Long-Term Effects of LASIK: What You Need to Know
There are few side effects and complications with LASIK. Ultimately, LASIK is a safe, effective, and common eye surgery used to correct refractive errors like astigmatism, farsightedness, and nearsightedness.
Side effects generally clear up in less than six months. However, some complications can be more difficult to manage. This guide will help you understand risks taken on with LASIK.
LASIK: Safe & Effective for Most Patients
LASIK is a laser eye surgery that corrects refractive errors, including nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. The procedure has been available to adults in the United States since 1999, and it has a high success and patient satisfaction rate.
Most people who undergo LASIK achieve 20/20 vision. Even when they do not, they achieve enough visual acuity to report being happy with the results.
There are some risks associated with LASIK. Common side effects include dry eye, trouble seeing at night, and glares or halos around lights, especially at night. These side effects go away on their own in six months or less. Rarely, these side effects remain for years.
LASIK also carries some other, rarer risks and complications. Although these are unlikely, it is important to understand them before choosing LASIK for vision correction.
Types of LASIK Complications
The most common complications associated with LASIK are lingering side effects like dry eyes that require eye drops or visual distortions around lights, making night driving complicated.
Here are some other complications associated with LASIK:
- Undercorrection or overcorrection: Undercorrection means that the LASIK process did not achieve 20/40 or better vision, while overcorrection means you can see more clearly than 20/20 vision, which can be uncomfortable.
Both these issues can be fixed with follow-up LASIK procedures, but your eye doctor will need to diagnose the complications at a post-LASIK exam. In rare cases, you may have such thin corneas that a corrective procedure cannot be performed.
- Presbyopia: This term means “age-related farsightedness.” It is caused by your cornea changing shape, perhaps losing elasticity, as you age.
Presbyopia is very normal, but for people who have had LASIK to correct their vision, it can feel like a mistake or complication. People with presbyopia, or with another refractive error that is still changing, are not good candidates for LASIK because their corneas are still reshaping, so the procedure will not benefit their vision for long.
- Cataracts: Some people worry that LASIK can cause cataracts because other types of more invasive eye surgery are linked to an increased risk of developing cataracts later. Fortunately, there is no link between LASIK and a higher risk of cataracts.
If you are at risk of developing cataracts, this is unrelated to receiving LASIK. However, if you have cataracts, you are not a good candidate for LASIK, and this procedure does not cure cataracts or replace the need for cataract surgery later.
Long-Term Complications From LASIK Are Rare
Long-term complications from LASIK are very rare, but some side effects can persist for several months. In very rare instances, a side effect or complication may become permanent.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are any complications permanent?
If you develop a complication after LASIK, this is usually treatable. For example, undercorrection and overcorrection can both be treated by scheduling a dedicated LASIK procedure.
However, if the benefits of LASIK begin to wear off faster than intended, your eyes may be changing again. It is possible that your corneas are too thin for another round of LASIK.
Will you need glasses or contacts after LASIK?
LASIK aims to adjust the shape of the cornea so you have 20/40 vision or better, so you should not need glasses or contacts after LASIK for most tasks. However, if you have an overcorrection, undercorrection, or rapidly changing cornea shape, you may need corrective eyewear again after LASIK.
Will you need LASIK again?
Most people do not need LASIK again in their lifetimes, but refractive errors do change over time, and many people develop presbyopia (age-related farsightedness) as they get older.
While people with presbyopia are not considered good candidates for LASIK, you might be able to get a touchup if your vision changes over time. This depends on how thin your corneas were before your first LASIK procedure and how they thin are afterward. People with thin corneas are not good candidates for LASIK.
Can you go blind?
This is the rarest complication of all, but there are some documented cases of people going blind after LASIK. Typically, these cases occurred years ago, but blindness is still considered a rare complication associated with LASIK. One of the best ways to reduce this risk is to find a skilled and experienced LASIK surgeon using modern equipment.
LASIK. (March 2018). US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Facts About LASIK Complications. (December 2018). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
Do Cataracts Develop After LASIK? (July 2015). ResearchGate.
Last Updated February 26, 2022
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