Corneal Ectasia and Other Complications from LASIK

Complications from LASIK

Corneal Ectasia and Other Complications from LASIK

LASIK (or laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis) is an eye surgery that uses laser refractive technology to treat certain vision problems. By using a laser, your eye doctor can carefully reshape your corneas. This procedure often yields significant improvements in vision—to the point that industry professionals view LASIK as an increasingly popular alternative to glasses or contact lenses.

For patients with nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), or astigmatism, the eye is improperly bending light in such a way that your eyes don’t focus correctly. As a result, you experience blurred vision. By reshaping the cornea, LASIK can correct these problematic refractions and restore vision.

Risks and Side Effects of LASIK Surgery

While LASIK is a powerful procedure with a history of success, it can come with the risk of complications. One LASIK risk is corneal ectasia. Corneal ectasia is a condition in which the cornea’s inner layers lose their strength. As the cornea becomes weaker, it tends to change shape and bulge outward. This process will distort a patient’s vision significantly and may lead to permanent vision loss. Some patients experience post-LASIK ectasia in one or both eyes.

Other less visually debilitating complications or side effects of LASIK include:

Dry Eyes

Dry eye is the most common complication of LASIK.  In fact, about half of all LASIK patients will +experience dry eye following the procedure. While the condition is usually temporary and mild, significant numbers of people continue to suffer from dry eye for months or even years after LASIK.

Often, patients who complain of dry eye following LASIK had a previously undiagnosed dry eye issue. For these patients, the procedure often exacerbates the pre-existing problem. For example, contact lens wearers who find their contact lenses uncomfortable due to dry eye may investigate LASIK as an alternative. These patients proceed to LASIK without proper dry eye treatment, making the condition worse.

Fortunately, pre-LASIK procedure screenings have advanced, and dry eye detection is now a priority for doctors who offer this treatment. However, there are still many, many LASIK patients who experience dry eye following the procedure. According to a new FDA report, up to 30% of subjects developed new dry eye symptoms after LASIK.

Dr. Elise Kramer specializes in minimizing post-LASIK complications and side effects. Each dry eye patient is different. By utilizing her vast knowledge and experience on LASIK and its potential side effects, Dr. Kramer can customize an effective treatment program for each patient.

Halos

Halos are when rings appear around bright lights or light sources. They are a common side effect of LASIK surgery, as well as a symptom of cataracts. Halos occur when the epithelial flap is healing. The healing process causes changes to the way one perceives and views light, leading to the rings that characterize halos.

The severity to which you experience these symptoms post-LASIK will depend on your pupil size. LASIK patients with large pupils may experience more severe halos than patients with smaller pupils. Since pupils dilate in dim lighting, LASIK patients may also notice reduced vision quality in darkened environments compared to more well-lit surroundings.

Glare

Another common side effect of LASIK surgery—and one that is closely related to halos—is glare.
When a patient looks at a bright light, the light may seem especially harsh. This side effect can be particularly problematic on bright days, in bright rooms, or while driving at night (due to other headlights on the road). Unfortunately, glare is one of the most common side effects of LASIK.

NOTE: In a new FDA report 45% of the subjects who were symptom-free before LASIK developed symptoms such as halos, starbursts, glare, and ghosting following LASIK surgery. Talk to your eye doctor about these risks to learn more about what they might mean for you.

Astigmatism

Not all patients will enjoy perfect 20/20 vision after LASIK eye surgery. In fact, for some patients, contact lenses or glasses may still be required for some or all activities. If the laser removes too much or too little corneal tissue, or you do not have typical healing abilities, your best vision outcome may be suboptimal. Furthermore, if the laser removes tissue in an uneven manner—or if your eye heals unevenly—you may experience astigmatism post-LASIK.

In rare cases, an eye doctor might overcorrect your corneal shape with LASIK. These overcorrections can damage your vision and are difficult to fix. As a result, eye doctors are extremely careful when conducting LASIK surgeries, to the point where undercorrections sometimes occur. If a doctor doesn’t remove enough tissue from your eye, you won’t notice much improvement in your vision. You will likely need a second LASIK procedure to finish the
work of the first.