Lasik Success Rates Are High, but Be Aware of Risks

Not everyone is an ideal candidate for Lasik surgery. Make sure you discuss the side effects with your eye doctor before undergoing a procedure.

Not everyone is an ideal candidate for Lasik surgery. Make sure you discuss the side effects with your eye doctor before undergoing a procedure.

About 600,000 Lasik procedures are performed annually in the U.S., according to the FDA. The elective surgery — which clinicians say costs an average of $2,000 per eye, not typically covered by insurance — is used to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism, a visual defect resulting in blurred vision.

The industry boasts a success rate in the high 90 percent range, but not everyone is happy with Lasik.

In October 2009, the FDA announced a collaborative project to gauge the percentage of patients who suffer significant quality of life issues after surgery. The FDA's findings in its the three-year study, which focused on factors that might contribute to problems stemming from laser surgery, such as double vision, outlined several potential Lasik risks, including severe dry eye and possible vision loss. Dr. Malvina Eydelman, director of the division of ophthalmic, neurological and ear, nose and throat devices with the FDA, says patient complaints prompted the agency to take a deeper look.

Dr. Stephen Slade, a highly-rated ophthalmologist in Houston who was involved in the first FDA trials of Lasik, before the laser technology was approved for use in the U.S., suggests people considering the surgery pick a doctor they trust, who's done thousands of cases, who is respected by peers, even someone who's taught other doctors.

Many surgeons fit that description, he says. He believes a doctor should also be equipped to provide alternatives. Slade says an ophthalmologist's staff should be concerned about the patient, and the doctor should answer questions.

Related: 4 Lasik questions

"I would not go to a place that pressures me," he says. "I also wouldn't want to go to a doctor who told me the surgery was perfect, I wouldn't have to wear glasses anymore, and [who] guaranteed I'd see great after surgery, because that's not true."

He adds that he doesn't know of a surgery with a higher success rate and lower complications. Almost three-quarters have 20/20 vision after Lasik, but, as with any surgery, there are risks. Dry eye, hazy or blurred vision and temporary sensitivity to light are a few.

Is Lasik worth it and what are the risks?

Lasik permanently changes cornea shape, making it harder to measure latter. Before surgery, have your doctor fill out a card containing your eye measurements. To find this card, go to fda.gov and search "Lasik card."

A small study published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology in 2008, found about one in five who had Lasik to correct nearsightedness underwent another procedure within 10 years because of undercorrection, overcorrection or regression.

John Ciccone, a spokesman for the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, puts the overall number for touch-up surgeries at closer to 7 to 10 percent.

Unlike Tye, many take these follow-up procedures in stride, as evidenced in some reviews on the List. Others see nearly instant results following Lasik, and consider the eye surgery well worth the cost.

Lori Stephens, a former TV news anchor and radio personality, is drawn to the mountains, water and wildlife near her home in Anchorage, Alaska. On frequent hikes, she sees it all with naked eyes — no glasses or contacts — after Lasik.

"For the first time since I was in grade school, I woke up in the morning, opened my eyes and I could actually see beyond my hand up against my nose," says Stephens, an Angie's List member who's in her 40s.

Ophthalmologists say lasers — the first approved for Lasik in 1998 — are safer and more precise than ever. And the sheer number of cases is making it easier for doctors to predict who will do well with the procedure. "The first thing people need to do is find out if they're a good candidate," Slade says.

Who is a good candidate for Lasik surgery?

The best candidates are adults with a stable prescription — their eyes aren't worsening. Many medical conditions, including cornea disease, unstable diabetes and various types of arthritis reduce the chances of a successful procedure.

Dr. David Whiting, a highly rated ophthalmologist in Minneapolis who did Stephens' procedure, says 85 to 90 percent of his patients wanting Lasik are good candidates. But Whiting, whose done more than 85,000 procedures, concedes there's a gray area.

Angie's List member Joe Tye of Solon, Iowa says his doctor told him he was a "perfect candidate" for surgery, and only later did he find out he had blepharitis, an eye condition which, if not properly treated, can cause complications with Lasik.

In an e-mail to Tye — which Tye provided to Angie's List — Dr. Todd Gothard of Wolfe Eye Clinic in Marshalltown, Iowa, says the condition and dry eyes were present pre-operatively. But Tye, who didn't use eye drops before Lasik, contends neither were discussed with him prior to surgery.

Tye says he was abandoned after problems. The clinic's chief executive, Kevin Swartz, declined to talk about Tye's case, citing confidentiality, but says they follow up closely with patients and have a high satisfaction rate.

 

Laser eye surgery may lead to follow-up treatment?

In addition to the risks of Lasik eye surgery and complications some suffer, many require glasses or contacts right after Lasik. Ciccone says most who get Lasik do so to correct nearsightedness, and many have presbyopia, a common condition with age in which the eyes lose their ability to focus up close.

