Dry Eyes After LASIK
Each year, over 600,000 Americans undergo LASIK surgery to correct their vision. The surgery is rightfully hailed as a life-changing event, freeing people from their need for contacts or eyeglasses. Miraculous as it is, though, the procedure is not without its potential complications; the most common complication of LASIK is the extremely irritating dry eye syndrome. Virtually all patients deal with dry eyes in the period immediately following the surgery. For some patients, though, symptoms can continue much longer than that.
The primary reason for dry eyes after LASIK is believed to be the inevitable damage to the corneal nerves that is a natural component of the surgery. It’s unclear exactly how many patients experience this extended and aggravating complication post-surgery; numbers have been reported ranging anywhere from 4% to 70%, with some patients reporting that their dry eye symptoms continued to bother them for years after surgery. The majority of patients, though, say that their dry eye symptoms ease within half a year after surgery.
One major risk factor seems to be the presence of dry eye prior to the surgery; it seems that patients who dealt with eye irritations prior to surgery have some increased risk for further complication after the procedure. There’s also some statistical indication that both female patients and those who used contact lenses prior to surgery are more likely to experience dry eye syndrome after completing LASIK surgery.
Prior to undergoing LASIK surgery, it’s imperative that your eye doctor perform a detailed inspection of your eyes. Studies have found that patients who correct surface abnormalities within the eye prior to the LASIK have greatly reduced incidence of postoperative dry eye syndrome. For those experiencing dry eye after LASIK, standard treatment is just as you’d expect: conventional eye drops, artificial tears, and rest. Increasing humidity in your home and office can also help, as the increased moisture in the air can increase moisture within the eye itself, or at least prevent loss of moisture from within the eye.
If symptoms persist, requiring more aggressive treatment, one option may be punctal plugs. These devices are inserted into the tear ducts, preventing your eyes from losing fluid (and thereby strengthening the tear film that lubricates your eyes). Although they sound awful, the insertion is typically an outpatient procedure, and in many cases does not even require an anesthetic.
Can you get LASIK if you have Dry Eyes?
Yes, but we don't recommend it.
Dr. Jenna Zigler
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