One of the debates concerning LASIK patient satisfaction centers around how dry eye syndrome is counted. Generally, the LASIK industry claims a complication rate of 3% or less. However, in one recent article, the incidence of post-LASIK complications was reported at 20%(1). This discrepancy is dismissed by many LASIK surgeons who contend that dry eyes are not a “complication,” but rather a recognized side effect of the surgery. Dry eyes can range from mild to moderate to severe. For those patients with severe dry eyes, the condition can be extremely debilitating.
Dry eyes can occur naturally or as a result of LASIK eye surgery. Dry eyes may be a temporary side effect after a patient undergoes laser surgery. A person who had the condition prior to surgery may find their condition worsened. If you are considering LASIK surgery, it is important to alert your surgeon prior to surgery if you have dry eye.
What is Dry Eye Syndrome?
The eye requires natural tears, which are produced by the eye, providing continuous moisture. Dry eyes result where some people do not produce enough tears to keep the eye comfortable and healthy. This condition is known as Dry Eye Syndrome. If you have Dry Eyes, you may experience a number of common symptoms including stinging or burning, scratchiness, excessive mucous in or around your eyes, reduced tolerance to smoke or wind, difficulty wearing contact lenses and excessive tearing. In addition to irritation and physical pain of dry eyes, in more severe cases, the condition may impair overall visual function, with complaints of poor visual acuity or quality.
Diagnosis and treatment
There are several diagnostic tests to help determine whether you have Dry Eye Syndrome. Many doctors rely on the Schrimer’s Test to measure for dry eyes. However, since at least 2002 it has been recognized to be inherently unreliable. The better test is the tear break up value, which measures the time it takes for the eye’s continuous tear film to “break up.” The tear film of patients with dry eyes will break up more quickly than those without dry eyes.
There are several ways to treat dry eyes. These include artificial tears, easily placed Tear Duct Plugs to help retain the tears you produced, certain dietary supplements as well as prescription medications that will stimulate your own natural tear film production.
LASIK Surgery and Dry Eye Syndrome
LASIK or laser eye surgery may cause some patients to experience Dry Eye Syndrome after surgery. During the LASIK procedure, a flap is created under which the actual laser energy is applied to reshape the cornea to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. When the flap is created, the fine nerves of the cornea may be temporarily damaged as part of the LASIK procedure. These nerves are needed to signal the lacrimal gland of the eye to produce tears. When patients experience severe Dry Eye Syndrome after the procedure, their vision may actually be blurred due to the tear film instability. Patients may need additional treatment for such symptoms.
Unfortunately, in many cases, LASIK patients have been left with a permanent case of dry eyes. It may have been caused by the surgeon’s lack of proper screening prior to the surgery. The surgeon should find out from the patient whether he or she is predisposed to dry eyes and adjust their procedure and treatment accordingly. It is also important that surgeons explain the procedure and possible side effects clearly to patients prior to surgery.
If you or a loved one has blurry vision or poor vision as a result of Dry Eye Syndrome from a negligently performed surgical procedure, and if your quality of life is suffering as a result, please contact a LASIK eye surgery lawyer at the Law Office of Todd J. Krouner. You may call (914) 238-5800 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for a free, comprehensive and confidential consultation and evaluation of your claim.
(1) Bailey M.D., Zadnik K. “Outcomes of LASIK for myopia with FDA-approved lasers,” Cornea. 2007 Apr; 26(3):246-54.