For those with presbyopia, the same Lasik procedure which grants distance vision also prompts the need for reading glasses. "They didn't realize they were presbyopic to begin with, they were using their nearsightedness to read," Ciccone says.

Some solve the problem by fixing one eye for distance and another for close-up, what's called monovision. About 25 percent of Lasik patients over 40 opt for this, Whiting says. Of those — maybe one in 10 — need Lasik on just one eye.

Related: 5 Lasik alternatives

Ophthalmologist Dr. Alan Brown in Wilmington, N.C., wanted to preserve Johanna Arnold's ability to read, while giving her optimal distance vision with minimal surgery. He performed Lasik on her right eye in January 2009, and after several months her brain adjusted to monovision.

For most, Lasik has opened their eyes in a way glasses and contacts couldn't. And the millions of procedures done have only made it safer.

"It's not an iffy procedure," says Dr. Brown, who had it done on his eyes 10 years ago. But because Lasik was only approved in 1998 by the FDA, the agency says the long-term safety and effectiveness of the procedure is unknown.

"We're looking at every possible way to improve information for patients and physicians and ultimately to improve patient safety," Eydelman says.


Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted on March 17, 2010.


More Like This

Are you a good LASIK candidate?

Many factors can affect whether you are a good candidate for LASIK. Highly rated ophthalmologists share their advice on how to determine if the surgery is right for you.

Comments

True enough, free government grants are intended increase the economy of the nation by way of helping people and organizations. The process for applying for a Government grant is not as easy a lot of people imply.

I had lasik 3 weeks and 2 days ago. I needed it to pass my driver's license vision test. I paid about $1500 per eye both for distance clarity (plus $500 for eyedrop meds). Yes it was unconfortable but not painful. Mornings require more care and eyedrops than other times of the day. I do not want to endorse anyone, but I live in Dallas and went to the #1 lasik doc here. I was seeing around 20/100 or worse. I failed my driver's vision test with Texas DPS. Now I am seeing 20/20 out of each eye and 20/15 when both are used. I renewed my driver's license with no restrictions 3 hours ago and I am vaery happy about that! I did lose some close up vision and need reading glasses for very small print like ingrediants on certain products. I do not need reading glasses for books with normal print size. The technology is here now. If you are a candidate I say get 'er done! It's like all of the road signs are shouting at me and typing in all caps at the same time! From a half a mile away! I love my new eyes. eric

After having lasik done I was diagnosed with cataracts. I have had one eye corrected, with the other one not yet being degraded to the point of having surgery. When I went in to have the 1st eye fixed I was informed that my eyesight would have had a better chance of being corrected to 20/20 if I had not had lasik. The lasik has been good, but I wish I had been informed that as you get older & cataracts are more likely that it is better not to have lasik.

quick, off the top of my head story....i had Lasiks done in 2000 in california by a canadian company, lasiksvision, that at the time was opening locations all over the place. i paid a grand for both eyes. it was their grand opening promotion. my sister had it done a couple weeks after me. so did a friend. I'm still glasses-free 12 years later. my sister just got herself some glasses for night time driving and the optometrist couldn't even detect that Lasiks was done. the friend didn't fair as well. he had problems straight off the Bausch-Lomb machine. his experience sounds very similar to most of the ones I've read above, so i won't repeat here. but i will add... he wears glasses now and is fine. but of course, wishes he never had gone thru the experience. however, he had whacky eyes to begin with, was in hi late 40s, and had a hardcore coke bottle rx. somehow he was told he was a good candidate, but in all reality, from the start, i don't think he was. the bummer at the time was, he's the one who was all gung-ho about it and got my sister and i to go for it! my experience has been very good. i was early 30s at the time. i saw perfectly straight off the table... altho the doctor was yelling at me to stop straining and close my eyes! i was reading license plates and street signs all the way home. the doctors and nurses set up my post operative side-effects really well. i had the halo effect for about a year and was dropping eye drops frequently that first year as well. but it was nothing compared to being able to read the clock straight out of bed, snorkel without glasses, drive without glasses, on and on. when i wore contact lenses my eyes were so bloodshot and dry ALL time time. this was a miracle procedure for me. my vision was perfect and dropping a few drops thru out the day was no burden at all. 12 years on now... tired eyes usually means a couple eye drops are in order. this was the best thing i think i ever did for myself. had i read all these negative experiences, i doubt i would have gone for it. but i had friends who were going to canada at the time to have this done and they couldn't say enough positive things about it! i also don't think i would do it past the age of 40. by that time, age related eye changes are a huge factor and if you can't have a result that will allow you to NOT wear glasses, it's not really worth the money to have the procedure just for a slightly different rx. in my opinion. if you are in your 20s or 30s, with a stable eye rx, healthy, and find a doctor who has done this a mazillion times.... i wouldn't rule it out as an option. both my sister and i highly recommend. 12 years glass free and counting.

