Dry Eye After Lasik

Dry eye after lasik can be a common side effect of laser eye surgery. In fact, for many, it can negate the benefit of having the procedure.

Fast facts:

  • According to research, the majority of patients experience some degree of dry eye after lasik operations;
  • Up to 50 percent of patients develop chronic dry eyes that persist longer than one year after surgey;
  • The majority of research points to cornea damage being the main contributor to dry eye as a complication of laser eye surgey.

Many people report all the standard symptoms of dry eye syndrome when having had laser eye surgey. The eyes rely on a flow of tears to keep the eye moist and protected. The tear film consists of aqueous, protein and lipid (oil) components that prevent the eye surface from drying out.

Patients with lasik induced dry eyes can suffer irritation, photo-phobia, foreign body sensation and lack of visual acuity.

Marguerite McDonald, MD: “With LASIK, roughly half of my patients had dry eye complaints after surgery – and in about half of these, the symptoms were severe.”¬†RefractiveEyecare.com December 2005

Lasik and dry eye… How does lasik cause my dry eyes?

Nerve damage around the cornea due to the laser cutting procedure does not heal properly. Your cornea plays a role in tear film production and without proper healing of the cornea nerves and tissue, dry eyes can be a prolonged condition.

A 2004 Mayo Clinic study revealed that three years after Lasik, the corneal nerves have not fully recovered.

The protein ( mucin ) layer of the tear film can also be disrupted causing irregular wetting of the eye surface and increase tear film break-up times.

The longer the break-up time the better, as the eye requires the protective tear film to remain on the eye surface for as long as possible after blinking. Testing for most dry eye patients nearly always reveals shorter than normal break-up times.

What can I do if my dry eyes are caused by Lasik?

Dry eyes after lasik eye surgey is a serious and chronic condition for many patients and is often overlooked or dimissed by eye doctors as a trivial side effect.

However many people are at their wits end and can become depressive, making this complication a very real one for so many that suffer.

It is not until you are affected by the condition that you really understand just how debilitating it can be in your daily life. It is a legitimate side effect of any laser eye surgery treatment that needs careful consideration and discussion with a specialist.

When cutting into living tissue, whether with a laser or traditional operating techniques, there is always a chance that your eye tissue may not heal as expected and that some residual damage or side effects will result.

If corneal tissue heals as expected then symptoms should gradually dissolve as time passes. Some people will experience prolonged symptoms a number of years after surgery and require punctal plugs to stop their tear film draining away too quickly or drops (temporarily) to alleviate dry eyes and provide better surface wetting and protection.

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