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If I have LASIK surgery, what kind of results can I expect?”

Surgery Options

LASIK Surgery

Outcomes


What improvements to your vision can you expect from LASIK surgery? What are the benefits of LASIK surgery?

Studies show that the majority of patients obtain 20/20 vision or better after LASIK surgery. And nearly all patients achieve 20/40 or better-which is fully functional and good enough to drive legally in most states without glasses or contacts. Most importantly, the vast majority of people are satisfied with LASIK surgery. In a recent study, about 97% of LASIK surgery patients said they would recommend it to a friend or relative.

Patients are often amazed by the clarity of their vision the day after surgery, but your visual experience after LASIK may be slightly different than with corrective lenses. While there are great benefits of LASIK, as with any refractive surgery, there are also short-term side effects you may experience as you recover. You may also still occasionally need to wear corrective lenses to achieve the sharpest possible vision.

Of course, the benefits of your own LASIK surgery will depend on many personal factors. Your age, health and degree of refractive error, as well as the technology used and experience level of your surgeon will all affect the results of your procedure.

Typical outcomes of LASIK surgery

For nearsightedness

    If you are nearsighted

    Mildly or moderately nearsighted patients-with or without astigmatism-have some of the best benefits of LASIK surgery and recover most quickly.

    Studies of mildly or moderately nearsighted patients show that one year after having LASIK surgery:

    • 98% have obtained 20/20 vision.
    • 100% have achieved 20/40 vision or better. This is good enough to perform most daily activities without corrective lenses-and meets the legal requirements for driving in most states.

    If you are severely nearsighted

    Less than 5% of Americans are severely nearsighted with refractive error of -7 diopters or greater. Studies show that among these patients, one year after having LASIK surgery:

    • 86% have obtained 20/20 vision.
    • 100% have achieved 20/40 vision or better. This is good enough to perform most daily activities without corrective lenses-and meets the legal requirements for driving in most states.

    If you are severely nearsighted, you may have a higher chance of regression after LASIK. This means you might see initial improvement, and then see it diminish somewhat over time. A touch-up LASIK treatment, also called an enhancement, is usually effective in correcting regression.

    Studies have also noted a slightly higher risk of complications for very nearsighted patients as well. Almost all LASIK complications are treatable, but discuss this carefully with your doctor.

    A small number of patients are too nearsighted to have LASIK. If so, a different surgery, called a phakic IOL implantation [hyperlink to spot w/in other surgeries], may be an excellent alternative to correct your refractive error.

For farsightedness

    If you are farsighted

    Mildly or moderately farsighted patients-with or without astigmatism-can be very good candidates for LASIK surgery and achieve good benefits of LASIK.

    Studies of mildly or moderately farsighted patients who have had LASIK surgery show that after nine months:

    • 72% have obtained 20/20 vision.
    • 95% have achieved 20/40 vision or better. This is good enough to perform most daily activities without corrective lenses-and meets the legal requirements for driving in most states.

    Farsighted eyes generally recover more slowly than nearsighted eyes, so your surgeon may wish to treat one eye and wait a few days to weeks before treating the other. It may also take longer for you to achieve your best vision while your eyes heal.

    Farsighted patients may also have a higher chance of regression after LASIK surgery. This means you might see initial improvement and then see it diminish somewhat over time. A touch-up LASIK treatment, also called an enhancement, is usually effective in correcting regression.

    If you are severely farsighted

    Less than 5% of Americans are severely farsighted with refractive error of +4 diopters

    Studies have noted a slightly higher risk of complications for severely farsighted patients, as well. Almost all LASIK complications are treatable, but discuss this carefully with your doctor.

    A small number of patients are too farsighted (greater than +6 diopters) to have LASIK. If so, a different surgery, called refractive lens exchange, may be an excellent alternative to correct your refractive error.

For astigmatism

    If you have astigmatism

    LASIK surgery has been shown to be very effective in treating mild to moderate astigmatism up to 4 diopters. The benefits of LASIK you can realistically look forward to will depend on the exact nature and degree of your astigmatism, however, and whether you have other refractive errors

    Your doctor can tell you what you can expect, based on the anatomy of your eyes

    If you have severe astigmatism

    A very small number of patients have astigmatism higher than 4 diopters.

    In this case, your surgeon may recommend that you have LASIK surgery with an additional procedure, such as limbal relaxing incisions, to better correct your vision.

    Possible side effects

    Following any surgical procedure, it is normal to experience short-term, typically minor symptoms that don’t affect your daily activities. These side effects are treatable and tend to get better by themselves in time. Most patients feel the benefits of LASIK outweigh the possible side effects, which may include temporary night vision symptoms such as glare, halos or starbursts around lights. You may also experience temporary dry eye-your doctor may prescribe artificial tears to relieve dry eye symptoms.

    Dry eye and night vision symptoms occur as a normal part of the healing process and usually diminish and disappear over the course of a few weeks or months, as vision stabilizes.

    It can take up to six months for your eyes to heal and reach their best quality of vision. Depending on how your eye heals, it is possible you will have a small amount of refractive error after surgery, called an undercorrection or overcorrection. Occasional use of glasses or a touch-up LASIK procedure (also called an enhancement) may be needed to obtain your best corrected vision.

    The latest technologies-Wavefront-guided and Wavefront-optimized LASIK-have been shown to deliver the clearest vision and fewest night vision symptoms and are least likely to require a touch-up procedure.

(See the LASIK Post-Op Care & Recovery page for more information about possible side effects and rare complications.)

