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LASIK (Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis) is a popular and effective surgery for correcting vision problems such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. The procedure involves using a laser to reshape the cornea, the eye’s clear front surface, to improve how light enters the eye and focuses on the retina.
While LASIK is generally considered safe, there are some potential side effects that patients should be aware of before deciding to undergo the procedure. This article will discuss the most common side effects of LASIK and what patients can expect during recovery.
Immediate Side Effects
- Dry Eyes- One of LASIK’s most common side effects is dry eyes. During the healing process, the eyes may not have enough tears to moisten them. It can cause discomfort, burning, and itching. The dryness usually improves within a few weeks to a few months, but in some cases, it can be a long-term issue.
- Light Sensitivity– Another immediate side effect of LASIK is increased light sensitivity. It can make driving difficult or being in bright light at night. This side effect is temporary and usually improves within a few days.
- Glare and Halo Effect– A third immediate side effect of LASIK is the glare and halo effect. It can happen when the laser removes too much tissue from the cornea and the light entering the eye is not properly refracted. It can cause the patient to see glare around lights, especially at night. This side effect is usually temporary, but it can sometimes be long-term.
- Blurred Vision-Blurred vision is another common side effect of LASIK. It occurs because of the healing process of the cornea. However, vision should improve within a few days and fully restore within a few weeks.
- Pain or Discomfort: Some patients may experience pain or discomfort in their eyes after LASIK surgery. Generally speaking, it is not severe and is treatable with over-the-counter painkillers.
- Redness or Swelling: The eyes may appear red or swollen immediately after the procedure. It is a normal part of the healing process and should subside within a few days. One can use cold compresses to reduce swelling and discomfort.
Long-term Side Effects
Regression is a long-term side effect of LASIK in which the patient’s vision gradually worsens over time. It can happen because the cornea may change shape after the procedure, causing the initial correction to be less effective.
- Flap Complications
LASIK involves creating a flap in the cornea to access the underlying tissue to be reshaped. In rare cases, complications can occur with the flap, such as it becoming dislodged or infected.
- Night Vision Problems
Night vision problems are another long-term side effect of LASIK. It can happen because the laser removes too much tissue from the cornea, causing the light entering the eye not to be properly refracted. It can cause halos, glare, and starbursts around lights, especially at night.
Ectasia is a rare but serious side effect of LASIK in which the cornea bulges out, becoming thinner and weaker. It can cause severe visual distortions and even blindness. It is more likely to occur in patients with thin corneas or who have had excessive tissue removal during the procedure.
- Loss of Best Corrected Visual Acuity (BCVA): In rare cases, patients may experience a decline in their best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA) after LASIK surgery. It can be caused by factors such as regression or complications with the flap.
Risks of the surgery
- Glare, halos, or starbursts at night: Some patients may experience glare, halos, or starbursts around lights, especially at night, as a long-term side effect of LASIK. It can be caused by the laser removing too much tissue from the cornea, causing the light entering the eye not to be properly refracted.
- Over or under-correction: LASIK can result in over or under-correction of the patient’s vision. Over-correction occurs when the patient’s vision worsens preoperatively, and under-correction occurs when the patient’s vision is not as good as it could have been.
- Reduced contrast sensitivity: LASIK can decrease the patient’s ability to distinguish between shades of grey, which is called contrast sensitivity. It may make it challenging to see in dim lighting.
- Astigmatism: LASIK can cause astigmatism, a condition in which the cornea is not spherical and causes distorted vision.
- Epithelial ingrowth: Epithelial ingrowth occurs when cells from the cornea surface grow underneath the flap. It can cause vision problems and require additional surgery to remove the cells.
- Corneal haze: Corneal haze is a condition that can occur after LASIK, in which the cornea becomes cloudy and can cause decreased vision.
LASIK is a safe and effective procedure for correcting vision problems but has some potential side effects. Patients should be aware of these side effects and discuss them with their surgeon before undergoing the procedure. Most side effects are temporary and improve within a few weeks, but some long-term side effects can occur.
It’s important to have realistic expectations about the surgery’s outcome and a thorough pre-operative evaluation to ensure that you are a good candidate for LASIK. It’s also important to follow your surgeon’s post-operative instructions and attend all follow-up appointments to ensure proper healing and monitor for potential complications. Overall, LASIK can significantly improve vision for many patients, but it is important to weigh the risks and benefits before making a decision.