Most LASEK patients are highly satisfied with the results of their refractive surgery. However, like any other medical procedure, there are certain risks to be considered. Before undergoing a refractive procedure like LASEK, you should carefully weigh the risks and benefits. Potential LASEK risks include:
Loss of Visual Acuity: Visual acuity is the sharpness of your vision. Vision that is at least 20/20 is considered ideal visual acuity. But LASEK surgery does not guarantee perfectly sharp visual acuity – like some of the ads promise – and you might not be able to completely ditch your glasses and contacts after your procedure.
Visual Distortions: Even patients who do achieve 20/20 visual acuity following LASEK can have other problems. Some visual distortions that may be experienced include halos, double vision and issues with glare.
Under or Over Correction: Though relatively rare, undercorrection or overcorrection are both possible complications of LASEK surgery. Those with severe myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism are at increased risk for undercorrection or overcorrection.
Dry Eye: Damage to nerves sustained during the LASEK procedure can lead to dry eye. Symptoms include discomfort, blurred vision and sensitivity to light; some patients also feel like they have something in their eye. If you already have dry eye, you may not be a suitable candidate for LASEK until you undergo treatment for it because LASEK may worsen your existing condition.
Inflammation: Inflammation is a normal response to injury, including the cell damage caused by LASEK. If not controlled, or if caused by wound contamination, inflammation may slow the healing process, leading to corneal haze or even permanent loss of vision. Symptoms of inflammation include pain, a burning sensation and/or redness.
Regression: Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that LASEK outcomes are stable in most patients. Nonetheless, a small percentage of patients will see their vision slip over time. This is called regression.
Epithelial Ingrowth: Epithelial ingrowth occurs when cells in the epithelium (the outer layer of the cornea) move under the flap and begin to grow following surgery. Although epithelial ingrowth may not cause any problems, it can lead to blurriness, discomfort and other symptoms. Older patients are more likely to experience epithelial ingrowth.
Although laser vision correction has a very high patient satisfaction rate, negative LASEK side effects can be experienced in some patients. While serious complications are extremely rare, and most side effects are mild and temporary, patients should be fully aware of all possible risks, no matter how minor, before deciding to undergo such a procedure.