what are the risk of LASIK

Risk of LASIK: What Are the Risks?

LASIK (Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis) is a popular procedure for correcting vision problems, but it comes with potential risks and complications. It’s essential for patients to be aware of these risks to make informed decisions about undergoing the surgery.

The risks of LASIK have been studied extensively since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the surgery. According to the 2016 Modern LASIK Outcomes study, 99.5% of eyes saw 20/40 or better after LASIK.

While many people are good candidates, LASIK is not for everyone. Patients talk with their ophthalmologist to understand the potential risks and what is the right surgery for them.

An informed patient is a better, more satisfied patient.

When You Should Not Have LASIK?

EVO ICL an alternative to LASIK

LaZrPlastique: LASIK without cutting the cornea

General Risks of LASIK

Some problems experienced after LASIK commonly occur right after surgery and usually decrease within 3 to 6 months. However, in some patients, these problems can be permanent and may impact their ability to perform daily tasks.

Loss of Vision

Loss of vision means that vision becomes unclear (blurry or hazy vision) even with glasses or contact lenses. Your doctor may measure this loss using a vision chart. The loss may be mild or, in rare cases, severe. In extremely rare cases, people can experience a total loss of vision. Vision loss is usually temporary, but there are complications of LASIK that can cause permanent vision loss.

Risk of LASIK: Potential causes of vision loss due to LASIK include:

Corneal complications such as:

  • Corneal flap complications: LASIK requires cutting a flap of the front-most part of the cornea. Flap complications include irregular cutting, improper positioning, loss, or irregular healing. These complications can result in additional surgery or, rarely, permanent loss of vision.
  • Infection: The cornea may get infected right after surgery, treatable with topical medication, but occasionally causing severe complications like perforation of the cornea.
  • Inflammation: Excessive inflammation can cause scarring or swelling, leading to loss of corneal clarity.
  • Irregular corneal shape: LASIK or the healing process may result in an irregular corneal shape, causing blurry vision.
  • Corneal ectasia: This uncommon but severe complication involves bulging of the cornea, potentially requiring a corneal transplant.
  • Retinal detachment: Rare but serious, this occurs when the retina detaches from its attachments within the eyeball, potentially leading to permanent vision loss.

Dry Eyes

Dry eyes may cause discomfort and visual problems. LASIK can increase eye dryness, and symptoms may persist or worsen, particularly in those with pre-existing dry eye conditions.

Symptoms of dry eye include:

  • Scratchy or sandy feeling
  • Stinging or burning
  • Excessive tearing
  • Stringy discharge
  • Pain and redness
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurred vision

Discomfort or Pain

Mild discomfort is common right after LASIK, but it usually subsides within a few weeks or months. However, complications like dry eye, inflammation, or infection may cause severe, chronic pain.

Visual Symptoms

LASIK may cause or worsen visual symptoms, such as glare, halos, starbursts, and double vision. These symptoms often improve within 3 to 6 months but can persist and affect daily activities.

Temporary side-effects can include:

  • Glare: Difficulty seeing in bright lights.
  • Halos: Seeing a fuzzy cloud of light around lighted objects.
  • Starbursts: Seeing rays of light coming from lighted objects.
  • Double vision: Distorted or blurry visual images.
  • Decreased ability to see under low lighting conditions: Difficulty seeing in dimly lit environments.

In a small number of patients, some of these effects may be permanent.

What is glare?

Glare is difficulty seeing well when there are bright lights like headlights or
sunlight, as shown in the images below.

Risk of LASIK glare

What is Halo?

You may see halos. By halos, we mean seeing a fuzzy cloud of light around
lighted objects, such as the ones shown in the images below.


What is Starburst?

You may see rays of light coming from lighted objects, such as in the car
headlights in the images below.

Risk of LASIK starburst

What is Double Visoion?

Double vision, which some people call “ghost” or “shadow” images,
are distorted or blurry visual images, such as the ones shown below. If you
experience such images, close one eye and then the other to determine if you only see
the double images with both eyes open. If you still have double vision with one eye
closed, note in which eye you are experiencing the double images. This information is
important to report back to your doctor to help him or her determine the cause of the

Risk of LASIK double vision


Desired Correction Not Achieved

LASIK may not result in the desired vision correction, or the correction may decrease over time. Additional surgery may not always be possible or effective, and glasses or contact lenses may still be needed.

Unintentional Imbalance Between Two Eyes

LASIK may cause an imbalance between the two eyes if the desired correction is not achieved. This imbalance can cause headaches, eyestrain, double vision, and reduced depth perception.

Need for Glasses for Close Work

Almost all people in their 40s or older lose their ability to focus from far to near (presbyopia). LASIK does not treat this condition, and patients usually need glasses for close work after surgery.

Drooping Eyelid

The lid of the eye(s) that had surgery may droop, causing a tired feeling or difficulty seeing. This may require eyelid surgery.

Future Eye Health

LASIK may cause difficulties with:

  • Future assessment of eye pressure: Thinning of the cornea affects eye pressure measurements, complicating glaucoma assessments.
  • Future cataract surgery: LASIK may make it more difficult to implant the correct artificial lens during cataract surgery. Keeping a patient information card with your eye measurements before LASIK can help the cataract surgeon accurately calculate the artificial lens power needed.

Understanding these risk of LASIK is crucial for anyone considering LASIK. Discussing these potential complications with your doctor will help you make a well-informed decision about your vision correction options.

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