As with any surgery, a second opinion is necessary. If you have big pupils, you WILL see haloes. If you have borderline dry eye, it WILL be worse after LASIK. If you are over 40, you may well have problems needing reading glasses. LASIK is surgeon-dependent. You are not legally blind if you can be corrected with glasses. For someone with severe nearsightedness, consider waiting until you need cataract surgery if you are older. A good second opinion should pick up any incipient keratoconus, dry eye, and make recommendations for those with big pupils or who are older. When you get older, your up close vision becomes more important. If you want to go monovision, be sure you try it with contacts first because not everyone can stand it. The better your binocularity, the less likely you can tolerate one eye being blurred all the time. And contacts can also help you decide which eye to correct for far away. Don't let them guess. I am a retired optometric educator, a profession that has been unfairly scorned by Angie's List, but we do know a lot more than many think. Lasik is best for the person who wants to wake up able to see but who doesn't think he or she will get perfect vision.

Go to LasikComplications.com and read Top Ten Reasons Not to Have LASIK. Enough said.

God knows that about 1 in 5 eyes that undergo elective irreversible LASIK eye surgery, are permanently ruined. Let me repeat, permanently ruined for life! Not just temporary problems the industry and egregious LASIK physicians and commissioned staff lie about. Doubt this? Google: Morris Waxler LASIK. Mr. Waxler was on ABC news telling the world he's worried about LASIK surgery and the lack of permanent complications that are NOT being reported by LASIK centers (violation of FDA law, could even mean Criminal Intent). More here: www.LifeAfterLasik.com

I was in the clinical trial for exemer laser surgery. I too had blepheritis along with chonic corneal erosions which was the reason for the surgery. Had to have it done twice after a 4 month regime of antibiotics. I now need both eyes done. This was early 90s. The doctor who invented this Dr.Margerite McDonald was my surgerion @LSU Lions Eye Center in New Orleans. If I were insured or financialy able I would have it done again.

I had LASIK in July 1998, at the time it was covered by my insurance 80%. I can say without reservations it was the best money I ever spent. It's 12 years later and because of age I am starting to have less than 20/20 vision in my left eye. The right eye still sees 20/15. I will need reading glasses as I age, but my Dr told me that I would before I had the surgery at some point in the future.

Remember, you get what you paid for. I had my my eyes done 4 years ago with no problems. I also avoided cheap newspaper ads and used my own eye specialist. My eyes are worth much more than $450 an eye. Also, my doctor was the only doctor i met so far that had the procedure done on himself.

I had LASIK 1 year ago on both eyes and can say with total honesty, it was the best $4300 I have EVER spent. Waking up that first morning and seeing the alarm clock brought me to tears. My life is no longer controlled by glasses and contacts. I especially realized that when I packed for the first vacation following surgery. Realizing I didn't have to pack 14 pair of contacts, solution and glasses, was just 1 of many little reminders of how happy I am with the outcome. I have had NO side effects. My husband had the surgery 2 years before I did and we're both so happy with the results.

Jennifer, I was just like you. A year after surgery like you said, I was no longer controlled by glasses and/or contacts. It was wonderful!! I was ecstatic! But, as time wore on, and now it's been 6 years since I had LASIK, my vision has since deteriorated. No one told me LASIK wasn't permanent. I thought I'd see 20/20 forever. Now I'm back to wearing glasses. Wish I would have known that before I plumped down the $3,000. If I knew $3,000 would only have me glasses-free for 5 years I wouldn't have undergone the procedure.

I had the procedure in Jan 2013, age 46, and was thrilled with the results. In June of 2014, a mere 18 months post procedure, I noticed my vision was not at crisp. Visited performing M.D. in October 2014 who told me the Lasik procedure was in place ("nothing has slipped") but sure enough eye test reveals nearsightedness has returned. Not to the degree it was before surgery, but to the point where I need glasses again. What a huge disappointment. I was told before the surgery that of course eyes will continue to age. But results lasting only 18 months? It feels like my vision is literally slipping away along with the $2500 spent per eye. Doctor said there's no particular reason why this has occurred. He cited STRESS could be the culprit. I was (still am) dealing with a very stressful situation that basically tracks to the time of the surgery to Present. If anyone reading this can weigh in I'd appreciate it! Thanks.

Timely article. My 82-year-old mother is scheduled for cornea surgery tomorrow. Her ophthalmologist suggested Lasik surgery too. We did some independent research and declined the offer.

I've wanted Lasik for years, but I think I'll wait. I'm only 24, and any damage or permanent side effects I'd incur now would be with me for a really long time.

ST, This message is for ST, do you know the percentage of people who actually developed cataracts after Lasik? I am 24 and I want to get Lasik done and your statement made me think twice!

I had LASIK in Nov.1999 and after the minor initial adjusting I loved it. Six years in and my vision started to revert. I went to another well known Dr. for his opinion and he said I had cataracts ( I was now 54 y/o ) I went back to the well known Dr that did the surgery and he said that the monvision would be done again for for the same fee minus a 10% discount. He never said a word about the cataracts after his exam. I asked for my medical records and never went back. Now I do not know if I can trust having cataract surgery done.

