Sunday, May 18, 2008


LASIK, two years on

Laser eye surgery, particularly LASIK, has been in the news a lot lately. In addition to general reports of people opting out of expensive elective procedures, as the prices of everything from milk to rice to gasoline go through the roof, there’s quite a current buzz about bad experiences with the surgery:

Federal regulators have received reports of Lasik patients with dry eyes, double vision and distorted night vision, among other problems. Web sites like and carry sobering tales of more serious eye damage or cases of vision improvement seeming to disappear within a few years.


Lasik practitioners say a recent analysis of past studies showed 95 percent satisfaction rates. But with 12 million patients having undergone the procedure in the United States since it was approved in 1995, the sheer number of individuals with unhappy outcomes is growing steadily. And more of their stories are gaining public attention.

“My eyes are damaged beyond repair,” Pamela C. Barncastle, 62, of Albuquerque said in a phone interview. Mrs. Barncastle said she underwent the surgery in 2001 and now has double vision and sees halos and bursts of blurred light at night that keep her from driving after sundown.

Given all that, I just thought I’d post, on this second anniversary of my LASIK surgery, what I think about it.

Executive summary: I’m still thrilled!

I’ve had no bad symptoms of any sort. It’s still only two years, so I don’t know what’ll happen as more years pass, but I still have great vision for distance, and still see fine up close but need reading glasses in the same situations where I needed reading glasses before. In other words, I see as well as I did with contact lenses before the surgery, but I no longer need contact lenses.

I also think it was worth the money. Not in the sense that it has paid for itself, nor ever will — one can buy a lot of years’ worth of contact lenses and stuff for the cost of LASIK.[1] But in the sense of feeling good about it. In the sense that it’s really nice not to have to deal with contact lenses. My eyes did sometimes get dry, tired, or irritated with the contact lenses. I had to take them out and clean them regularly. I had to make sure I had a supply of them around (I used weekly disposable ones). It’s great not to worry about any of that. My eyes are now just my eyes.

I haven’t experienced dry eyes, no flares, ghosts, or halos, nothing like that. No pain. No itching. All is good.

Here’s hoping it continues that way.

[1] Actually, doing the math, I see that it will pay for itself in about 15 years, assuming that it lasts and doesn’t need to be repeated.


LasikExpert said...

There have been about 7 million Lasik procedures in the US, about 12 million world wide. The vast majority of those patients are like you; thrilled.

I work for a nonprofit Lasik patient advocacy. We don't provide Lasik, just Lasik information and we certify Lasik doctor's patient outcomes.

I made four presentations at the FDA hearing you mention above, including preliminary results of the USAEyes CORE Patient Survey.

• 99% report quality of life as expected, better, or much better
• 98% no complications or issues are seldom problematic
• 98% would recommend surgery to family and friends.
• 96% report postop vision without lenses as expected, better, or much better than expected when compared to preop vision with lenses
• 2% complications frequent or always problematic, 22% of this 2%would have surgery again

The PowerPoint USAEyes CORE Patient Survey presentation is available online. Just visit and search for "USAEyes"

Glenn Hagele

I am not a doctor

Michelle said...

Interesting to know. This is something that I'd be interested in, seeing that my eyes are utterly ruined by constant screen staring and I'm tired of having to put on glasses for absolutely everything.. now, if I could just ever afford it :Z

The Ridger, FCD said...

Interesting that, given those stats and given that they're accurate, you are the only person I know (even in cyberspace) who's thrilled. I know a lot of people who are meh about it, contrasting the "freedom" with the need to use a different kind of glasses (usually for reading) and the cost, and one who is completely unthrilled, given that her eyes reverted to their original very myopic state within a few months.

Personally, I mind putting on a pair of glasses for distance seeing MUCH less than the truly cringe - oh, let's be honest, terror - inducing thought of letting someone cut on my eyes. Brrrrrrr. No thanks.

Maggie said...

I had never considered eye surgery as an option, although my eyesight is terrible. For me, it's not worth the chance, even if it's infinitesimal, of losing my eyesight or having halos. I can't stand dirty contact lenses and I imagine some of the side effects are like that. I'd want to claw my eyes out.

It's possible I'm not a good candidate; I've never had a consultation on it. My eye doctor does do the surgery and he said that I'm not too old or anything like that, but he has never screened me for the procedure.

I thought about it a little as I haven't been able to wear my contacts as frequently. But my doctor told me that I would lose my close-up vision if I had the surgery, and that would drive me crazy as well. If I want to see something up close, all I have to do is take my glasses off. I can't stand not being able to read tiny things!!

My brother-in-law had vision worse than mine and he had a procedure up in Canada where I guess they have a different kind of laser that's more precise. AFAIK, he's been very happy with his surgery. For people like he and I, who suffer from allergies, it's nice not to worry about putting contacts in over allergy eyes. For me, I just wear my glasses, but he really didn't like his glasses.

I'm happy for you that your surgery went well. I'm too chicken. :-)

Barry Leiba said...

Well, it's not quite that you'll "lose" your close-up vision, or at least that's not how I think about it. It's that your eyes can be "tuned" to optimize for one thing or another, and you can't take off glasses that you're not wearing. But in that sense, it's very much like wearing contact lenses — you can take the lenses out, but that's not really an option if you're trying to read the ingredient list on something in the grocery store.

For me, when I had contact lenses I had to put reading glasses on occasionally, for the "wrong" combination of small fonts, low light, and low-contrast printing. After the LASIK, it's just the same. In my case, I don't need reading glasses any more than I did before... but I don't need them any less, either.

So is it easier/better/whatever to wear glasses most of the time, and take them off to read small print?... or to not wear glasses most of the time, and put them on to read small print? I decided on the latter.

But, of course, it's fair to be chicken. I have to admit that part of my wanting to do it was exactly that — not the "danger", but the experimentation. Call me crazy (yes, go ahead), but there it is.