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Potential Risks of Laser Eye Surgery

The side effects

  • Risks

    Laser eye surgery treatments are clinically proven and established procedures. Like all surgeries however, laser eye surgery is not free of risks and side effects. Only your ophthalmologist can explain the individual risks and decide whether laser eye treatment is an option. Some complications that can occur are:

    Woman driving at night

    Over- or Undercorrection:

    Not everyone achieves a spot-on refractive outcome after laser eye surgery. The amount of vision correction can vary depending on individual conditions. A residual refractive error can remain, which may mean some patients still need glasses or contacts after surgery. In this case, a follow-up surgery to correct the remaining residual refractive error can be considered.

    Night Vision Complaints:

    This possible side effect has been described as a difficulty with night vision or night driving because of glare or halos around lights in the dark. It is more common in the early postoperative time period and it gradually gets better in the majority of cases.

    Clouded Vision:

    With clouded vision, everything can appear hazy. It is more common for patients who were strongly nearsighted.

    Double Vision:

    Complaints of double vision after Laser Vision Correction are rare and usually refer to seeing ghosting around images. This is in distinction to double vision, also medically called diplopia, when both eyes are not properly aligned or there is a problem with the brain fusing the images into one.

    Woman getting anaesthesia drops

    Dry Eye Syndrome:

    A feeling of dry eye after Laser Vision Correction is relatively common in the early postoperative time period and gradually gets better in the majority of patients. Some consider it a part of the healing process. It is usually treated with artificial tears or other treatment options. Patients with dry eye before surgery may be more prone to having dry eye after surgery. A dry eye may cause discomfort and blurring. Patients should be tested for dry eye syndrome before considering surgery.

    Bulging of the Cornea:

    This very rare phenomenon is known as corneal ectasia and occurs when the front of the eye becomes weak and starts to bulge forward. Glasses, contact lenses, or even a corneal transplant may be required to restore vision. It is similar to a condition called keratoconus. Ectasia may occur any time from shortly after surgery to years later. A careful preoperative examination can reduce the chance of developing ectasia after Laser Vision Correction.

    Infection:

    There is a very small probability of developing an eye infection after laser eye surgery. It is important to consult with the surgeon if the eye turns red, is painful or there is a loss of vision. Infections can be cured if caught early on, but can leave serious damage if they are not promptly treated. Prescribed eye drops given after the procedure can help prevent an infection.

    Flap-Related Complications:

    Flap-related complications are possible after the LASIK procedure because a flap is created in the cornea. Complications with the flap may include infection, inflammation, and dislocation of the flap. Treatment for flap complications may involve eye drops or additional surgery.

  • Myths & Facts
    • Myth: SMILE, LASIK and PRK are not real surgeries.

      Fact: While these procedures only take a few minutes to perform and utilize lasers, they are surgical interventions with the potential for risks and complications. If there are questions regarding the risks and complications of laser eye surgery, it is recommended to consult with an eye doctor.

    • Myth: There is no need for glasses after laser eye surgery.

      Fact: The large majority of people who have had laser eye surgery do not need glasses afterwards. In some cases though, visual aids such as glasses and contact lenses, or a new laser surgery, may be required. Additionally, presbyopia, the natural change of vision with age, could also require reading glasses or additional surgery to read small print.

    • Myth: Technology continues to evolve. I should wait for the next generation.

      Fact: Technology will always continue to advance, but that does not mean that current devices will have a lower success rate or result in more complications than future devices. All currently approved laser devices have been clinically tested to ensure they meet high standards of safety and effectiveness. Technology has greatly advanced over the last decade and is at an unsurpassed level. Laser procedures, including SMILE, LASIK and PRK/LASEK, have demonstrated very high success rates with very low rates of complications.

    • Myth: I am too young or too old for laser eye surgery.

      Fact: Age may be a factor, but it is much more important for the eligibility of surgery whether your eyes are healthy with stable eyesight. A prescription eyesight usually does not become stable until later teenage years. For older age patients, another important consideration is presbyopia, which is the natural loss of the ability to see things up close. There are laser surgery solutions, such as Laser Blended Vision or monovision, which can compensate the effect of presbyopia. Consult with your doctor about whether you are a suitable candidate.

    • Myth: Laser eye surgery is painful.

      Fact: Almost all patients describe the procedure as painless. Drops of anesthesia completely numb the eye. During some parts of the surgery, there might be a feeling of pressure around the eye. After surgery, there may be some discomfort, but this depends on the procedure and the individual case. A procedure including surface ablation can for instance be more uncomfortable than a flap or minimally invasive laser eye surgery.

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