I had lasik on both eyes approximately 10 years ago at the age of 56. I was wearing tri focals prior to lasik and required reading glasses following the procedure. I was happy with the results for approximately 4 years when my vision began to deteriorate and eventually I was wearing tri focals again. I was not eligible for a "touch up" because I had developed cataracts. I did not have cataracts prior to lasik. The cataracts are now obscuring my vision and I am awaiting a lens implant, but I can not get the info about my cornea prior to the cataract surgery. I'm being told that due to the lasik I am not a candidate for the most recent multi focal lens. In addition, the results for lasik patients is often not as good as for non-lasik patients.

I had cataract surgery April 2014 both eyes - I was told I legally blind. Prior to surgery I was told that I was not a candidate for the multi-focal lens. I was also told I would still need reading glasses. I was told that my long distance vision after surgery would be more crisp with glasses. I passed my vision exam for my drivers drivers license renewal but I had to close one eye as my left eye was still swollen after surgery a month prior. It is now eight months later and I am considering Lasik to correct the astigmatism which is supposed to increase or correct the crispness of my long distance vision. I will be 70 next June. I am still undecided on Lasik but struggle with my glasses - distortion and bluriness unless looking straight ahead. I have a mild astigmatism RX with a blended 2.50 reading glasses in my glasses. I'd love to just have reading glasses after Laski. What to do! I'm going for a second opinion.

To Bryan Rickerson: I had worn glasses since I was 10 years old & in 2006 I had custom Lasik on my right eye for correction & PTK (which was tweaked for correction) on the left to treat anterior membrane dystrophy. The right eye ended up under-corrected. I opted to keep it that way since it preserved my near vision, so I now have monovision. Which is great! I only wear glasses for very up-close work or driving at night in fog in an unfamiliar location. However, I was still left with an exquisitely painful area in my left eye from the AMD which is exacerbated by dryness, especially upon awakening. Neither of my eyes seems to produce enough tears at night, frequent eye drops did not help - not to mention the sleep disruption from using them. I started using Muro 128 5% Sterile Ophthalmic Eye Ointment at night (per my ophthalmologist), which help a lot. Coincidentally, I also take a medication for another condition which causes dry mouth, especially at night, & complained to my primary doctor about it. I was tested for Sjogren’s disease, which was negative. Still she still started me on Evoxac at night, a cholinergic agent used to treat dry mouth in patients with Sjogren's syndrome. Side effects are many (as with all medications), but besides helping with dry mouth, it also seems to produce enough tears to prevent my left eye pain upon awakening. A Godsend! I rarely have pain upon awakening & rarely use the Muro 128, never use eye drops at night. Even with this problem, I would still have had both surgeries done again. I was not able to even walk around safely without glasses before. One has to make trade-offs in most things in life or take no risks at all.

Clearly more serious research is needed for both LASIK and cataract implants. As things now stand, any research that the providers do will promptly be used against them in court by people who have had problems with their procedures. Hence, there is NO research money available except to improve procedures. I have problems with both eyes, but am waiting as long as I can for things to improve before either having LASIK that will threaten future implants, or getting implants that will make it impossible to upgrade as future technology becomes available. Note that Aspheric Crystalens, the premier implant, has only been available since January. Is anyone here interested in forming an independent study group to close on these and related issues?

I had LASIK on both eyes approximately 11 years ago. It was wonderful because I could see the clock next to my bed when I awoke. However, I now have cataracts in both eyes, and the optomologist wants me to wait on surgery as long as I can. He says that the surgery is more problematic for those who have had LASIK. Just a thought -

I have to agree with the first responder. 10 years after having RK (Radial Keratotomy)my vision started to rapidly decrease. After consulting many different specialists, it was determined that I suffered from keratoconus (basically, a sagging and bulging cornea). I'm sure the RK either brought on, or accentuated the problem. Now I'm struggling just to see properly, and have to be fitted with very special...very EXPENSIVE...contacts, and am considering corneal replacements in my future. Make SURE you have a complete understanding of the health of your eyes before ever considering any type of surgery. What may be great now, could become a major complication in your future.

The best money I have ever spent was on LASIK surgery over three years ago. I now can see 20/15 with both eyes (20/20 for each) and couldn't be happier. No dry eyes, no hazy vision, and my night vision was perfectly fine after recovering for a few months. But I also did my homework in choosing a surgeon, not even considering a "cheap" solution. As soon as people start thinking LASIK is a commodity, then they'll start getting equivalent results.

I had LASIK done on both eyes, I have Monovision. My son and wife also had Lasik and only my wife had to have it TWEAKED. We all three are very happy with the results. For me it was a miracle. I had been using glasses/contacts since 1965 and it was in 2003/2004 that I no longer needed them and could play with my grandkids in the pool and beach. I know that it was not for everyone, but for us it was Great.

