Lasik Eye Surgery Complications: When Lasik Goes Wrong

Lasik surgery causes permanent changes to the cornea. Laser eye surgery treatments are relatively new procedures. Researchers have studied Lasik eye surgery complications and outcomes since its first FDA approvals. Until recently these have been limited to short-term outcomes.

Long-term outcomes are beginning to be reported in larger numbers–enough to provide usable data. And these provide some pretty serious facts to consider when deciding to have Lasik.

A Little About Corneal Structure

The corneal tissue bands add strength to the cornea to maintain its shape. All Laser eye surgery is based upon the removal or corneal tissue. This breaks the corneal tissue bands, removes tissue and alters corneal biomechanical properties. Both weaken the cornea.

Thinner corneas and altered biomechanical properties cause potential for other problems. Corneal tissue removal also destroys nerve endings in the cornea. These nerves are designed to protect the eye by sending messages to the brain. The brain sends messages to lacrimal glands and other reflexes to initiate protective actions.

The 1%: Serious and Long-Term Lasik Eye Surgery Complications

The serious Lasik eye surgery complications that result when Lasik goes wrong can appear right away or years after laser eye surgery. Most of the patients who experience less severe forms of these complications recover within six months. But, there will always be a small percentage of patients who are left with long-term complications.

Corneal ectasia, are among those that have been reported to appear up to many years after laser eye surgery. The weakened cornea alters the intraocular pressure measurement giving inaccurate readings. Inaccurate readings could lead to undiagnosed glaucoma, an eye disease for which treatment depends on accurate intraocular pressure measurements.

Corneal bulging is another ectatic change reported in numerous cases. This negates the purpose of Lasik by creating a worse refractive error. This condition may need to be corrected with a corneal transplant.

Occasionally laser eye surgery results in decentered ablation where the ablated area isn’t centered properly. Astigmatism is another “induced” irregular shape that distorts vision.

Poor cataract surgery outcomes: Laser surgery changes the shape of the cornea. The unnatural shape can cause problems if cataract surgery is needed, later. Cataract surgery involves replacing the natural crystalline lens with an intraocular lens (IOL). Calculating methods for determining the power for your IOL is based on naturally shaped corneas. Your IOL strength may leave your vision out of focus.

Incomplete healing includes the flap that never completely reattaches. The flap created with some laser eye surgery procedures can dislocate or develop wrinkles. Deterioration can occur years after surgery.

Debris can accumulate under the flap and cause infections. Inflammation and infection can lead to haze, flap dislocation, and retinal detachment as a long-term complication.

Studies are showing that corneal cells continue to decrease after Lasik. At some point this deterioration will seriously affect sight.

Corneal nerves are damaged or destroyed during laser eye surgery. These nerves tell the brain to create tears. Of the studies done so far, none show that these nerves completely regenerate. This means that there is at least some degree of long-term dry eye resulting from Lasik surgery.

Halos, glare, starbursts and general loss of night vision are a common complication, though not always to the same degree. This can impair a patient’s ability to see at night. Obviously, some will no longer be able to drive at night. Patients with large pupils are especially at risk from these Lasik eye surgery complications.

Reducing Your Risk

You can improve your chances of a successful Lasik treatment by doing a few things during your planning. Research not only the FDA-approved laser treatments but non-laser alternatives as well. Various lens onlays and other procedures are not permanent and don’t damage corneal tissue. All are worth looking into, thoroughly.

The other critical step you can take to avoid a bad experience is to choose your eye surgeon carefully. Be sure to ask as many questions as you can about his practice, experience, education, equipment, and policies. You don’t want to regret asking anything for any reason.


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