Laser Eye Surgery Risks & Complications

Is There Risk Involved With Laser Eye Surgery?

As with all forms of cosmetic surgery, laser eye surgery is not without risks and possible complications. There are many risks involved with laser eye surgery ranging from infection and delayed healing to impaired or lost vision although reports and studies suggest that the chances of having a serious vision-threatening complication are minimal. It is vitally important that you are aware and understand the risks and complications involved before even considering eye corrective treatment.

What Are The Risks Of Surgery?

laser eye surgery complications

Laser eye surgery risks include:

  • Infection - Infection after laser eye surgery is rare and is normally treatable, but some cases can’t be easily controlled by medication, which could cause some reduction in vision, or loss of sight in extreme cases.
  • Undercorrection/Overcorrection - It is not possible to predict perfectly how your eye will respond to laser surgery. As a result, you may still need corrective lenses after the procedure to obtain good vision. In some cases, a second procedure can be done to improve the result.
  • Decrease in Best-Corrected Vision - After refractive surgery, some patients find that their best obtainable vision with corrective lenses is worse than it was before the surgery. This can occur as a result of irregular tissue removal or the development of corneal haze.
  • Excessive Corneal Haze - Corneal haze occurs as part of the normal healing process after laser eye surgery. In most cases, it has little or no effect on the final vision and can only be seen by an eye doctor with a microscope. However, there are some cases of excessive haze that interferes with vision. As with undercorrections, this can often be dealt with by means of an additional laser treatment. The risk of significant haze is much less with LASIK than with PRK or LASEK.
  • Dry Eye - This is common after laser eye surgery and usually clears up and rarely persist in the longer term.
  • Higher Order Aberrations - Normally associated with old age, higher order aberrations can be produced by laser eye surgery. Symptoms include the halo effect, starburst and ghosting and double vision. The halo effect is when a glowing ring is seen around light sources. Starburst usually occurs from under correction. Starbursts appear around light sources and are a scattering of light akin to a star. Ghosting and double vision refer to when you can see two of every object.
  • Anisometropia - It is a difference in refractive error between the two eyes. It can occur if only one eye is treated and continued use of glasses or contact lenses mat be needed to balance the two eyes.
  • Regression - In some patients the effect of refractive surgery is gradually lost over several months. This is like an undercorrection, and a re-treatment is often feasible.
  • Halo Effect - The halo effect is an optical effect that is noticed in dim light. As the pupil enlarges, a second faded image is produced by the untreated peripheral cornea. For some patients who have undergone laser eye surgery, this effect can interfere with night driving.
  • Incomplete Procedure - Equipment malfunction may require the procedure to be stopped before completion. This is a more significant factor in LASIK, with its higher degree of complexity, than in LASEK.
  • Problems with a Perfect Procedure - Even when everything goes perfectly, there are effects that might cause some dissatisfaction. Older patients should be aware that they can't have both good distance vision and good near vision in the same eye without corrective lenses. Some myopic patients rely on their myopia (by taking off their glasses, or by wearing a weaker prescription) to allow them to read. Such a patient may need reading glasses after the myopia is surgically corrected. Another consideration is the delay between eye treatments. If one eye is being done at a time, then the eyes may not work well together during the time between treatments. If a contact lens is not tolerated on the unoperated eye, work and driving may be awkward or impossible until the second eye has been treated.

It is generally reported that the risks and complications of laser eye surgery are minimal and rare. However, other risks include permanently poor night vision, reduced visual activity and sometimes even a partial loss of sight may be experienced. The cornea may be damaged and require stitches or a graft. A poorly performed operation may result in retinal detachment, keratectasia, which is when the cornea is cut too deeply, and in some cases laser eye surgery may even induce astigmatism.

The risks listed above, although rare, are always possible and the complications encountered are similar across the different types of laser eye surgery including LASIK, PRK, LASEK and Wavefront.

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How Safe Is The Procedure?