Last April, I had Epi-Lasik done on both of my eyes from a nationwide chain of lasik specialists. I have noticed several side effects that haven't gone away. However, as many of these side effects are LESS severe than the contact lenses I used to wear, I can say that I thoroughly enjoy having clear vision. I do wake up in the morning with painfully dry eyes, and sometimes have to wake up in the middle of the night to put drops in. However, I do not have to reach for glasses just to see an alarm clock. I am the positive statistic. I did the research, took the risk, and it (so far) has paid off for me.

Great article, but it only covers the surface. The Lasik profession tells people they have 20/20, but it may be less. In my case it is less. Good article, but more needs to be investigated. I suspect 50% of the outcomes are substandard.

I had the RK surgery many years ago and by ten years later, suffered what is called corneal dystrophy, which is common in patients who have refractive surgeries. I had the misfortune to be advised by a couple of doctors that I needed to have a transplant. I felt helpless and went on the advice, I now have been living legally blind for the last 7 years since my transplant, with no hope of improvement, and if anything, constantly having severe changes in my eyes due to unstable corneas. I also came to find out that I should not have been a candidate for a transplant, there were many other non-surgical options out there - but now it's too late. My advice is - DO NOT have these surgeries, there has not been enough time to really know what the long term effects will be. I am the statistic and it is not worth losing your sight over what seems like a temporary miracle.

Is it possible for Angie's List to do the same kind of article about Lasik 2, the second level procedure? The first level was great for my husband but level 2 had been a DISASTER.

When you get older and develop cataracts, the Lasik complicates correction. I was very nearsighted and was thrilled initially, but had to have the procedure done twice in both eyes because I regressed. I wear glasses now (15+ years later) and won't get my left cataract fixed until I have to. My vision in the right eye after cataract surgery is now 20/200 - not great! Investigate this aspect completely before having the surgery.

The email responses illustrate that although LASIK is highly successful with a very low incidence of complications, it is not risk free and it is not appropriate for all eyes. Dr. Slade gives good advice as to how to look for a good surgeon, there is no hurry, get more than one opinion. Many patients who have had problems were most likely not good candidates and should not have had the surgery. One excellent way to find a good surgeon is to contact an eye surgeon in your area who does not perform LASIK and ask him or her for a recommendation. They know the good surgeons.

I have worked with LASIK doctors for over 10 years now. Just for clarification. Over 90% of patients are extremely happy with their procedure. The surgery is not complicated or painful. When surveyed, patients often site it as one of the 5 best things they have done in their life, after marriage, children, and graduating college. The actual procedure takes about 10-15 minutes. A re-treatment or enhancement means you will have the surgery again. Most good surgeons have a re-treatment/enhancement rate of 5% or less. Normally those requiring re-treatment are those with more complicated prescriptions. Although very few need re-treatment it is not the end of the world. It is just another 10-15 minute procedure. Most doctors will do re-treatments within a year at no charge if needed. RK and PRK are not LASIK and experience for the patient is quite different. You can't compare them to one another. Both RK and PRK are more invasive then LASIK. RK was a procedure performed in the early 80's. PRK in the late 80's to early 90's and LASIK from the mid 90's until today. LASIK has only gotten better and safer over the years. In the past, there was new technology that improved outcomes every couple years, there is very little in the research pipeline right now, so if you are waiting until it gets even better, you will be waiting a long time. LASIK corrects over 90% to 20/40, the majority to 20/20. There are two commponents to the surgery: 1) the creation of the flap and 2) the actual laser treatment. For the creation of the flap, the surgeon can use a keratome or a femtosecond laser. Most complications occur with the keratome method and I recommend a femtosecond laser. For the laser treatement, you can have standarad of custom treatment. A standard treatement treats your prescription but doesn't look at all the irregularities of your eye. Custom treats not only your prescription, but also the other irregularities of your eye that make your vision unique. I had LASIK in 99. Still 20/20 today and ranks in the top 4 events of my life. That is why I am in this industry. If I were in my 20's or 30's, I would get the surgery as soon as possible, assuming my vision is stable, to get the most out of it and select custom and a femtosecond laser. If I was over 40 and considering it, I would still do it, but know I will have to wear reading glasses or have only one eye corrected to see at a distance. If I was over 50, I would talk to my doctor about my options - could go either way here. If I was over 60, I would wait until I developed a cataract and opt for a Premium IOL at that time since insurance would cover a portion of the cost.

I had my vision corrected in April 2000 at the age of 20 at what was then one of the leading clinics in MN (I no longer live in MN so I can't speak for their status now.) We paid for the expertise, but it was worth every penny to me, being able to see to swim, exercise, etc. I had been legally blind since I was 6 or 7. It's not perfect - my vision is 20/20 and 20/30, which, to me, is great! But I've experienced halos at night and occasional haziness (particularly when I'm tired.) However, that isn't much different that what I experienced when I wore contacts or glasses - looking through those was very similar.

