LASIK Myths Debunked: Know the Facts
Despite its widespread popularity, there are a lot of myths about LASIK. The truth is that LASIK is a safe, effective procedure with very high success rates.
Ever since LASIK (short for laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis, a corneal reshaping surgery) was approved for vision correction by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1999, millions of people in the U.S. alone have gotten the procedure.
As LASIK continues to gain in popularity, much of the misinformation about LASIK is becoming less prevalent. Below, we’ve outlined eight common myths about LASIK eye surgery and debunked them.
10 Myths About LASIK Eye Surgery
Myth 1: The effects of LASIK are only temporary and won’t last forever.
Fact: The effects of LASIK are permanent and do not wear off. Once a cornea is surgically reshaped, it stays that way for life.
However, other parts of the eye can also experience gradual changes over time. It’s normal and common for people to eventually require reading glasses to correct farsightedness due to inner lens hardening, for example, regardless of whether or not they’ve had LASIK.
In this case, someone who has had LASIK and experienced other, non-corneal-related changes in the eye may retain LASIK-corrected farsighted vision but still require reading glasses when viewing things up close.
Myth 2: LASIK is a complicated surgery with many risks and potential side effects.
Fact: In the two-plus decades since LASIK was approved for treatment, hundreds of peer-reviewed studies have consistently shown that over 95 percent of patients are satisfied with their results. No surgery is 100 percent risk-free, but the chance of something going wrong during a LASIK procedure is statistically very low.
Negative side effects from LASIK are also rare, but they mainly include lasting dry eye (temporary dry eye can sometimes occur after LASIK), night vision complications, and persisting problems with blurry vision, light sensitivity, or pain.
It is important to note that these side effects predominantly occur in people with certain conditions. Patients with a changing or unstable refractive error, corneal thinness or abrasions, cataracts, glaucoma, pregnancy, and/or other conditions are generally not viable candidates for LASIK. Every patient is unique, and anyone considering LASIK should do so under careful guidance of an ophthalmologist.
Myth 3: Once you exceed middle age, you’re too old to get LASIK.
Fact: Anyone over the age of 18 who fits the criteria of general eye health and possesses a consistent type of refractive error can be a potential candidate for LASIK. Consulting with a doctor who can evaluate patients holistically will help you decide whether LASIK is a good choice.
Myth 4 : If I can’t get LASIK, my only other option is sticking with glasses/contacts forever.
Fact: Depending on the patient’s specific type of refractive error, another form of correction may be an option. These alternatives vary from wavefront-guided LASIK, which combines computer imaging technology with the laser contouring methods of traditional LASIK, to conductive keratoplasty (CK), which uses noninvasive heat to correct certain types of farsightedness typically seen in older patients.
Some alternatives may offer additional benefits depending on the nature of the condition. Again, talking to a doctor about all potential options, outcomes, risks, and benefits is crucial.
Myth 5: LASIK is a painful laser surgery.
Fact: The vast majority of patients experience mild to zero discomfort during the 10 to 15 total minutes of a typical LASIK procedure.
Patients can opt to use numbing eye drops and take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as Tylenol to reduce potential discomfort. Some patients may take mild prescription sedatives before LASIK, to help them relax during the procedure.
The recovery process is remarkably fast, taking just one day on average.
Myth 6: Having an astigmatism rules out the possibility of getting LASIK.
Fact: The opposite is true. Astigmatisms are one of multiple kinds of refractive errors that LASIK can treat.
While earlier versions of LASIK couldn’t yet treat astigmatism, this is no longer the case. Today, LASIK can correct astigmatisms along with nearsightedness and farsightedness.
Myth 7: LASIK is standard everywhere, so pick the cheapest option.
Fact: A wide variety of laser sizes and models exist for LASIK. Different doctors may prefer certain types of lasers over others, or they may recommend one type of laser over another depending on the specific nature of the refractive error in question.
LASIK is not just a laser working automatically. It takes a well-qualified doctor with years of training to understand and operate the technology perfectly. Different doctors vary in skill level, years of experience, and patient satisfaction outcomes.
Prospective patients should take the time to consider multiple doctors instead of going with the first available appointment. Reading previous patient testimonials can provide illuminating information. Come prepared to all consultations with plenty of questions and relevant medical eye history information.
LASIK is permanent, so finding the right doctor will help ensure the most positive surgical outcome.
Myth 8: If one doctor won’t perform the surgery, patients should keep trying other doctors until they find someone who will.
Fact: While getting second or even third opinions from different medical professionals can provide well-rounded information, it’s also important to remember that not all doctors are unbiased. Unfortunately, there are a minority of doctors who prioritize profit over patient satisfaction, and some may even be willing to perform LASIK on a high-risk patient for profit.
If a patient is told numerous times by multiple reputable doctors that they aren’t a good candidate for LASIK, they should ask about other options (see #4), or stick to wearing glasses and contacts.
Myth 9: LASIK is new, so we don’t know the long-term effects.
Fact: Ever since LASIK was approved for vision correction by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1999, millions of people in the U.S. alone have gotten the procedure. Every year, over 700,000 LASIK procedures are performed here. With this much data available, experts agree it is a safe procedure with very high success rates.
Myth 10: LASIK can cause blindness.
Fact: There has never been a reported case of blindness caused by LASIK. Though any surgery, including LASIK, has some level of risk involved, rates of complications from LASIK are extremely low.
The Truth About LASIK
For over two decades, millions of people have undergone LASIK eye surgery to permanently correct various types of blurry vision. LASIK has over a 95 percent patient satisfaction rate, and even in most cases of extreme nearsightedness, LASIK provides satisfactory long-term outcomes.
LASIK uses a small laser to gently reshape the cornea into a position in which it can focus light without the help of glasses or contact lenses. While LASIK is a popular vision-correcting choice (granting the ability to wake up each morning with perfect or near-perfect vision), like all surgeries, it comes with its own set of considerations.
The best outcomes are likely to result in patients who take the time to be properly and holistically assessed by skilled physicians with a good track record. Widespread research on LASIK technologies, long-term outcomes, and patient satisfaction is perpetually ongoing, and so are efforts to increase systematic, long-term, follow-up counseling studies on patients who have already had LASIK.
While LASIK is not a universally applicable treatment for everyone, it can offer permanently corrected vision to many adults with otherwise healthy eyes.
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What Is Presbyopia? (February 2022). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Facts About LASIK Complications. (December 2018). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
LASIK – Laser Eye Surgery. (October 2020). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
The 25h Anniversary of Laser Vision Correction in the United States. (December 2020). Clinical Ophthalmology.
Alternative Refractive Surgery Procedures. (September 2017). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Long-Term Outcome of Epi-LASIK for High Myopia. (August 2011). European Journal of Ophthalmology.
Symptoms and Satisfaction of Patients in the Patient-Reported Outcomes With Laser In Situ Keratomileusis (PROWL) Studies. (January 2017). JAMA Ophthalmology.
Functional Outcome and Patient Satisfaction after Laser In Situ Keratomileusis for Correction of Myopia and Myopic Astigmatism. (January–March 2015). Middle East African Journal of Ophthalmology.
Outcome of a 10-Year Follow-Up of Laser in Situ Laser Keratomileusis for Myopia and Myopic Astigmatism. (December 2015). Taiwan Journal of Ophthalmology.
Last Updated March 22, 2022
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