What are the Risks and Side Effects of LASIK Eye Surgery?

Laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK) is a type of eye surgery used to treat common vision problems such as nearsightedness & farsightedness. Learn about potential complications & known side effects compared to benefits before continuing with this procedure

What are the Risks and Side Effects of LASIK Eye Surgery?

Laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK) is a type of eye surgery used to treat common vision problems, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. It is an elective procedure, meaning that no one needs to have it in the same sense that an appendectomy should be performed if the appendix becomes infected. However, certain side effects of LASIK eye surgery, such as dry eyes and temporary visual problems like glare, are quite common. Dry eye after laser eye surgery is usually a temporary phenomenon, but it can become a long-term issue if patients are not properly evaluated before the procedure.

This occurs because the superficial nerve endings on the surface of the cornea need to regenerate and heal. The cornea is a little numb and does not have the sensitivity needed to cause tear production. In addition, nerve endings are known to produce chemical messengers (cytokines) that act as growth factors that coordinate the interaction between cells on the surface. Nerves regenerate in 6 to 12 weeks, and during this time the eyes tend to dry out.

The risk of infection after LASIK and PRK is extremely small. The risk of infection, from highest to lowest, is LASEK, PRK, LASIK with a blade and IntraLasik with a femtosecond laser that represents the lowest risk of all. The overall risk of infection after using IntraLasik in very good eye centers is 1 in 10,000 cases. Complications in the flap, such as eyelets, partial flaps and irregular fragmented flaps, have been described in Lasik laser eye surgery with a blade.

After the introduction of the IntraLase femtosecond laser for creating flaps (introduced in the United Kingdom by Centre for Sight in 2000), complications with the flap are now rare. While the procedure is very quick and doesn't hurt, it's important to understand that any surgery involves some risks and possible side effects. These two side effects are why vision isn't usually “perfect” right after LASIK. While a side effect is known to occur when surgery is performed, it usually resolves during the healing process.

For a few days or a few weeks after laser eye surgery (with both LASIK and surface ablation), ALL patients have halos. It is important for patients to discuss their specific risks and benefits with their doctor before deciding to have any surgery, including LASIK surgery. Your eye surgeon will discuss the risks and benefits, including those specific to your circumstances, at the time of your preoperative consultation. Most LASIK specialists agree that advances in technology (both for determining eligibility and for use in the procedure itself) are effective in reducing complication rates.

The risks of LASIK have been thoroughly studied in the 20 years since the surgery was approved by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Most patients simply move on after LASIK surgery and see with their own eyes instead of through a lens.

The Academy offers materials including brochures and videos for ophthalmologists that help to meaningfully inform patients about the reality of eye surgery. To continue your research, here is a reference article from WebMD on the advantages of LASIK & disadvantages, side effects, and other considerations. The patient should consider potential complications and known side effects compared to the benefits of LASIK surgery before continuing with the procedure. It is important to understand that any surgical procedure involves some risks and possible side effects.