Complications and Side Effects

LASIK has been performed on millions of patients in the United States in the past 10 years, and the overall rate of severe complications is low. Most LASIK complications can be treated without any loss of vision, but vision loss may rarely occur.

  • Inflammation and infection are possibilities with any surgical procedure. These can usually be cleared up with medications, but rarely may lead to the need for another surgical procedure or to the loss of vision.
  • Problems with the corneal flap sometimes require further treatment, which might include additional surgery.
  • Ectasia, or bulging of the cornea, may require further treatment.
  • There is a chance, though small, that a LASIK patient’s vision will not be as good after the surgery as it was before, even with glasses or contact lenses. The patient may have significantly reduced vision (usually correctable by treatment and/or wearing corrective lenses) or permanent loss of vision (extremely rare).
  • Over-or under-correction of the patient’s refractive error, or a reduction in the refractive correction over time, could mean that the person might still need to wear corrective lenses for some or all activities, or need a retreatment with LASIK or another, similar refractive surgery to achieve the patient’s desired results. 

Below is a list of the more common side effects and possible complications of LASIK. In most cases, these side effects disappear within three to six months after the surgery. In a minority of patients, these problems may be permanent:

  • Discomfort or pain
  • Sensations of scratchiness or dryness, which are symptoms of “dry eye”
  • Hazy or blurry vision
  • Poor night vision and/or difficulty driving at night
  • Glare, halos or starbursts around lights
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Reduced sharpness of vision called “contrast sensitivity”
  • Small pink or red patches on the white of the eye
Source:  American Academy of Ophthalmology and the International Society of Refractive Surgery. Is LASIK for Me? A Patient’s Guide to Refractive Surgery. San Francisco, CA: American Academy of Ophthalmology and the International Society of Refractive Surgery, 2008. Print.