Ophthalmologists tend to view corrective eye surgery as routine, something which everyone with poor eyesight can benefit from. Although there are many types of corrective eye surgery Lasik is probably the best known and most widely used. My wife went for an eye surgery consultation only to discover the surgeon’s waiting room was about as busy as Grand Central Station. The ophthalmologist viewed the surgery as so routine that he didn’t really spend much time consulting with her. She ended up talking to him briefly and his staff for much of the overview. The experience did not sit well with her, and she decided against the surgery.
Over the years I’ve had numerous people tell me their eye surgery was great! Also, a few who said it was not great. I’ve also heard from various sources that there are side effects that are rarely discussed. The following is from The Guardian:
Until last year, Robin Kyle Reeves lived an active life in Laurel Hill, Florida. She made lace gowns for children to wear during baptisms or family portraits. It was intricate work that requires precision, and Reeves’ glasses kept getting in the way. So her doctor recommended Lasik.
Ms. Reeve’s surgery didn’t go as planned. There was some debris left in her eye and she could no longer see well enough to sew intricate projects. She had to quit her job and stop taking sewing projects on the side. She even stopped driving a car as she no longer felt competent to drive. Her life was forever changed. She is one of those rarely discussed examples, whose experience was far from perfect.
Over the years I’ve heard that halos around car lights when driving at night are common and that after Lasik virtually everyone will need to use reading glasses in middle-age. Those side effects are rarely discussed in advertisements, however. Some experts want consumers to know there is a downside to Lasik that is too often glossed over by eye surgeons.
According to his own analysis of industry data, the complication rate of Lasik falls between 10% and 30%. One investigation of an FDA database by the reporter Jace Larson found more than 700 complaints of severe pain, described as “worse than childbirth” or as if “their eyeballs would stick to their eyelids almost every night”.
Last year, the FDA released draft guidance telling doctors that prospective patients should be warned they might be left with double vision, dry eyes, difficulty driving at night, and persistent eye pain.
In one clinical trial from 2017, the FDA found that nearly half of participants reported experiencing “new visual symptoms” after undergoing surgery. Those effects can show up as the presence of glare, halos, or starbursts, especially at night.
If glare, halos and starbursts aren’t enough, the pain can be unbearable:
Dr Cynthia MacKay, a retired clinical professor of ophthalmology at Columbia University medical school, worked alongside Stephen Trokel, who was the first ophthalmologist to recognize the significance of the laser used in corneal refractive surgery.
“I thought it would never catch on,” MacKay said. “If you slice into the cornea to change its shape, you’re going to cut through all of the nerves that feed the cornea and keep it healthy, which will result in terrible pain,” she said.
Years ago, I met a research scientist who worked for an ophthalmology drug company. She claimed there was a huge market potential for better drugs to treat eye pain. The pain relievers currently on the market for eye pain are not ideal.
Most patients who get Lasik are highly satisfied with the results. Then there are those who have problems that cannot be fixed. Experts say the newest lasers are better than the old lasers for eye surgery. One physician advised that patients seek more than one opinion, because not everyone is a candidate for eye surgery. The trouble is: the surgery is considered so routine that screening is not given much priority. The FDA wants eye surgeons to better inform patients about the risks.