Female eye and laser beam during visual acuity correction with eye chart

Type the question β€œis LASIK dangerous?” into a search engine, and the top results are from medical providers and eye clinics that guarantee the procedure is safe.

LASIK, which means Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis is an in-office procedure designed to correct vision so that a person no longer needs to wear glasses or contact lenses. This is a popular procedure and about 600,000 people undergo it annually.

But last July, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began drafting guidelines for practitioners how to advise patients on whether they are good candidates for the procedure. Based on complaints, the FDA found risks associated with LASIK, and patients should be better informed about the dangers before looking at the laser.

How does LASIK work?

What exactly is LASIK? This is a procedure that uses a laser to change the shape of a person’s cornea so they can see better. The cornea is the clear part of the eye that covers the iris, pupil, and everything else underneath.

The cornea refracts light, and depending on the shape of a person’s eyes, the way light is refracted can cause blurring.

Person, for example, who is nearsighted (myopic) has an eye that is too long. Light focuses on the front of the retina and makes distant objects appear blurry. In contrast, a farsighted person (hypermetropia) has an eye that is too short. Light focuses behind the retina and close-up objects appear blurry.

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Laser eye surgery

In LASIK, the doctor uses a blade or laser to make a circular flap in the top layer of the cornea. The flap is pulled back and the doctor uses a laser to reshape the corneal tissues if needed. The flap is then put back into place. The procedure takes about 10 to 15 minutes per eye.

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LASIK can help with nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. It cannot correct normal vision loss due to aging. Although it can improve vision, it cannot do so perfectly, and some patients will still need glasses or contact lenses.

Is Lasik safe?

A textbook strangely describes it as a procedure best for “relaxed” people who don’t mind still having to wear glasses after the procedure when reading or driving at night. The author does not recommend LASIK for those with a “bleak outlook.”

However, the FDA draft lists reasons why LASIK is inappropriate for people with specific eye conditions, regardless of their sun placement.

For example, people with severe dry eye are not good candidates for surgery, as there may be a risk of blurred vision, dryness and discomfort that may not improve with time. LASIK is also not recommended for people with thin corneas because it can reduce vision.

The FDA also warns against LASIK for people with autoimmune diseases such as lupus or connective tissue diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. In these patients, LASIK can lead to severe dry eye, infection, inflammation, and healing problems.

There is also a risk of β€œmelting of the cornea,” a gasp-worthy term ophthalmologists use to describe a corneal loosening that can lead to permanent vision loss.

Side effects of LASIK

There are also risks for people who have no pre-existing conditions. The FDA report found that LASIK can reduce vision in low-light conditions.

A person may have difficulty seeing when in a dark room or in low light-dark contrast situations. They may have trouble driving in the dark or when there is fog, rain, or snow.

LASIK can also cause a “halo effect” with lights. For example, a lamppost may appear as if it has an aura around it. Likewise, glare issues can mean that the headlights of oncoming cars are star-shaped.

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The remaining 10 percent

Many clinics that offer LASIK will boast on their websites that 90 to 95 percent of patients are satisfied with the results. What about the other 5 to 10 percent?

The FDA report found that some patients experienced ongoing pain after the procedure. Some even report double vision. Others say they feel traumatized because the way they see and perceive the world has changed forever.

The report notes that there have been cases of suicide that have been attributed to unhappiness after LASIK, although more information is needed to be sure.

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LASIK flap shift

However, researchers were able to link LASIK to valve dislocation even more than a decade later. Flap dislocation is when the flap used to open the top layer of the cornea opens again after the procedure. It is found in as much as 2 percent LASIK patients.

Flap dislocation usually occurs within the first 48 hours after the procedure and is often caused by rubbing or touching the patient’s eyes. But traumatic events due to injury or accident can reopen the valve, even after years have passed.

In one reported incidenta patient who had LASIK nearly seven years earlier fell and was struck in the eye with an “unknown object.” Another patient suffered a Lambo luxation three years after surgery due to a car accident. One patient she was 10 months post-LASIK when her fingernail pierced her eye while she was taking off her sweater.

Ophthalmologists consider flap dislocation a emergency medical care. The patient usually needs a lens dressing, antibiotics, and corticosteroids until corrective surgery can be scheduled.

According to the FDA, all of these options should be provided to the patient on a warning label so they know if they should submit the procedure.

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