I didn't notice a reference to ORTHO K treatment. It is also known by another name, but I forget what it is. You sleep in hard contact lenses that reshape your cornea. In the a.m., you take them out and zip around without need of contacts or glasses. For some, you can go every other night with sleeping in the lenses. I did this for five years and it worked great for me, with the exception that sometimes it was hard to put a lens in, and increasingly I had to use eye drops. Now I'm back to glasses: trifocals

The doctor is the most critical part of getting a good Lasik procedure. Mine was done over 10 years ago in San Diego by a famous (now dead) doctor who even invented a better tool for eye surgery. I wish I could go back to him for any additional work, if needed later. I'd be most interested in finding a really good eye surgeon in East Texas now that we retired here. I hope Angie's List will recommend one or more.

I forgot to mention that when I complain to my expensive doctor's office about these side effects, they do not note them in my file. This makes me think that they are not reporting them as complications. I have read other things that suggest this is their practice - as long as you can read 20/20, even if you have to squint and it looks inferior because of the increased glare, you get reported as a complete success.

I had Lasik two years ago and although the surgery was generally successful (I now see about 20/15), I have permanent side effects: 1) slightly dry eyes (no big deal), b) starbursts around lights (enough to make me nervous about driving at night, which I rarely do at this point in my life), c) halo effect (fuzzy light around the edges of any lighter objects in my view, including white letters on movie screens, sunlight-filled windows, etc.); and d) a general sensitivity to very bright light. My surgeon (who had done many surgeries, is well respected and charged lots of money) made it sound as if any problems with the surgery could be corrected, but now they tell me that these problems cannot be corrected. Overall, I'm still probably slightly happier with my life now (no need for contacts, etc.) but given the expense and the risk of future complications, I wish I had not done it.

I had two rounds of Lasik surgery in 2001. I would be 20/20 in the operating room, but by the next morning vision would start sliding back. The Dr. refused to redo it again, so I wore glasses until my cataracts were removed four years later. It was hard for the surgeon to figure out my base vision but I ended up with 20/30 vision, which is wonderful to this person who grew up in Coke bottle glasses with ulcers on both sides of my nose. I now wear glasses to read only.

First of all, I have to say that I’m not in a position to give unbiased information about refractive surgery. Before lasik, I was a happy, positive, productive person. I wore glasses or contacts and presbyopia was setting in, so I thought it would be much less expensive in the long run and more convenient to get lasik and then simply need reading glasses rather than needing to have contacts, glasses, bifocals, etc. and be juggling them all. What I wouldn’t give to be able to pop in some contacts or put on some glasses and be able to see again. Very seriously, the ONLY reason I have lived through this is because of the overwhelming support and understanding of the compassionate people on a support site for lasik victims called lasermyeye.org, two friends who had experience with massive depression, and my family who has so kindly cared for me while this terrible decision has also ruined the life they once knew I went to a very well-known clinic where the doctor had performed thousand of procedures and was highly respected and had been in business for many years. Initially, my damaged vision was my biggest problem. That was what sent me into a massive, suicidal depression for months. Then the dry eye set in. Since lasik, my dry eyes are painful every minute of the day. I begin the day flooding them with drops while my husband brings me a warm cloth to lay over them. I then go into the bathroom where I’m unable to see details of my face in the mirror. I look clown like if I try to apply makeup. I put flax seed on toast for breakfast to try to help with dry eye and then I take fish oil pills after that. After breakfast I refill the two humidifiers that run nonstop in my house. I have finally accepted that I will no longer be able to participate in the hobbies I used to enjoy due to my vision issues, but living with the pain of dry eye is something you simply cannot understand until you have experienced it. It is not a problem that is solved by putting some eye drops in. The pain often emanates from the socket and it’s often tempting to gouge your eyeballs out. I once thought it was inconvenient to travel with contacts, solution, soap and glasses. Now when I travel (which is ONLY when necessary), I take several strengths of reader glasses, bifocals, fish oil, drops, a humidifier, swim goggles, onion goggles, anti-anxiety medication. I am almost never able to see in the dim lighting of most hotel rooms. Our oldest daughter graduated from college and we helped her move to Midland, Texas (better known as hell for dry eye patients) for her new job. I struggled to get through the days, trying to hide my pain from her so that this could be an exciting experience for her. There is never a minute of the day that I forget about my eyes - NOT ONE MINUTE. Please don’t let yourself be put in this same situation. I don’t want one more person joining this blog because they’re in pain. I have no confidence in myself anymore because I can’t believe I made a decision that ruined not only my life, but that of my family. My children just want their old Mom back and that will never happen. It’s one thing to ruin my own life, but entirely another thing to have affected so many people I love. At the end of the day, any refractive surgery is unpredictable. PLEASE hear what I’m trying to tell those of you who are here to gather information to make a decision as to whether or not to have lasik or prk. Read between the lines and hear the sadness; do not think that it can’t happen to you. We were all normal people JUST LIKE YOU and now our lives are changed forever. Some people have coped much better than I have and that seems to be associated with the ability to find good care, which I have not been successful in doing. My life, as well as many others, is consumed daily with dealing with the vision and dry eye problems. It’s not even possible to adjust because it is such a dynamic situation. Vision changes daily and may worsen with time and the same is true for dry eye. The games this situation plays with your head can make you crazy. Do I use lots of drops or will that make my body think I don’t need to produce as many, continuing the dry eye cycle? If I use fewer drops, will that damage my cornea further? Will restasis help, is it worth the cost or will we discover horrible side effects from it down the road? Should I get punctual plugs? Oops, one fell out; or is part of it still in the canal? Research, research, research…. What foods help dry eye? Okay, I need more potassium; what foods have that? Who do I trust now? Do I try rgps or will they be to painful to wear? Is it worth the cost to go to Dr. G? I spent $4000 for this??! I feel like a freak wearing these goggles, but sometimes they‘re the only thing that gives me relief from the pain. Will I be need cataract surgery that will ruin my vision even more or worse yet, will I need a cornea transplant because my corneas were too thin to have been operated on in the first place??? I’m amazed that my husband has stuck with me through this. What have I done to my family??! I have read of so many younger people who have been forced to change careers because of the damage from refractive surgery. Do not simply read over the information that you do not want to hear. I would have given anything to have been fortunate enough to come across this information before I chose to have lasik. There is no way I would have had the surgery if I had known of any of these complications. Count your lucky stars that you found this site and do not ignore the information you find and dismiss it because it does not support your desire. When they tell you no one has ever been blinded by refractive surgery, know that they don’t count people who end up with ectasia that requires a cornea transplant. It doesn’t matter if you see 6 “E’s” on the chart, or starbursts around it, or if it is blurry or if you’re in terrible pain, the doctors will say you’re great. Also, no one EVER asked me if I was satisfied with my surgery. As others have said more eloquently than I, all of the data is skewed. It is not possible for me to convey how utterly miserable the consequences of this surgery can be. Although I am no longer imminently suicidal, I would still welcome death as a relief. I am simply trying to hold on a few more years for my children. I realized that even though I can’t do any of the things their old Mom did, I can still love them more than anyone on earth and they need that until their own lives are more grounded. I now live in constant pain from both vision and dry eye problems. I live in fear of the future because it will all get worse. I WAS YOU - DON’T HAVE REFRACTIVE SUGERY!! I BEG YOU!!!

