Advances in medical science have allowed many people to experience improved vision without the use of corrective lenses. One such procedure to improve vision is Laser-Assisted in-Situ Keratomileusis (LASIK). Currently, LASIK is the standard method of performing keratomileusis, which is the surgical reshaping of the cornea. Chosen by more than one million U.S. patients each year, LASIK has become a common procedure for those desiring to improve their vision and stop wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses. As a surgical procedure, LASIK is not without risk. Those considering LASIK surgery should be aware of the potential side effects before making a final decision.
Dry eyes are the most common side effect of LASIK surgery. Many patients experience red, itchy eyes following the procedure. Common symptoms of dry eyes are blurry vision, grittiness, and the erroneous feeling that something is in the eye. This problem usually clears up within three months; meanwhile, the patient can use preservative-free eye drops recommended by the ophthalmologist who performed the surgery.
Following a LASIK procedure, several different side effects may cause patients to have difficulty seeing in low-light conditions. This difficulty is known as night vision disturbance (NVD) and may render patients incapable of driving safely after dark. Some of these side effects are starbursts, halos, ghosting, and poor contrast discernment.
Starbursts make it seem as if rays are extending out from a light source. Patients with high prescriptions and those with large pupils may experience this side effect for a longer period of time than other patients. The size and shape of the starbursts will vary from one light source to the next.
Halos are similar to starbursts in that they center on a light source. Instead of sharp rays, however, blurry spots seem to cover the light source.
Ghosting is when an object seems to occur more than once. For example, double vision is a type of ghosting. Those who suffer from this side effect could see several versions of an object at once.
Some patients notice a difficulty discerning objects in dark surroundings. This is due to the loss of contrast sensitivity and is a common side effect of the LASIK procedure. Most people who experience this problem notice that it lasts no more than six months following the surgery.
Sensitivity to light is another common side effect of LASIK surgery. Wearing dark glasses will alleviate the problem, which should not last more than a few days following the procedure.
For the first week or two following LASIK surgery, some patients experience minor fluctuations in their vision, meaning that either the acuity or the quality of their vision is not constant. Acuity refers to the sharpness of an image and is measurable; 20/20 is normal acuity. Acuity is also what LASIK attempts to improve. However, this improvement often means that visual quality suffers; such defects in quality include ghosting and starbursts.
Some LASIK patients experience visual regression. This is an uncommon side effect that usually disappears in a few months. Women on hormone therapy are most at risk for visual regression.
Side effects from LASIK surgery should disappear anywhere from a week to a few months following the procedure. Although most patients experience significantly improved vision, there is a potential for the procedure to fail, resulting in unimproved or even worsened vision. Not everyone is a candidate for LASIK, and those considering LASIK surgery should consult a qualified ophthalmologist to determine whether the procedure is right for them.