Lasik Q & A

Factors That Increase the Risks of Having LASIK

Because of its continually high success rates, LASIK has become an increasingly common surgical procedure. Millions of satisfied patients have undergone refractive surgery with amazing results. The majority of LASIK patients achieve 20/20 vision, some do even better.

It is easy for people with visual impairments to get excited by these statistics. Who doesn’t want perfect vision? But it is important to remember that every operation has its risks, even if they are small. Statistics show that approximately one out of 2,000 LASIK surgery patients will suffer serious complications that lead to an actual worsening of vision. While that amounts to only .05% of all patients, the risk is nevertheless there.

For 95.5% of patients, LASIK is a blessing. Their surgeries are quick and easy, and their recoveries are relatively uneventful. But for a rare fraction of patients, LASIK could have devastating consequences. Risks associated with LASIK vary by patient. Certain conditions may increase risks, so it is important for you to have a proper screening and disclose all related medical issues to your doctor.

One of the factors that determines candidacy is the structure of the eye. LASIK procedure has been perfected using specifications for a normal eye. One abnormality that can prevent LASIK from being effective is a thin cornea. Integral to the LASIK technique is the ability to cut a corneal flap and reshape the eye. Instruments used in LASIK are calibrated for corneas of a normal thickness, and thus operating on an eye with a thin cornea poses increased risks. Some complications of a failed LASIK procedure on thin corneas may include irritated or inflamed eyes and partial vision loss.

You cannot judge the thickness of your cornea just by looking at it; eyes with thin corneas look just like normal eyes, and the corneal tissue is already so thin that it takes special equipment to measure it. You may have used this equipment before at a recent eye exam. Your doctor asks you to place your eye in front of a machine and focus, and then releases a puff of air. While it seems simple, this machine is very important to LASIK surgeons as it plays a vital role in the patient screening process.

Screenings or pre-operation exams determine more than the thickness of your cornea. They may also identify other abnormalities like large pupils or help a surgeon to diagnose eye diseases that could complicate the recovery process. In the screening process, you are also asked to fill out a questionnaire on your medical history to ensure that you do not have chronic conditions like diabetes, which can also increase the risk of complications.

While there is not yet a LASIK technique approved for every aberration, there are some techniques approved for abnormalities like thin corneas. One of these procedures is photorefractive keratectomy (PRK). This form of refractive surgery removes the outer layer of the cornea instead of cutting a flap. Because of the more invasive procedure, the average recovery period is longer than that of traditional LASIK, but the end results are almost as good. Additionally, new procedures are being perfected at this very moment, so rare or hard to treat aberrations may be correctable soon.

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