Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration first approved Lasik surgery in the 1990s, Lasik has increased in popularity, especially since the operation is an attractive prospect for those wishing to rid themselves of glasses and contacts. At about 700,000 procedures each year, doctors tout high success rates. However, since Lasik surgery has taken off, an increasing number of reports have blurred the image of this ‘fool-proof’ operation.
What Are Patients Saying?
When looking for Lasik eye surgery statistics online, several websites and studies report high success rates and a low risk for complications. The UCLA Stein Eye Institute states that over 95 percent of patients are content with the results, and that about 5 percent of people have serious complications. Typically, doctors say that any side effects like dry eyes and halos tend to go away on their own and subside after a few months.
However, a recent article in The New York Times brings Lasik’s risks back into focus. The article focuses on Geobani Ramirez, who has been suffering from side effects after undergoing Lasik surgery two years ago. Mr. Ramirez’s eyesight is considered 20/20 by doctors “because [he] sees the A’s, B’s, and C’s all the way down the chart,” but the problem is that he sees “three A’s, three B’s, three C’s.” Mr. Ramirez has reported dry and sore eyes that requires eye drops every half-hour, dangerously poor night vision, and triplicate vision. Mr. Ramirez also claims that “none of the surgeons he consulted warned him of permanent complications.”
An investigation led by the FDA from January 2017 further corroborates Mr. Ramirez’s account. The investigation used results from two trials, and they suggest that complications and side effects with Lasik are not uncommon. Some of the outcomes observed were visual symptoms such as double images, glares, halos, and/or starbursts, and dry eyes. Furthermore, on the self-reported questionnaire, about 50 percent of participants from the first trial and 60 percent of participants from the second trial reported visual aberrations three months after surgery. However, the study does explain that “the limitations of the study included a sample that may not generalize to all persons undergoing LASIK surgery, a sample size that was too small for confidence about uncommon events, and short-term follow-up.”
Additionally, many websites emphasize that every surgery has a risk of side effects or complications. Dr. Anat Galor, an associate professor of clinical ophthalmology at the University of Miami, said to The New York Times that “every single time you do surgery and cut into tissue, you damage nerves…we have sensory nerves all over our body, and the cornea is one of the most heavily innervated organs in the body, so it is a little more sensitive to nerve damage.”
Is it Worth it?
The Mayo Clinic’s page on Lasik eye surgery states that “very few people consider [the side effects] to be a long-term problem.” Furthermore, doctors believe that complications are reduced since patients must be carefully evaluated before approval of surgery. The Mayo Clinic notes that the presence of “certain health conditions can increase the risks associated with LASIK surgery or make the outcome less predictable.” Patients must give their doctor their medical and surgical history and complete an eye examination. Moreover, Dr. Malvina Eydelman, director of the division of ophthalmic and ear, nose, and throat devices at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, says in the New York Times article that the FDA considers the procedure to be “safe and effective when used as intended in accordance with approved use.” Ultimately, the choice is up to the consumer. The cost for the procedure is usually advertised “per eye” and according to Lasik.com, the national average is about $2,000 per eye. Lasik eye surgery is not usually covered by insurance since it is considered an elective procedure.
Consumers’ Research employees are not experts on medical operations and do not suggest whether or not to undergo Lasik eye surgery. We believe that consumers should stay informed and consult a trusted medical professional.