what a horrible circumstance JM. I'm truly sorry for you. Nobody should have to endure what you've described. I hope that your situation has somehow improved since your comment is from two years ago.

I had this surgery done approximately 1 year ago. Unlike the comment above from someone who works with an ophthalmologist, the procedure was quite painful – like sand in my eyes for several days. I feel that this was minimized by the ophthalmologist. Nevertheless, the pain resolved in short order and my DISTANCE vision is better than 20/20. The other issue – and I feel as if I was adequately forewarned regarding this issue and I minimized it – is now my close-up vision is horrible. I can no longer read anything without reading glasses. This is a much bigger problem than I ever imagined. I love to read for pleasure and I need to read for work and lastly, I love to work on projects around my house and now I am constantly hunting for reading glasses. I have taken to strategically placing reading glasses all over my house, car, and office. So, I got what I wanted however, if you are over 40 years old and are considering the surgery be prepared to need reading glasses.

Stexas, I had the same situation. Before LASIK I was near-sighted, and could see perfectly fine up close. I could read the tiniest of print. After LASIK corrected my distance vision, I could no longer see up close. I wish I would have been informed of this prior to the surgery, but I was not. I also was not told that LASIK was not permanent. I'm not an opthamologist- I figured if they lasered your cornea and changed the shape of it, it was a permanent solution. I thought my distance vision would remain 20/20 just like it did right after the procedure. It did not. About 5 years after LASIK my distance vision began to deteriorate. I'm now back to wearing glasses for distance.

