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Possible LASIK Eye Surgery Side Effects, From Dry Eyes To Vision Loss

By Gulnaz Khan
Medically Reviewed by Kerry D. Solomon, MD, and member of the Refractive Surgery Council editorial advisory board on December 10, 2020
Learn about the side effects of LASIK eye surgery, including common symptoms like dry eyes and rare complications like vision loss.

Laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK) is a type of eye surgery used to treat common vision problems, including nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. The procedure involves cutting a flap into the cornea and reshaping the tissue with a special laser.

LASIK Risks and Side Effects

With any surgery, there are potential risks and side effects. In 1998, the FDA approved the first laser used for LASIK surgery, so there is more than 20 years of clinical data available on the procedure. Talk to your doctor about risks and benefits and follow all pre and postoperative instructions to reduce your risk of complications. Remember that it can take up to six months for your vision to stabilize after LASIK.

  • Dry or itchy eyes: While it’s common to experience dry, itchy eyes and mild pain for a few days after surgery, LASIK can cause decreased tear production for up to six months. In some cases, patients develop dry eye syndrome, which can affect vision quality. Your doctor may recommend several therapies to treat dry eye including over-the-counter or prescription eye drops to relieve these symptoms.
  • Light sensitivity, glare, double vision: You may notice increased light sensitivity and difficulty seeing at night for days to weeks after the procedure. Some people also experience double vision, glare, or a “halo effect” around lights.
  • Flap infection or tearing: Your surgeon will create a flap in your cornea during the LASIK procedure, which comes with a very low risk of infection, tearing, or abnormal tissue growth during healing.
  • Under or overcorrection: If your surgeon removes too much corneal tissue (overcorrection) or too little (undercorrection), you may not achieve clear vision. Under corrections can often be resolved with another LASIK procedure, however, overcorrections are more difficult to treat.
  • Astigmatism: Uneven tissue removal during LASIK can cause astigmatism, a misshapen cornea that results in blurry vision. Treating astigmatism may require glasses, contacts, or additional surgery.
  • Results may diminish over time.
  • Worsened vision and vision loss: In rare cases, patients may experience worse vision than before the surgery, or vision loss that does not improve with glasses or contacts.
  • If you experience severe pain, or other new, unusual, or worsening symptoms, seek medical attention.

Conditions That Can Increase Risks

Your doctor will review your medical history, examine your eyes, and measure your pupil and cornea to determine whether LASIK is right for you. You may not be a good candidate for this procedure if you have certain health conditions.

  • Autoimmune disorders or conditions that require immunosuppressive medication
  • Untreated dry eye syndrome
  • Eye injury, cataracts, glaucoma, or an eye disease that affects the cornea
  • Very large pupils
  • Thin corneas
  • If you play contact sports that may complicate the healing process
  • If you've had vision changes in the past year related to medication, nursing, pregnancy, or other health conditions
  • LASIK is currently not approved for children under the age of 18