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An Outspoken Few Are Disillusioned With LASIK Surgery

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An estimated 1 million people are expected to have LASIK surgery this year alone, he says. Less than 1% will have complications, "but for that 1%, it's a very important occurrence."

LASIK has been around less than 10 years, but in that time, both the technology and doctors' skills have improved, Waring says. Today, both the microkeratome, the instrument that makes the flap, and the laser, which reshapes the cornea, are getting closer to foolproof, he tells WebMD. "That's why the complications are going down -- but not down to zero yet."

Still, people are taking the surgery too casually, Waring says. He encourages those considering LASIK to ask the surgeon questions about the procedure's outcomes and complications, and to shop around. "You need to be critical of discounts, claims of perfect vision," he says.

Kristin Pisacano, MD, medical director of refractive surgery at the New York Eye Surgery Center in the Bronx, also wants to help consumers understand what they're getting into.

"It's hard to tell what went wrong with Roger and Howard," who posted on the Surgical Eyes site, says Pisacano, author of the book LASIK Vision Correction. But they likely had complications which, if they were treated in a timely manner, could have been corrected.

The more serious complication, called "sands," creates a painful, dry-eye condition that is treatable -- but must be treated correctly and immediately, she tells WebMD. "Nobody knows exactly what causes it," she tells WebMD. It's treatable with drops, or sometimes the surgeon needs to perform a minor surgical procedure to lift the flap again and irrigate the area with solution. "But it is treatable," Pisacano says.

Wrinkles in the flap are rare, but can occur, she says, especially in people who rub or squeeze their eyelids -- sometimes in their sleep. "Those are more tricky to treat, but they are treatable if you're seeing someone who knows how." That condition must also be addressed right away to maintain optimal vision.

The longer such conditions are ignored, the less likely they can be corrected, Pisacano says.

Vision undercorrection and overcorrection are "pretty common," and correctable with a touch-up procedure performed two months after the original operation.

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