LASIK with Diabetes: Is it Safe?

August 13th, 2018
Senior woman with glucometer checking blood sugar level at home. Diabetes, health care concept

Patients with diabetes who manage their blood sugar and have minimal diabetic retinopathy may still qualify for LASIK.

LASIK or laser eye surgery is the leading, cutting-edge solution for all kinds of vision problems. However, it hasn’t always been a viable option for people with diabetes. For decades after it was first invented, doctors warned patients with diabetes away from the surgery.

Fortunately, LASIK has now been shown to be a good option for some people with diabetes, especially if their blood sugar is well-controlled and they don’t show evidence of severe diabetic retinopathy.

LASIK is performed thousands of times every day in America. The recovery time usually quick — a couple of days, usually — because it’s typically a relatively uncomplicated operation. That being said, people with diabetes should proceed carefully when considering LASIK. The procedure can be more complex, and risks include diabetic retinopathy, slower healing, and fluctuating prescriptions. However, most patients who qualify for the procedure go on to have excellent results.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when high blood sugar levels compromise the small blood vessels in the eye. As a result, the body makes new blood vessels. But these newly-made vessels are fragile and prone to bleeding; if they begin to leak, they can obscure the retina and, in the most serious cases, result in blindness.

Unfortunately, LASIK can’t resolve complications from diabetic retinopathy; the retina is in the back part of the eye, and the procedure only reshapes the front of the organ. Before you undergo LASIK, your doctor will need to determine the cause of your vision problems. But as long as a patient has minimal retinopathy, LASIK is usually an option.

High Blood Sugar

High blood sugar is the most well-known symptom of diabetes, but it’s less known that it also has the effect of extending LASIK recovery time. Surgeons tend to be wary of operating on patients with high blood sugar, regardless of the procedure. That’s because high blood sugar makes it more difficult for wounds to heal, prolonging recovery time.

Because of this, some doctors recommend that LASIK candidates with diabetes undergo Intralase, a premium and bladeless form of LASIK that generally has a shorter recovery period.

Fluctuating Prescription

LASIK surgery alters the shape of your cornea in order to improve your vision, but this can be difficult to get right in patients with diabetes. Changing blood sugar levels can cause your vision prescription to fluctuate, so your doctor may not be able to confidently determine how to best reshape your cornea. The best way to combat this is to stay vigilant about keeping your blood sugar within a normal range, especially in the months and weeks leading up to a procedure.  

For most people with well-managed diabetes, LASIK is an excellent option for correcting a range of vision problems. An eye doctor with expertise in diabetes is the best resource for deciding if LASIK is right for you. Take the first step toward a life free from glasses and contacts, and contact Kleiman Evangelista Eye Centers of Texas today to make an appointment.

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