Healthy Living

What Are the Side Effects of Lasik Eye Surgery?

Problems That Are Minor Yet Resolvable Following Lasik Eye Surgery

What are the Side Effects of Lasik Eye Surgery?

Key Takeaways

  • Side effects of Lasik surgery reduce significantly if you have no preexisting illnesses and you are not on vision-disturbing medication.
  • Side effects are treatable and disappear within a couple of weeks of the surgery.
  • Protective eye shields, timely medication, and sunglasses go a long way in reducing the discomfort associated with Lasik side effects. 

Nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism are eye disorders that can be rectified through eye surgery, enabling you to avoid the tedium of using glasses and contact lenses to see distant objects and to read comfortably. In Lasik eye surgery, an excimer laser removes tissue from the cornea, thereby restructuring the curvature of the cornea. This simple yet sophisticated technique normalizes disoriented vision with rewarding results. Yet, just like any other surgical technique, Lasik surgery produces side effects, some of which affect the way you feel and some others that affect the way you see objects.

Lasik complications as opposed to Lasik side effects

It would be worthwhile to clearly distinguish between a side effect and a complication.

A complication is something that happens unexpectedly and has to be probed in-depth to ascertain its causes so that remedial action can be initiated on an emergency basis. Lasik complications are rare and are almost entirely related to the kind of surgery you choose, and more advanced surgical procedures are designed to minimize complications. A bulging cornea, also known as ectasia, which is a rare complication brought on by pressure changes in the cornea that requires specialized follow-up treatment. Another complication could be the inability of the corneal flap to heal completely; this happens mostly in manually operated and bladed procedures and is avoidable if bladeless advanced surgery is performed.

A side effect is a known entity, something that you know has a high probability of occurring, but which is usually healed during the recovery phase using medication and therapy. In other words, a complication presents a wholly unexpected and possibly life-threatening situation, whereas a side effect is controllable and usually subsides after proper medication, rest, and recuperation.  

Common side effects of Lasik eye surgery

Immediately following Lasik eye surgery there will be some degree of discomfort and blurry vision. There is no reason to panic, because this is the body’s (eye’s) normal immune reaction to invasive surgery that is visible externally as infection and inflammation. All such side effects vanish progressively, given time to heal.

1.     Eye itching and discomfort

It would be normal to feel an intense desire to itch or rub the eyes after surgery following the sensation that a foreign body or substance is scratching the eye surface. This is the reason why patients are wrapped in a protective eye shield immediately after surgery to prevent the possibility of touching or rubbing the eyes, thereby preventing creating a window for infection. Artificial tear drops are a solution, creating and sustaining a watery medium that keeps the eye surface moist and free of debris.  

2.     Dryness of the eye

It is common for patients to complain of a marked increase in eye dryness. If there is a history of eye dryness that was left untreated or remained undisclosed to the surgeon, the chances of exacerbating the condition is high after Lasik surgery. Normally aged patients, people on blood pressure drugs, women approaching menopause, people with autoimmune disorders, or those undergoing hormone replacement therapy are found to have excessive dryness of the eye. Lasik surgery may exacerbate the problem due to a change in the structure of the eye which interferes with the glands that produce tear drops. The remedy is a preservative avoiding eye drop, which is applied intermittently to keep the eyes moist or artificial tears that do the job just as efficiently. This is not a serious problem, and it goes away within a couple of weeks.

3.     Vision disturbances

Vision restoration will rarely be perfect within the first couple of hours of surgery, although some patients may report remarkable transformation immediately after recovery.

It is normal during the initial weeks to experience bright ring-like halos around objects, objects floating in a flare of bright light, and a certain amount of double vision that can be vaguely disorienting. The problem is likely to increase at night and may be associated with a temporary dilation of the pupils which allows more light than is necessary. The genesis of the problem can be traced to the medication applied during surgery to stiffen the muscles to prevent eye movement. It may take some time to relax the muscles responsible for controlling pupil dilation.

Another problem that might trigger vision disturbance is the movement of the corneal flap after rubbing or pressing the eye too soon after the operation. It is very important to keep the eye shield in place soon after the surgery to give maximum protection to the healing corneal flap.    

Some patients find it difficult or risky to drive at night, but the discomfort fades with the passage of time.

4.     Eyes becoming light sensitive

Sensitivity to light may be a discomforting factor for a few hours following the surgery, but this gradually fades away. One reason behind the phenomenon is the desire to rub the eyes, which may displace the delicate corneal flap that may not be fully healed. Rubbing may cause the flap to move aside, creating grounds for infection and inflammation, requiring a repeat operation to readjust the flap.

Considered as a minor side effect, light sensitivity does not affect the way you do your routine and visibility will improve. The best solution is taking longer naps that rest the eyes and permit medication to heal the eye slowly in the background. Plunging straightaway into the daily routine may end up straining the eyes, so a common sense rest-and-recuperation initiative is desirable.

5.     Infection and inflammation

As with any other surgery, Lasik surgery also carries the risk of infection that may be surgery related or externally induced. Medication consisting of anti-inflammatories and antibiotics usually clear up signs of infection pretty fast.

6.     Displacement of the corneal flap

The outermost lining of epithelial cells of the cornea is sliced and moved aside as a kind of hinged flap just before laser surgery of the inner stroma. The outer edges of the flap are repositioned without stitches, allowing normal eye pressure to keep the flap securely in place. The patient will be cautioned to avoid rubbing the eye to avoid displacement of the flap, but, in some instances, a displaced flap creates a visual disturbance.

The flap slicing is attempted manually using a blade cutter, which may get in the way of faster healing. More advanced forms of Lasik surgery avoid the problem altogether and minimize the risk of the corneal flap coming undone after surgery.

7.     Corneal ectasia or keratoconus

This refers to the condition where the surface of the cornea becomes irregular to the extent that normal vision is affected, and in some instances this leads to astigmatism. This may happen due to errors in Lasik surgery, particularly in the older classical method. In such cases, the changed refractive error can be corrected using glasses or contact lenses with a repeat surgery being the third option.

The last word

The person considering Lasik surgery needs to identify himself as a fit candidate for the procedure. It helps to be in good overall health with lower refractive errors but without preexisting illnesses. The potential rewards and benefits must also outweigh the risks factors, side effects, and complications to make Lasik surgery a workable option. After all, Lasik remains an elective surgery and carries no compulsion in promoting eye care.