free article from Pamela Ellermann
Study finds that certain traits, like dry eyes, make surgery complications more likely
Although Lasik eye surgery has relieved 8 million Americans of the need to wear glasses or contact lenses, new concerns about surgical risks are being raised on the eve of its 10-year anniversary.
New findings show that people who are not suitable candidates for the procedure for a variety of reasons are at greater risk for a problem during the surgery. With up to 700,000 Americans going under the knife each year, that leaves substantial room for mishap.
General eligibility requires patients to have a consistent glasses or contact lens prescription for at least two years and limits candidates to those over 18 years old.
Qualities that make candidates less ideal include dry eyes or scarring of the cornea, according to the Eye Surgery Education Council.
In response to recent media attention about complications that arise from the surgery, the Food and Drug Administration plans to provide new graphics and text to make the risks of this surgical procedure more explicit to candidates.
Measures include providing photographs of what halo vision - a possible side effect that makes a person see rings of light around bright light sources - might look like.
The FDA cites dry eyes, loss of vision, glare, halos and double vision as possible risks of the procedure, acknowledging that it is relatively new and that studies on the long-term effects are not available yet.
Although complications from the surgery might be debilitating, the odds of problems are low.
Up to 92.6 percent of patients leave the operating room with 20/40 vision or better, and up to half enjoy 20/20 or better, according to a study by the American Association of Professional Eyecare Specialists.
The Eye Surgery Education Council puts the risk of severe complications at less than 1 percent.
College junior David Weinreb, who after 12 years of nearsightedness got the procedure this January, said he would recommend Lasik surgery to most people, as long as they consider the potential risks.
"You have to have a certain medical capacity to say I'm going to have surgery" with real risks, he said.
Improving from 80/20 vision to 20/15, Weinreb described the transition as "unbelievable," once the short term side effects of halo vision and light sensitivity subsided.
Among the most important things Lasik candidates can do to ensure their own safety is ask questions, Weinreb said.
During the time in which he experienced halo vision at night, Weinreb wasn't worried about the side effects being permanent because he was in regular communication with his doctor, who explained what to expect in detail.
For those concerned about complications, surgery can be performed one eye at a time, using contact lenses to maintain consistent vision in both eyes between operations.
And for success stories like Weinreb, the procedure has huge benefits, like being able to see at those "strange times" he couldn't wear glasses, like in the shower or the swimming pool.