LASIK has done a lot for people around the world looking for a vision correction solution that provides clear vision without contacts or glasses. In clinical studies, 94% of patients saw 20/20 or better six months after surgery.
That said, LASIK is a medical procedure, and there are side-effect. Dry eye is the most common.
Reasonably common. Research shows almost half of patients who undergo LASIK experience some degree of dry eye. Post-LASIK eye dryness can vary greatly in severity and length. Dry eye syndrome is usually temporary and can be effectively managed with eye drops or other treatments. At your evaluation the LASIK surgeon will discuss your risk for dry eye after wards and talk with you about your options for treatment and management. We do like to try and treat moderate dry eye ahead of time before the procedure knowing that LASIK will temporarily make it worse. Many experience dry eye as blurry vision, as their cornea is temporarily less sensitive to dry eye sensation. In some cases, eye dryness can be severe.
How can dry eye be severe?
Dry eye can cause blurry vision, in severe dry eye this blurry vision does not go away. The moisture that coats your eye with each blink not only bring nutrition but it also keeps the surface of your eye smooth which allows for clear vision. If you have ever worn contact lenses, you know they can be foggy when there is something on them or they are dry. This is the same with dry eye, the surface is no longer smooth causing a blur to your vision. If you have never worn contact lenses, then you may consider the view through a dirty windshield or a hand rolled glasses window, the view is blurry and out of focus because the surface through which you are looking is not clear. With severe lack of moisture the surface stays uneven and the vision can stay blurry. It may cause inflammation which leads to constant and possibly worsening vision. This level of dry eye may also cause harm to the cornea as the tissue is not receiving nutrition. Clear healthy cornea equals good vision, very dry cornea equals blurry vision.
However, dry eyes aren’t just associated with LASIK. About 17% of contact lens wearers complain of eye dryness as well. This is a great motivator for people to investigate LASIK.
If dry eye is a current problem for you or something you’re concerned about, bring it up with your LASIK doctor early. They may be able to address your dry eye issue before continuing the conversation about LASIK. There are prescription medication eye drops that help available now, both Restasis and Xiidra are helpful options. The doctor may even discuss placing temporary plugs into the tear drains in the corner of your eyelid. These plugs work like a plug in the drain of the bathtub and hold moisture on the eye. Insurance will typically cover this procedure if you need more help to manage your dry eye. Or the doctor might tell you that you’re not a good candidate based on severe dry eye.
In any case, it merits a conversation, which starts during a consultation. Get ready for life with vision freedom from sun up to sun down.
Is there anything I can do to help treat or prevent dry eye after LASIK?
While the first step is the above — addressing any pre-existing eye dryness prior to your LASIK procedure — there are some things you can try to help manage eye dryness in preparation for and after your surgery.
Many patients who experience eye dryness with LASIK are able to manage it with eye drops — you can find these in the drug store, or your eye surgeon might write you a prescription. Studies have also indicated that “good fats” like those found in fish and omega-3 fatty acid supplements also promote healthy tear production. There are even artificial tears that have the omega 3 fatty acids as an ingredient to help with tear film endurance. The oils coat the moisture of your tear film to prevent evaporation when reading the computer or paper work. These can be very effective.
Should the dry eye persist, which is a condition less common than temporary dry eye, your doctor may recommend an eye treatment that keeps eye moisture from clearing away so quickly, keeping your eyes moist for longer periods. These are the punctal plugs mentioned above.
If you have any questions about LASIK, you can ask us here, but the best resource for addressing your concerns is a LASIK surgeon during your consultation. Be sure to email us and make your appointment today.