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If you’re over age 40 and also have presbyopia or cataracts, other surgical options may be more appropriate for you than LASIK surgery. Learn more about presbyopia surgery and cataract surgery.

Most people are very happy with the results of their LASIK surgery. But your decisions about LASIK depend on your unique health considerations and other factors, including costs. Learn more about paying for LASIK surgery.

Watch

Glossary

Not sure what a particular term means? Click on words in bold to pull up the glossary tab.

FAQ

Will I ever need to wear glasses after LASIK

    After their eyes have healed, most patients who have LASIK do not need to wear glasses for their daily activities. However, patients may need to wear reading glasses if they are over the age of 40. This is caused by the normal aging of the eye known as presbyopia. This condition occurs with or without LASIK. Some patients may need a minimal prescription for some activities. Those patients who currently have bifocals will still need reading glasses after LASIK unless they opt for a treatment plan called monovision, in which one eye is corrected for distance and the other for near vision.

Are the results of LASIK surgery permanent?

    LASIK is a surgical procedure that permanently removes corneal tissue to reshape the eye in order to improve refraction. The physical results are permanent. However, eyes can still change or possibly regress over time. Also, LASIK does not prevent presbyopia or cataracts, two common vision problems that are part of the normal aging process.

Glossary Entries

Astigmatism
Common vision problem and type of refractive error. Caused by either irregularity in the curvature of the cornea or the lens of the eye. People with astigmatism generally have difficulty seeing fine details at all distances. Treated with corrective lenses, laser vision correction or toric IOLs.

Cataract
Clouding of the eye's lens that blocks passage of light to the retina, resulting in impaired vision. Often a result of normal aging, cataracts form when protein clumps cloud areas of the eye's lens. As the cataract progresses, vision worsens and often requires surgical replacement of the damaged lens with an artificial one.

Diopters
A measurement of refractive error. Hyperopia (or farsightedness) is measured in terms of positive diopters (+1, +2). Myopia (or nearsightedness) is measured in terms of negative diopters (-1, -2). Most refractive errors fall somewhere between +6 to -6 diopters.

Dry eye
A syndrome characterized by corneal dryness due to deficient tear production. Often related to hormonal changes, local atmospheric conditions and many other causes. Approximately 42 million Americans experience this condition.

Farsighted, farsightedness (or hyperopia)
Common vision problem and type of refractive error. Caused by too little curvature of the cornea or too little distance between the front of the eye and the retina at the back. Both structural defects cause light entering the eye to focus incorrectly on the retina, resulting in blurred close-up vision. Treated with corrective lenses, laser vision correction or multifocal or accommodative IOLs.

Glare
Appearance of additional luster around lights that can interfere with vision, especially night vision. Sometimes occurs as a side effect of LASIK surgery and often decreases with time. May also be caused by cataracts or other eye conditions.

Halos
Appearance of rings around lights at night. Sometimes occur as a side effect of LASIK surgery and often decreases with time. May also be caused by cataracts or other eye conditions.

LASIK (laser in-situ keratomileusis) surgery
Type of laser surgery in which the cornea is reshaped to improve vision. Either a microkeratome or a femtosecond laser is used to surgically create a thin, hinged flap of corneal tissue. The flap is folded back, and an excimer laser is directed to the corneal surface exposed beneath the flap to reshape the cornea for corrected vision. Then the flap is brought back into place.

Nearsighted, nearsightedness (or myopia)
Common vision problem and type of refractive error. Caused by either too much curvature of the cornea or too much distance between the front of the eye and the retina at the back. Both structural defects cause light entering the eye to focus incorrectly on the retina, resulting in blurred distance vision. Treated with corrective lenses, laser vision correction or multifocal or accommodative IOLs.

Overcorrection
When the change to refractive error after refractive surgery exceeds the attempted correction.

Presbyopia
Also called age-related focus dysfunction. Common vision problem that develops naturally over time. Characterized by loss of the eye's ability to focus at close distances or on fine details. Treated with reading glasses, contact lenses, presbyopia laser vision correction (also called LASIK monovision) or presbyopia lens replacement surgery.

Refractive error
Irregularities in the cornea, lens or shape of the eye that prevent correct focus at any distance.

Refractive lens exchange
The removal of a clear (not cataractous) natural lens and its replacement with an artificial lens. Presbyopia lens replacement is a type of refractive lens exchange. It may also be used for people with refractive errors too severe for LASIK surgery.

Refractive surgery
Any surgical procedure that attempts to decrease the patient's refractive error (irregularities in the eye that prevent correct focus). LASIK surgery is a common type of refractive surgery as is lens replacement.

Starbursts
Appearance of rays or fine filaments of light coming off a light source, such as a headlight of a car. Can become longer and denser at night. Severity of starbursts varies-they may be experienced differently in terms of size, shape, length of rays, the density of rays and transparency (whether the light source is visible through the starburst). Sometimes occur as a side effect of LASIK surgery and often decreases with time. May also be caused by cataracts or other eye conditions

Undercorrection
When the desired change to refractive error is not fully achieved after refractive surgery.

Wavefront-guided LASIK
Also called custom LASIK. Creates a personalized map of existing higher order aberrations to correct refractive error and these more subtle vision problems. In some cases, existing higher order aberrations are severe enough to require this special treatment.

Wavefront-optimized LASIK
Newer LASIK technology that corrects refractive errors while accounting for both the natural curvature of the eye and the unique characteristics of each individual's eye. Has less risk of inducing higher order aberrations than conventional LASIK

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