LASIK Dry Eyes: How to Treat Symptoms

2021-12-24 09:59:33 By : Mr. Abner Min

Vanessa Caceres is a nationally published health journalist with over 15 years of experience covering medical topics including eye health, cardiology, and more.

Bryan Wolynski, OD, is a board-certified optometrist who has been in the field for over 30 years. He is an adjunct assistant clinical professor at SUNY College of Optometry ​and works in private practice in New York City.

The most common side effect of LASIK eye surgery is dry eye. About 40% of patients report having dry eye one month after surgery. Dry eye after LASIK can affect your vision and cause discomfort. It is not uncommon for patients to have dry eye before LASIK as well. This can increase the chances of experiencing dry eye after LASIK.

This article will cover what causes dry eye after LASIK eye surgery, who is the most at risk for dry eye after LASIK, and common screening tests for dry eye. It also will discuss dry eye treatments.

One reason dry eye may occur after LASIK is because of changes made to the eye during surgery. During LASIK, the eye doctor creates a flap in the cornea, which is the dome-shaped area in the front of the eye. Creating this flap may lead to lowered sensitivity in the cornea, particularly in the first three months after surgery. This lowered corneal sensitivity may lead to fewer tears produced in the eye and less blinking, both of which can create more dry eye.

Some people experiencing dry eye after LASIK may have had dry eye that was not diagnosed or fully treated before the surgery. An estimated 38% to 75% of people having LASIK may have dry eye before surgery.

Dry eye may have been the reason that some of these patients pursued LASIK. For instance, these patients may have had trouble wearing contact lenses because of dry eye symptoms. They then sought out LASIK as an alternative to wearing contacts.

If your dry eye is severe before LASIK and does not respond to treatment, an eye doctor may recommend that you look into alternatives to LASIK to improve your vision. LASIK is contraindicated if severe dry eye is present. 

Dry eye after LASIK is not always permanent. In many patients, dry eye symptoms last only about a month. After that time, dry eye signs and symptoms should improve.

About 50% of patients who have had LASIK experience dry eye one week after surgery. This reduces to 40% at one month post-surgery and 20% to 40% at six months post-surgery.

Only about 1% of patients who have had LASIK still experience dry eye one year after the surgery, according to a 2015 study.

Dry eye that happens before or after LASIK is associated with the same symptoms, including:

Although dry eye is a risk for anyone having LASIK eye surgery, there are certain groups of people who are more likely to experience dry eye afterward. They include the following:

Your eye doctor may use several types of tests to help measure the extent of your dry eye before and after LASIK. Some of the tests used to diagnose dry eye include the following:

In addition to these tests, your eye doctor will ask about your dry eye symptoms. It is also possible to have dry eye without noticeable symptoms.

Although you may find that your dry eye symptoms go away after a couple of months, you can still seek treatment for the time when you have the symptoms.

There are several dry eye treatments available. Your eye doctor may recommend trying different combinations of treatments before finding the right ones for you.

Sometimes, if you aren't completely satisfied with your vision after LASIK, treating dry eye may help your vision to get better.

Here are a few of the medical treatments for dry eye that you may try:

In addition to the medical treatments for dry eye, there are some things you can do at home to help soothe dry eye symptoms:

While experiencing dry eye after LASIK is normal, mention your symptoms to your doctor at your follow-up appointment so they can make sure your eyes are healthy. If your signs and symptoms are severe, see your doctor sooner for treatment. If you find you use eye drops more often than your doctor recommends and dry eye symptoms are getting worse, you should also see your eye doctor. Make an appointment if you still have dry eye six months or more after LASIK.

Dry eye is initially common after LASIK, mostly due to changes made to the eye during surgery. In most patients, dry eye will last only a couple of weeks or months. Although it is hard to fully predict, some patients have risk factors that will make them more likely to experience dry eye. Eye doctors can work with patients to screen for and treat dry eye.

Treatments for dry eye include eye drops, ointments, prescription medications, punctal plugs, and scleral contact lenses. Lifestyle changes such as using a humidifier, drinking more water, limiting exposure to the sun and wind, and consuming omega-3 fatty acids can help.

Dry eye after LASIK may feel uncomfortable. For most people, it is only temporary. Still, you don't need to just live with the discomfort. Let your eye doctor know if you are experiencing dry eye symptoms after LASIK so you can try some of the available treatments.

For most people, it is not. Dry eye is most common in the first month after LASIK. About 20% to 40% of people still have dry eye symptoms at six months post-surgery.

The amount of time that eyes stay dry after LASIK differs for everyone. One to six months is the most common timeframe. Having certain risk factors, such as being age 50 or over or having more nearsightedness before surgery, can raise your risk of dry eye after LASIK.

It can be. This is because dry eye can get worse after surgery. Work with your eye doctor to treat dry eye before LASIK to help improve your tear film. If you still have severe dry eye symptoms after those treatments, you may not be a good candidate for LASIK.

Dry eye has many different treatments, from over-the-counter tears to punctal plugs to prescription medicine to help your eyes make more tears naturally. You can also make changes to your environment to help your dry eye, such as wearing sunglasses and lowering your exposure to fans and air vents. Let your eye doctor know if you have dry eyes after LASIK so you can explore treatments.

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