Is Lasik More Dangerous Than You Think?
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If you grew up wearing glasses and spent your teen years or part of adulthood dealing with dry eyes and painful corneal scratches that can come with wearing contact lenses, you might have jumped at the chance to get Lasik eye surgery. What could be better than having your vision restored or corrected to perfect sight? If you ever had dreams of being a fighter pilot — or you just liked the idea of not squinting at your computer screen anymore — laser eye surgery might have been a dream come true.
For a growing number of patients, however, Lasik has not been the miracle surgery they hoped for — or were told about by trusted medical providers. As a recent New York Times report reveals, many potential Lasik side effects can leave patients worse off. In the worst cases, patients suffer from long-term consequences that impair their vision and create serious health problems.
Possible Lasik Complications
Lasik — an abbreviation for “laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis” — vision correction surgery involves surgically removing a small flap of the cornea and then using a special laser to reshape the cornea. Reshaping the cornea is performed to restore or correct the patient’s vision, depending on the needs of the patient. In every Lasik procedure, a laser is used to remove a small amount of corneal tissue. On average, the procedures takes about 15 minutes, and the average cost is around $4,000.
In some cases, the procedure corrects the vision, but the patient experiences painful side effects such as constant pain and chronically dry eyes. In other cases, the procedure fails, and the patient’s vision is not improved or minimally improved.
According to the Times, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved Lasik eye surgery in the 1990s. Since then, about 9.5 million people in the U.S. have undergone the procedure. In most cases, people go into the procedure thinking it’s a safe, quick, and easy process that will give them perfect vision with no side effects.
Unfortunately, this has not been the reality for some patients. The Times also reports that complaints about Lasik started surfacing in the FDA in 2008 when patients testified at an agency meeting about a number of troubling side effects that included impaired vision, constant pain, social isolation, and depression. In some cases, Lasik patients even lost their jobs or took their own lives due to the pain and discomfort caused by their botched Lasik surgery.
In one tragic case, a man who underwent a Lasik procedure in college committed suicide after enduring six years of constant pain and blurred vision due to the surgery.
Other patients said their doctors classified their surgeries as a ‘success’ because the procedure technically restored their vision to 20/20. However, the patients also said the doctors dismissed their complaints of debilitating and constant pain following their surgery.
Risks Associated with Lasik Surgery
The Times report goes on to state that possible Lasik risks identified by the FDA include poor vision, dry eyes, glare, a ‘halo’ effect at night, and pain. Additionally, some patients become extremely sensitive to light.
Researchers have also found that some patients have a higher risk of needing cataract surgery later in life, due to receiving Lasik vision correction. Other patients have a heightened risk of developing a serious complication called corneal ectasia, which can cause blindness. Additionally, studies have found that Lasik can make it more challenging to detect glaucoma which can lead to blindness.
Some patients even describe a warped and distorted vision that is extremely difficult to correct with prescription lenses — and the Times report says these types of serious complications are more common than previously thought.
“Nearly half of all people who had healthy eyes before Lasik developed visual aberrations for the first time after the procedure,” according to one study. “Nearly one-third developed dry eyes, a complication that can cause serious discomfort, for the first time” following Lasik.
The report also points out that many of the studies tasked with examining the possible complications associated with Lasik are funded by manufacturers that have a financial stake in the outcome. For example, one Lasik study was funded by the company that makes the lasers. As the Times states, “One such study, written by the global medical director for a large laser eye-surgery provider, reported high satisfaction rates among patients five years after Lasik.”
For some patients, the complications caused by Lasik surgery have been debilitating and life-changing. One woman who teaches kindergarten described the pain as “paper cuts” in her eyes, while another patient said her eyes were so dry, it felt like she had been punched in the face.¹
Lasik patients who have suffered complications, pain and other side effects may be able to obtain compensation for their injuries and should contact experienced Medical Malpractice lawyer Jonathan C. Reiter to determine how best to proceed with their claim.
Prior results cannot and do not guarantee or predict a similar outcome with respect to any future case. Recoveries always depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case, the injuries suffered, damages incurred, and the responsibility of those involved.