Of all the questions that are commonly asked about LASIK, the most popular one is this:
“What are the side effects?”
It’s a good question to ask.
When patients visit 20/20 Institute for their complimentary LASIK Consultation and Evaluation, our experienced staff and LASIK surgeons bring this subject up even when it isn’t asked. These are things that are important to understand before having LASIK.
First of all, it is important to understand that LASIK is surgery and, as such, should not be taken lightly. All surgeries have risks and benefits. It is important for patients to discuss their specific risks and benefits with their doctor before deciding to have any surgery performed – LASIK included.
Side Effects vs Complications
It is important to clarify the difference between a complication and a side effect.
Simply put, a complication is something unintended that requires additional treatment. While a side effect is something that is known to happen when a surgery is performed that is typically resolved during the healing process.
A patient should consider the potential complications and known side effects against the benefits of LASIK surgery before they move forward with the procedure.
Here’s an example.
Let’s say you woke up with a dull pain in your lower right abdomen and, after a few hours, it doesn’t go away. So you go to your doctor.
After the examination, your doctor says your appendix is inflamed and it needs to be removed. He explains that the surgery has risks of complication and there will be some side effects you should expect.
When you ask what the risks are, he is clear that complications could occur, but the risk of not having the surgery is higher than the risks of complication in the surgery itself. In other words, allowing the appendix to rupture will be worse than the surgery to remove it.
When it comes to LASIK, you have a similar situation in terms of risks, benefits, and side effects.
While many patients feel glasses and contacts are a nuisance and oftentimes hinder enjoyable, the fact of the matter is they work.
LASIK is elective – no one needs to have LASIK in the same sense that an appendectomy needs to happen if your appendix becomes infected.
With that knowledge of a working alternative, the benefits for LASIK surgery must outweigh the risks of complication for an individual patient. The patient should also be prepared for the potential side effects.
Advanced LASIK Can Reduce Complications
The majority of LASIK Specialists agree that advancements in technology (both for determining candidacy and for use in the procedure itself) are effective in reducing complication rates.
For example, most LASIK surgeons agree that bladeless flap creation for LASIK is safer than the mechanical, bladed device. That is why most doctors will recommend advanced technology for your LASIK procedure. A word to the wise: if an eye doctor does not offer or recommend modern technology for your eyes, it is worth the time to find out why not.
LASIK’s Side Effects
LASIK’s side effects are the result of how LASIK is performed, just like the side effects of an appendectomy (pain at the surgical site). The side effects include both sensations (things you’ll feel) and visual side effects (things you’ll see).
After the procedure, you will notice a difference in your vision but the vision will not be clear right away. One of our LASIK doctors will check your eyes before you head home to confirm everything is all set.
Most patients are a little light sensitive right after the procedure. Sometimes that lasts for a few days, so we will give you some really cool sunglasses to wear home after your LASIK!
Okay, so…they’re not actually that cool – no one has won any fashion awards with these glasses, but they will help you feel comfortable and knock down the sunlight. Don’t worry; they aren’t your grandma’s cataract glasses!
At some point in the 30-45 minutes after the procedure, your eyes will start to feel uncomfortable. This period of initial healing is the worst part of post-op LASIK recovery as far as side effects go. It only lasts a few hours.
The best remedy for this is sleep, so the ideal plan is to head home and get to bed before the irritation starts to kick in. If you can’t get to sleep, you will want to relax with your eyes closed. After a nap, the initial discomfort is mostly gone. Most patients wake up feeling pretty comfortable. (By the way, their vision is usually improved to a point where they’re are kissing and hugging people because they could see across the room without glasses).
Itchy, Scratchy Eyes
It is also common for patients to feel itchy, scratchy, or foreign body sensations in the eyes for several days after LASIK.
These sensations usually improve day after day. Preservative-free artificial tears help the eyes feel comfortable whenever those sensations happen. A good tip is to keep some of the artificial tears in the refrigerator, as the cooled tears are extra soothing, especially during the first few days.
Dry Eye After LASIK
Dryness in the eyes is a side effect that should be expected for any patient having LASIK. The procedure upsets the eye’s natural tear production system. Most patients use artificial tears to supplement the lost moisture. They reduce the use of the tears over time as they heal.
This is one part of the healing process that our LASIK Specialist doctors will monitor at your follow up appointments.
Halos and Vision Fluctuations
Visual recovery is overnight for most LASIK patients. Most patients can read the 20/20 line or better on an eye chart without glasses at their first checkup the day after their LASIK! (Crazy, right?!)
But it’s important to know that vision most likely will not be “perfect” by the next day. There is a natural response the body goes through (inflammatory response) after any procedure, and LASIK is no different. As well, there will be some dryness as we have already discussed.
Both of these side effects are the reason that vision is not usually “perfect” right away after LASIK. They are the reasons that patients tend to notice halos at night and slight vision fluctuations throughout the healing process.
For most patients, the halos at night are noticeable but not problematic. A smaller percentage of patients have some difficulties driving at night. Most of the time, patients don’t notice the halos fading away because when they do fade it happens gradually.
LASIK Follow up Appointments
20/20 Institute’s LASIK Specialist doctors care for each patient individually along the path of healing. The first checkup is the day after LASIK, and the second one happens within seven days of the procedure day.
It is important to come to those follow up appointments, to use the eye drops, and to follow the rest of the post-LASIK care instructions provided.
Our doctors monitor your healing and help adjust any drops use or anything like that to make your healing as smooth as possible. Most patients just cruise along after their LASIK – seeing with their own eyes instead of through a lens.
For your continued research, here’s a reference article from WebMD about LASIK Pros & Cons, Side Effects, and other considerations. Enjoy!
If you are considering LASIK the most important first step of having LASIK is being a good candidate. It is best to visit a doctor who uses advanced diagnostic technology and who is willing tell you NOT to have LASIK if you are not a good candidate.
So give us a call or have us call you to set up your complimentary LASIK Consultation and Evaluation. You’ll receive candid answers to your questions & straight talk about your specific situation. Most importantly, our doctors will let you know whether or not you are a good candidate for LASIK. 303-202-0669