Is Dry Eye After LASIK Normal?

June 6th, 2019

Dry eye is normal after LASIK surgery, but the symptoms can be minimized by taking certain pre- and post-op precautions.

Patients enjoy clearer vision without the need for contact lenses or glasses after receiving LASIK corrective surgery. Yet, as many as 95% report dry, itchy eyes immediately following the procedure, and are often alarmed by these symptoms. They shouldn’t be.

Dry eye is a common after-effect of LASIK and, with proper treatment, usually subsides in about six to 12 months. LASIK-induced dry eye can occasionally happen because the procedure involves a surgeon cutting into corneal nerves. While this improves eyesight, the cornea subsequently becomes less sensitive, impairing the eye’s ability to self-lubricate by producing tears.

Due to the possibility of LASIK-induced dry eye, your eyecare specialist needs to know if you are already suffering from the condition prior to surgery. While having dry eye doesn’t preclude you from undergoing LASIK, you will likely be asked to take additional preoperative precautions to ensure your procedure is a success.

Dry Eye Tests

Your doctor will perform several tests to analyze your tear production before LASIK, including the Schirmer test. In this procedure, a thin piece of paper is placed inside your lower eyelid to measure tear production.

Your doctor may also spread a small amount of dye on the surface of your eye to see how tears circulate and break apart. They can also use an imaging instrument like a keratometer to look into your eye’s tear film without touching the eye’s surface. Alternatively, your doctor can take a sample of your tears from your bottom lid and test it for proteins that may predict whether you’re at risk of dry eye after LASIK.

These tests inform your doctor of your eye’s ability to produce tears. In addition to your level of tear production, several risk factors may predispose you to dry eye after LASIK:

  • Being female (women, particularly those who have gone through menopause, are more likely to have dry eye).
  • Having an autoimmune disease like Sjögren’s syndrome that can cause dry eye and dry mouth.
  • Taking medications for allergies, hypertension, or depression, as these may decrease moisture in the eye.
  • Wearing contacts, which often exacerbate dry eye (though LASIK eliminates the need for contacts, which then reduces the symptoms of dry eye).
  • Living or working in very dry climates.
  • Having severe nearsightedness prior to LASIK.

A specialist will evaluate all these risk factors before you undergo LASIK surgery. The specialist will then advise you as to what you need to do before and after your procedure to ensure the surgery will restore your vision with minimal side-effects.

Preventing Dry Eye After LASIK

If you suffer from dry eye, your doctor may prescribe a medication like Restasis to boost tear production prior to and following your procedure. Even patients who do not exhibit signs of dry eye may be advised to take artificial tear stimulants and/or consume flaxseed oil and fish oil to increase moisture in the eye as a precautionary measure.

Following LASIK, using anti-inflammatory eye drops containing corticosteroids will help reduce irritation on the surface of the eye. Patients with severe dry eye may have punctal plugs placed in the eye. These plugs keep moisture from draining out of the eye, thereby maintaining a healthy flow of tears.

If you are thinking about getting LASIK, talk to the specialists at Kleiman Evangelista Eye Centers of Texas. We can answer all your questions and design a plan suited to your individual needs. Contact us today for a consultation.

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