in any way, even if their vision is already compromised by refractive errors. But the safety of LASIK is well established.

The surgery has been performed successfully and safely for millions of patients. LASIK eye surgery has remained a popular procedure largely due to the fact that it has such a high success rate as well as a particularly impressive record when it comes to efficacy and safety.

Additional studies have shown that LASIK has a 94 to 100 percent rate of success among nearsighted patients, who have reported improving their vision to at least 20/40 thanks to the procedure. Only 3 to 10 percent of patients who undergo LASIK need additional surgery (known as a LASIK enhancement) after their initial procedure.

LASIK has proved itself as both safe and effective. It is considered a permanent form of vision correction.

Potential Side Effects & Complications

Many of the side effects related to LASIK surgery are short term in nature. 

Itchy, dry eyes are possible in the weeks after surgery. Blurred vision and slight pain might also be experienced after the procedure. Improved vision might not be experienced until the eye fully heals, which can take up to two to three months as vision stabilizes.

Complications related to LASIK surgery are rare, but they can occur. These are some potential complications

Undercorrection

Undercorrection occurs when the laser does not remove enough tissue from the eye, and it is most common with nearsighted patients. If this occurs, an additional procedure may be necessary to achieve the desired level of vision correction. 

Overcorrection

Overcorrection occurs when the laser removes too much tissue from the eye. Cases of overcorrection are more difficult to rectify compared to a case of undercorrection.

Astigmatism

Uneven tissue removal can also cause astigmatism. In such cases, patients may need to undergo additional surgery or have to wear contact lenses or glasses.

Worsened Vision 

In extremely rare cases, patients can experience loss of vision and may not be able to see as clearly or sharply as they did in the past. 

One study published in Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics asserts that around 66 patients out of 10,000 experience vision loss after LASIK. Any degree of vision worsening after LASIK is very rare.

Conditions That Increase Risk of Complications 

It’s important to determine LASIK candidacy in order to determine your associated risk. Not all patients who undergo surgery will experience the same results, and patients with certain health conditions are advised not to have the procedure.

Eye care professionals usually advise against LASIK for those who have autoimmune disorders (like rheumatoid arthritis, for instance), eye injuries, lid disorders, or eye diseases. 

If you have an unstable eye prescription, meaning it has changed within the past two years, you are not a good candidate for LASIK.

How to Improve Chances of Success With LASIK

While your overall eligibility for the procedure will best determine your chances of success with LASIK surgery, there are some things you can do to prepare yourself.

Get a good night of rest prior to surgery, and make sure you are hydrated. Arrange for a ride to and from your eye care specialist, as you won’t be able to drive home after the surgery. Make sure to fill any prescriptions needed beforehand, especially non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and any postoperative prescriptions that will be needed.

Stay away from using the following eye products prior to surgery:

  • Eye makeup
  • Perfumes
  • Lotions
  • Eye creams 

Avoid using these sorts of products the day before surgery as well as the day of surgery. Cleaning your eyelashes consistently leading up to surgery will also help to minimize your risk of infection.

Follow all directions from your eye doctor. They will give you a sheet of aftercare instructions following your surgery.

Pros & Cons of LASIK

LASIK surgery is popular because of the many benefits the procedure offers. 

LASIK is quick and simple. The procedure only takes about 10 minutes for each eye. The laser used in LASIK surgery only takes about 20 to 50 seconds to correct vision, although patients should set aside about 90 minutes for the entire procedure from start to finish.

A major pro of LASIK surgery is that it offers a permanent solution to vision problems. As stated above, LASIK has among the highest success rates of any elective procedure.

The drawbacks to LASIK surgery are few, one being that price can vary quite a bit for the cost of surgery. Per a study in Clinical Ophthalmology, the national average cost of LASIK surgery was $2,632 per eye in 2020. 

Not everyone will be eligible for LASIK surgery, which can be considered another drawback to the procedure. In rare cases, patients who undergo LASIK surgery can experience vision problems, such as night vision issues and halos. Most of these issues resolve within six months of surgery. 

Flaps are also created during surgery, which are not secured, so it’s crucial for patients to avoid contact with the area until it heals. 

The Bottom Line

While there are pros and cons to every procedure, LASIK is widely considered a safe and effective surgery. It boasts an incredibly high success rate and a very low risk of potential complications.

References

  1. Functional Outcome and Patient Satisfaction After Laser in Situ Keratomileusis for Correction of Myopia and Myopic Astigmatism. (January 2015). Middle East African Journal of Ophthalmology.

  2. The Risk of Vision Loss in Contact Lens Wear and Following LASIK. (January 2020). Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics.

  3. LASIK Surgery. (November 2020). Voices in Bioethics.

  4. The 25th Anniversary of Laser Vision Correction in the United States. (March 2021). Clinical Ophthalmology.

  5. Long Term Follow-Up Safety and Effectiveness of Myopia Refractive Surgery. (December 2020). International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

  6. Predictive Factors for Efficacy and Safety in Refractive Surgery for Myopia. (December 2018). PLOS ONE.

  7. Have You Seen the 10-year Long-Term Safety Data on LASIK? (December 2006). Journal of Refractive Surgery.

Last Updated January 10, 2023

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.