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists reports that less than 5% of laser eye surgery patients experience complications. However, it is of the utmost importance that the risk potential of every patient is taken into account individually, rather than the average probability for all patients. Someone considering laser eye surgery should find out such things as the surgeons personal success rate; how many surgeries he or she has performed; how many patients have had to return for further treatment; what complications the surgeon has experienced and why.

Djalenga’s Laser Eye Surgery Story


Video Transcript

Everything just looked so much clearer, it’s amazing. I didn’t realize how much I was missing out on; I didn’t realize how bad my eyes actually were. Since the surgery I can just see people right down the other side of the street, recognize who they are. I can see what bus number it is, I can see train times. It’s brilliant.

What Was the Procedure Like?

The actual procedure was very quick. I went in; I got given eye drops so that I couldn’t feel anything so that my eyes were completely numb. I laid down, got asked if I was okay and definitely alright to go ahead. I couldn’t feel anything on my eyeballs at all because it just didn’t seem like anything was going on, but I could feel when they opened my eye. I didn’t see what it was so they hold your eyes open, put lots drops to make sure that it’s keeping moist I guess for the surgery, and then you look at the red dot. I had Lasik which is the one where they push some of the cells to the side, and then do the laser and you just keep looking at the red dot, and it’s quite weird because you can see there is obviously something when they’re pushing it across. You can’t really see what it is, but they move that across. You don’t feel anything at all you’re just looking at the red light.

Then they laser and you sort of see lots of red, and then it goes back and they put on the bandage contact lens, and that’s it and you don’t feel anything. You’re just looking at the red light. It was like three minutes on each eye, and then you’re done.

How Was Your Recovery?

So after the surgery I went home and they gave me some sleeping tablets because the first 24 hours can be a bit sore so it’s best to sleep through I got told, so I just tried to sleep as much as possible. For a few days I was being helped to put drops in because I wasn’t used to putting eye drops in. I stayed in my bedroom with my tinfoil on my windows to keep it really dark and cool in there. Then by sort of day four I had to go back to get my contact lens, the bandages removed, but it took me about a week to get back to normal.

What Was The First Thing You Noticed With your Improved Eyesight?

The first thing I noticed with my eyes was when I would come out of my bedroom and I spoke to my best friend on the phone and my phone is just by my window in my apartment and I could see – I just suddenly looked out and saw this brick wall that was over the other side of the street, I’ve never noticed before, ever, because it had obviously been this kind of blur. I was talking to my friend and I was going I can see every single brick. It’s actually amazing.

Would You Recommend Laser Eye Surgery To A Friend?

I would definitely recommend laser eye surgery, I think it’s just so quick and so easy, and then you’ve got the rest of your life to just see perfectly in HD. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t get it done.


The risk of losing part of your vision through laser eye surgery is very low. It is more likely that you may suffer a number of minor and temporary side effects, such as irritation to the eye and a little redness or soreness. For the small percentage of people who do report a loss of vision, it is only altered very slightly however it is worth noting that it might not be able to be corrected through the use of glasses or contact lenses.

Infection is a concern with laser eye surgery, as with all types of surgery, and you will be given antibiotics following the procedure. It's very important to complete the course of antibiotics as the risk of infection could lead to further problems down the line.

Laser eye surgery cannot correct the natural ageing process that occurs with your vision. You may still become dependent on eye wear as you age, but you could elect to have surgery that replaces your natural lens with a synthetic version. However, most people believe that the freedom from having to wear glasses and use contact lenses before they reach their older years is enough to make the surgery worthwhile for the present.

Reducing The Risks Further

Once a surgeon has been decided upon, it is important to discuss in detail what pre-surgery preparation is required, the recovery time expected and what after-care is needed. This way the prospective patient can make preparations to take time off work and do whatever is necessary to ensure that all goes well during the surgery and the healing period, when infection or problems are more likely to occur.

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