Dry Eye After LASIK

Medically Reviewed by Whitney Seltman, OD on August 17, 2022
2 min read

Your LASIK surgery went well and your vision is much improved. But your eyes are dry and itchy. Don’t be surprised. Dry eye is the most common complication for LASIK. About 95% of people report dry eye symptoms just after the procedure.

But LASIK itself isn’t often the trigger for the dry eye. Nearly half to three-quarters of the people reporting dry eye had symptoms of it before the surgery.

Dry eye after LASIK typically gets better over time. But in rare cases, LASIK can lead to severe and chronic dry eyes.

While long-term dry eye is rare, there’s no way to predict whether you’ll have dry eye after LASIK or how long the symptoms will last. But certain things may make it more likely for you to have dry eye after LASIK:

  • You had dry eye before LASIK.
  • You are female.
  • You are of Asian descent.
  • You wear contacts.
  • You have diabetes.
  • You were very nearsighted before LASIK or had vision corrected to a high degree.

Researchers don’t fully understand why this happens, but they have some ideas. The surgery can cause some corneal nerve damage. During the procedure, the surgeon reshapes your cornea by removing some of the tissue under it. In the process, the surgeon cuts some of the nerves in your cornea. That doesn’t affect your vision. But it may break down the communication between your cornea and the tear glands for a while. This usually returns to normal quickly.

Another possible cause is inflammation from the surgery. Also, the new shape of your cornea may change the way your eyelid interacts with the surface of your eye. That may affect blinking or tear production. And that can lead to dry eye.

For most people, dry eye symptoms are most noticeable in the months right after surgery. Most say it gets better in 6-12 months.

Artificial tears and other standard treatments for dry eye can work well after LASIK. If your symptoms are mild, you can wait to talk about them with your doctor during your next appointment. But call your doctor immediately if you feel severe pain or if your vision or other symptoms get worse instead of better.