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Does LASIK Cause Dry Eye? LASIK FAQs

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Doctor performing Lasik eye surgery procedure on a patient

If you’re considering getting LASIK laser eye surgery, you may have several questions about the procedure and the surgery itself. But it is also important to consider the potential side effects and risk factors.

Dry eye is the most common side effect associated with LASIK eye surgery. Research has shown that approximately 60% of people who receive LASIK  eye surgery suffer from dry eyes following the procedure. Symptoms sometimes can persist for weeks, months or even longer, so you should consider 

What is LASIK Eye Surgery? 

LASIK eye surgery (laser in-situ keratomileusis) is the most commonly performed laser eye surgery. The surgery is useful for correcting vision in people who suffer from refractive errors such as myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism

How Does it Work?

To correct refractive errors, the LASIK procedure reshapes the transparent front part of your eye (cornea) so that light focuses on the retina in the back of your eye.  This procedure can fix refractive errors as an alternative to glasses or contact lenses.

The three main steps in a LASIK procedure are as follows:

  • First, the surgeon will create a thin, circular flap in the cornea to access the underlying cornea (called the corneal stroma)
  • An excimer laser is then used to reshape the corneal stroma by removing small amounts of tissue from the cornea
  • Finally, the corneal flap is laid back in place, where it naturally adheres to the corneal stroma 

The LASIK procedure is typically is pain-free and only takes about 15 minutes to treat both eyes. Results are immediate, and vision often stabilizes in as little as 24 hours.

Benefits & Risks of LASIK Eye Surgery

LASIK eye surgery has been a popular laser procedure for over 25 years, so the benefits and risks have been well observed.

Benefits of LASIK Eye Surgery

The benefits of LASIK eye surgery are:

  • About 96% of patients successfully reach their vision goals
  • The procedure is typically pain-free
  • There isn’t a need for stitches or bandages
  • Your doctor can adjust your vision as you age
  • You most likely won’t need glasses or contacts

Risks of LASIK Eye Surgery 

As with any laser eye surgery, LASIK does carry some risks. These including:

  • Even though it’s rare, there may be complications during the procedure that result in permanent vision issues 
  • Most insurance doesn’t cover LASIK
  • There may be side effects- dry eye is the most common side effect of LASIK
A driver with glasses suffering from blurry vision needing LASIK eye surgery to correct it

Why Do People Get LASIK?  

People get LASIK eye surgery to correct refractive errors. A refractive error occurs when light doesn’t focus on your retina the way it should, making your vision blurry. The three types of refractive errors that are commonly treated by LASIK are:

  • Nearsightedness (myopia) is a refractive error where you see things clearly when they’re close to you, but items farther away appear blurry
  • Farsightedness (hyperopia) is the opposite of myopia. People with hyperopia can see faraway images or objects clearly, but closer things appear blurry
  • Astigmatism is a combination of myopia and hyperopia. If you have astigmatism, your total vision is blurry because of your eye shape

LASIK & Dry Eye FAQs 

Why does LASIK cause dry eye?

When you undergo a LASIK procedure, the cornea is being operated on. Your cornea can experience some sensitivity loss during this, which means that afterward, your cornea may not feel the need for moisture as well as it did pre-surgery. This is what can lead to the development of dry eye.

How is Dry Eye Treated After LASIK?

Most people do well with conventional dry eye treatments. Treatment options for dry eye include:

Is Dry Eye After LASIK Permanent?

After LASIK, dry eye symptoms are usually temporary. Research shows that if you suffer from dry eye due to LASIK, your eye moisture levels will return to their preoperative levels from 6 months to 1 year after surgery.

In some cases, dry eye can become a permanent condition after getting LASIK. Luckily, dry eye is a common condition, so many treatment options and dry eye therapies are available to help you manage your symptoms.

Can Dry Eye after LASIK be Predicted? 

There is no way to predict the prevalence and severity of post-LASIK dry eye for any individual patient, but there are several risk factors that can help your doctor determine if you may get it. These risk factors include:

How Do I Know if LASIK Isn’t For Me?

The best way to know if LASIK isn’t the proper treatment for you is by talking with your doctor. In general, you shouldn’t have the surgery if you:

The Next Steps

If you suffer from nearsightedness, farsightedness, or have astigmatism and you think you may benefit from LASIK eye surgery, contact your optometrist. 

Your optometrist can answer any questions you may have, see if you’re a good candidate for LASIK and walk you through the procedure. 

Written by Dr. Rod Adams

Dr. Rod Adams is a graduate of the University of Alberta and the University of California at Berkeley School of Optometry. Dr. Adams has been in private family practice since 1997. During this time, he has developed a strong interest in pediatric optometry and laser corrective surgery options.
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