What are some of the possible complications of Lasik eye surgery?
Undercorrection – this occurs when the expected vision correction falls short of the desired outcome. This occurs more commonly with patients who have a high degree of nearsightedness (only objects close up are clear), farsightedness (only objects far away are clear) or astigmatism (images both far and near are distorted). Why? There is more laser corneal sculpting that needs to occur with patients having higher degrees of vision imperfection. When choosing your Lasik eye surgeon, it’s important to ask them what percentage of their patients need retreatment for undercorrection. This should be something that they are willing to freely discuss with you. If not, walk away! This is not to be confused with a planned slight undercorrection for nearsighted patients over forty years old which aids their reading vision. But this is something that you and your Lasik eye surgeon would have discussed before your surgery.
Overcorrection – this complication occurs less frequently than undercorrection and results when the amount of correction (corneal laser sculpting) exceeds what is planned. Slight overcorrection can be temporary and may resolve itself in the first month following Lasik eye surgery. Patients can manage slight overcorrections by wearing glasses until their vision resolves. Some patients with overcorrection may need additional Lasik eye surgery 3 to 6 months following their first surgery.
Dry Eye – many Lasik eye surgery patients may experience the feeling of ‘grittiness’ in their eyes following surgery. This condition usually resolves itself in 3 to 6 months and may be helped by using lubricating eye drops. Patients using birth control pills and patients going through menopause may experience this condition more often. If ‘dry eye’ continues beyond 6 months, your Lasik eye surgeon may recommend blocking your tear ducts with tiny silicon plugs to prevent tears from draining away too quickly.
Corneal abrasion – a small percentage of Lasik eye surgery patients may develop a small corneal abrasion (scrape) caused by the microkeratome (instrument used to create corneal flap) used during surgery. This abrasion is generally not serious and will heal quickly. Your Lasik eye surgeon may temporarily place a thin bandage contact lens on your eye to promote healing. While your abrasion is healing, your vision will be blurry.
Night glare – this annoying condition may not affect your vision clarity but patients may see halos or ghosting of images at night during the first month following surgery. Night glare generally improves in 3 months and often disappears within 6 months. Patients with large pupils and more severe vision impairment may be more prone to night glare.
Corneal flap complication – this occurs when the corneal flap is too small, too thin or is an irregular shape. In some cases the corneal flap may shift slightly following surgery if a patient rubs their eyes during the first 6 hours after surgery. If the flap does shift, ‘wrinkles’ can form causing distorted vision. A second procedure may be necessary to ‘smooth out’ the wrinkles and improve vision.
Infection – although this is the most feared complication of Lasik eye surgery patients, it is extremely rare. If your eye is going to become infected, chances are it will happen in the first 72 hours following surgery and will be treated with antibiotic eye drops. For this reason it is very important to avoid eye makeup, hot tubs and swimming pools for at least the first week following Lasik eye surgery.
The risks of Lasik eye surgery are low with an experienced Lasik eye surgeon but you need to be aware of possible complications prior to surgery. Your Lasik eye surgeon should freely discuss all possible complications of Lasik eye surgery prior to surgery. Do everything you can to put your eyes in the best possible hands.