In Lasik or PRK, they are essentially burning away cells in the reshaping of the cornea. There is a protective (epithelial) layer of cells over the cornea that must be removed before the reshaping happens. Lasik involves cutting and pulling back a hinged flap of that epithelial layer, but doing so takes some of the corneal cells with it, leaving less material to shape. PRK uses a chemical and/or abrasive tool to completely remove a thinner layer of cells leaving more cornea to work with. The flap created during Lasik is put back in place as a natural bandage, although there seems to be debate over whether that flap really heals, or if it is just held in place by surface tension. The removal of cells in PRK forces the eye to regrow that top layer resulting in a much slower and painful healing process, but potentially a more stable eye/cornea surface. I did a lot of the research and went to the best Doctor around. Dr. Scott MacRae who is a leading researcher in refractive surgery, has several patents on the technology, "wrote the book on Lasik (literally)", trains other Doctors, etc. His office gives a short seminar typically every Saturday for potential patients to learn about the different options and the risks involved. The price there is expensive but not unreasonable considering you don't want to go "bargain basement" on an eye procedure. I was given a lot of warning and material on the known risks and success statistics. Being effectively blind without glasses or contacts (beyond 20/400), AND having an astigmatism that they could never correct quite right with lenses, I was willing to take the risk. I was not a candidate for Lasik due to the severity of my prescription (-7 diopters + astigmatism) and the amount of cornea I had to work with. I was however "approved" for PRK with custom astigmatism correction and decided to try it on just one eye. The procedure was painless and quick, and getting up off of the table I had fuzzy vision of probably 20/40 or maybe slightly worse. Healing was quite painful for a week or so but the vicodin and other drugs helped. Within a month or so I had 20/20 vision in that eye which healed cleanly and completely with no scarring (phew). Follow up visits were thorough and frequent, then monthly, every 3 months etc. For some people the dry eye and the halos/star-bursts around lights at night go away. Several of my friends had Lasik at the same office with great results (so far). 3 years later - I have piece of mind for never having to worry about losing a contact or breaking/forgetting glasses and being effectively blind as a result. I can see when I wake up and if I'm outside on a bright sunny day I feel like I can see for miles in the treated eye. For me the dry eye is very manageable with only needing drops in the morning occasionally. However, the halos and star-bursts have never lessened or gone away, and this can be very distracting in situations like a movie theater, and more importantly, driving. Additionally, my vision at night has less contrast. I still wear a contact in the other eye which thankfully my brain can use to dominate and mostly ignore the halos/starbursts. But, due to my fear of the halos and starbursts affecting my night driving further, I will NEVER have the procedure done on the other eye. I don't regret treating the single eye, but I have a feeling I would regret doing both. There is a lens implant alternative that is similar to cataract surgery but is about twice the cost of laser surgery, and like any surgery, carries risk of infection. The pros are that it is relatively easily reversible and doesn't change your eye permanently the way these laser procedures do. I will continue to follow research on this implant technology and consider it for the future. I would NOT recommend anyone having the laser procedure done to both eyes, but would suggest CONSIDERING a single eye treatment.

Know the risks! You are not allowed to get ANY of these laser procedures without signing lots of paper work saying that you KNOW and UNDERSTAND the risks of the procedure. That paperwork clearly states how many patients have dry eye, halos, starburst, etc... No risk, no reward.

I had a Lasik when I was 63 in 2001. Having had an extreme near sightedness all my life, this was a way to see the world clearly. It worked fine for several years.(I could not achieve 20/20 but enough to pass driving test without lenses) However because of my age, I did develop cataracts. When a cataract surgery was necessary, I needed a specialist care, though my ophthalmologist has done many of this surgery before. She had to collect my lasik procedure records from 2001 from my NY doctor and advised me that my cornea shape (slightly flattened) made it complicated, and that I was a high risk patient. After discussing the risks and determining that I would not end up worse than where I was, I went ahead and now at 73, for the first time in my life, I discovered the far-sightedness. My advice would be that if you find a very good doctor, determine how many years you have until you start getting the conditions caused by aging? I had only seven years or so of benefits. By nephew and niece came to NYC from Japan to have lasik done and they are both 20/20 since 1992. They were in their early 30s. For them, lasik really improved their lives and my nephew loves the freedom of vision when he races his motorcycles. I do not think this type of long term impact was not well known in 2001.

I am an optometrist, and I have seen many many patients who had bad LASIK outcomes. I cannot recommend this procedure to any patient after what I've seen in my exam chair. The rigid contact lenses required to correct corneas butchered by LASIK are complicated to fit, very expensive, and much less comfortable than most people's glasses or soft contact lenses. As a glasses-wearing myope myself, I would NEVER risk ruining my eyes with LASIK.

Most of those who are middle aged with presbyopia need to look at getting progressive bifocals. With some practice you can then focus on things at a variety of distances, not just things in the distance. For most of us that's far more important than the perfect distance vision promised (and sometimes delivered) by Lasik. And there are is no (zero) possibility of permanent damage caused by wearing glasses... good 'nuff for me, thank you.

This is a common misconception. How many lives have been lost because of foggy glasses? Nobody knows, but some at least. Lives lost because of LASIK: None.

I'm glad to see that issues with this procedure are finally getting the proper coverage they deserves. More than a decade ago I was an enlisted soldier assigned to the ophthalmology department at Walter Reed. When bored, which was several hours a day, I would typically read research and journal articles about eye-related topics. The military had it down pat in the early 1990s that refractive surgery had highly variable outcomes that were often unstable over time... thus why Uncle Sam forbade anyone who had flight status from getting corrective surgery

Add comment

Deals
Anonymous reviews are Internet graffiti.  Angie's List has real reviews from real people.

What is Angie's List?

Angie’s List is the trusted site where more than 2 million households go to get ratings and reviews on everything from home repair to health care. Stop guessing when it comes to hiring! Check Angie’s List to find out who does the best work in town.

Local Discounts

Daily deals up to 70% off popular home improvement projects from top-rated contractors on Angie’s List!