How safe is LASIK surgery?

Anthony Kuo, MD
Overall rates of complications after LASIK are very low. Similar to reported rates nationally[1] , our rate of complications at Duke is very low, occurring less than one percent of the time. Rates of retreatment (sometimes called “enhancement”) are around two percent. The great majority of people undergoing LASIK achieve vision as good as what they were previously only able to achieve with glasses or contact lenses.
Symptomatically, after LASIK most patients will have dryness that usually resolves. Some patients may also have visual symptoms such as glare and halo.
If you are thinking about eye surgery like LASIK, you should be thoroughly screened to first ensure you are a suitable candidate. This also provides an opportunity for you to fully address any questions you may have about the procedure with your surgeon.
[1] Schallhorn SC, Farjo AA, Huang D, Boxer Wachler BS, Trattler WB, Tanzer DJ, Majmudar PA, Sugar A; American Academy of Ophthalmology. Wavefront-guided LASIK for the correction of primary myopia and astigmatism a report by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Ophthalmology. 2008 Jul;115(7):1249-61.
LASIK surgery, short for "laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis," is the most common surgery performed to correct visual acuity. During LASIK a laser creates a circular flap in the cornea, which allows the removal of some corneal tissue, also by laser. The result is a reshaped cornea that is meant to focus light into the eye more effectively than before, allowing clearer vision.
LASIK is popular in part because it is fast and relatively pain-free. The surgery takes less than five minutes, and although the eyes are anesthetized, candidates are awake during the procedure. Many people feel only mild discomfort after the surgery. Epi-LASIK is performed without making a corneal flap and eliminates most of the complications.
As reported by LASIK surgeons, the serious complication rates for the surgery are decreasing, and are now below 1 percent. Part of this low complication rate, however, is the careful screening of candidates before surgery. Diabetes is one pre-existing condition that might disqualify a potential candidate.
It is very important to consider the potential risks of LASIK for diabetics, and to talk openly and honestly to your ophthalmologist before deciding on this procedure. Diabetics, who have a much higher rate of complication after surgery, might experience one of several issues. Because a fluctuation in blood sugar levels can result in temporarily blurred vision, it is critical to maintain good glucose control both before and after surgery. While such blurriness can be accommodated by a new contact lens or glasses prescription, LASIK surgery is much more permanent. Diabetics are also likely to experience relatively slow or imperfect healing of the cornea after surgery. And for those with diabetic retinopathy, LASIK may further damage the retina. Again, talk to your eye doctor about these risks if you are considering LASIK.
Integrative Health Solution: Speak to your doctor to determine whether you want to see near or far in both eyes; there are many options. Next is do not get LASIK if you have early cataracts. Finally, take DHA (Omega 3 fatty acids) and Vitamin C as well as drink plenty of water since dry eye is the most frequent side effect of LASIK.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.