- I. Introduction
- II. Immediate Causes of Blurry Vision after LASIK
- A. Normal Healing Process
- B. Dry Eye Syndrome
- C. Corneal Abrasions
- D. Regression
- E. Other Factors
- A. Infection
- B. Epithelial Ingrowth
- C. Refraction Changes
- II. Delayed Causes of Blurry Vision after LASIK
- III. How long does Blurry Vision Last after LASIK?
- IV. Treatment for Blurred Vision after LASIK
- V. When to Seek Medical Attention for Blurry Vision after LASIK
- A. Red Flags
- VI. How to prevent blurry vision after LASIK?
- VII. Conclusion
- Frequently asked questions
A. Explanation of LASIK
LASIK (Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis) is a popular refractive surgery that uses a laser to reshape the cornea and correct vision problems such as nearsightedness and astigmatism. It is a safe and effective procedure that has helped millions improve their vision.
B. Purpose of the article
This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide to blurred vision after LASIK, including its causes, duration, treatment options, and when to seek medical attention. It is intended to help patients who have undergone LASIK surgery understand this common side effect and know what to expect during their recovery.
II. Immediate Causes of Blurry Vision after LASIK
A. Normal Healing Process
After LASIK surgery, mild blurry vision is a common and expected side effect due to the normal healing process.
The cornea has undergone a reshaping procedure and needs time to heal and adjust to its new shape. As the cornea heals, it can cause temporary changes in vision, leading to blurred vision.
This is usually a temporary condition that will resolve on its own within a few days to a few weeks. Following your doctor’s instructions regarding post-operative care is essential to help promote healing and reduce the risk of complications.
B. Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eye syndrome is a common condition that can cause suboptimal vision after LASIK surgery. The surgery can temporarily disrupt the tear film that lubricates the eyes, leading to dryness and discomfort.
Dry eye syndrome can be treated with artificial tears and lubricating eye drops.
These eye drops help to replenish the moisture on the eye’s surface and reduce discomfort and blurriness from dry eyes.
C. Corneal Abrasions
Corneal abrasions are small scratches on the surface of the cornea that can occur during LASIK surgery. They are typically minor and heal quickly but can cause temporary blurriness and discomfort.
Corneal abrasions can be related to the numbing drops used during the actual procedure, which can loosen the outermost layer of the cornea, called the epithelium. This can cause the epithelium to become dislodged or displaced during the surgery, resulting in corneal abrasion.
While these corneal tissue abrasions are usually minor, they can lead to inflammation beneath the corneal flap. In some cases, additional anti-inflammatory drops may be required to reduce swelling and promote healing. Corneal abrasions can be managed by applying a soft contact lens for 24-48 hours, allowing the new epithelium to heal.
Localized diffuse lamellar keratitis (LDLK), also known as “sands of Sahara,” is another possible complication that can occur after LASIK surgery. LDLK is a type of inflammation that can occur beneath the corneal flap, causing blurriness and discomfort. This type of flap inflammation will usually resolve quickly with steroid-containing eye drops or, in more severe cases, lifting the flap and irrigating out the inflammatory debris, followed by applying a soft contact lens and steroid drops.
Following up with your doctor is important if you experience persistent blurriness or discomfort after LASIK surgery. They can evaluate your symptoms and determine if additional treatment is necessary, such as anti-inflammatory drops or, in more severe cases, lifting the flap and washing out the debris beneath.
In summary, corneal abrasions and LDLK are possible complications of LASIK surgery that can cause temporary blurriness and discomfort. If you experience any persistent symptoms after the surgery, be sure to speak with your doctor for more information and follow-up care. Additional anti-inflammatory drops may be required to reduce inflammation and promote healing, and in severe cases, further intervention may be necessary.
Regression is a rare but possible complication of LASIK surgery. It is a condition in which the cornea regresses back to its original shape, undoing the effects of the surgery.
Regression can cause a return of nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism, leading to blurry vision. This can occur months or even years after the surgery and may require additional treatment.
Enhancement surgery or another vision correction procedure may be necessary to correct the regression and restore clear vision. Your doctor will monitor your vision closely during follow-up examinations to detect any signs of regression.
E. Other Factors
Infection after LASIK surgery is rare, occurring in less than 1% of patients. However, it is still a serious complication that can cause blurry vision, pain, redness, and other symptoms.
Patients can reduce their risk of infection by carefully following post-operative care instructions, including avoiding swimming or other water activities for several weeks after the surgery.
B. Epithelial Ingrowth
Epithelial ingrowth occurs when the outermost layer of the cornea, called the epithelium, grows under the corneal flap created during LASIK surgery. This can cause blurry vision, discomfort, and other symptoms.
Epithelial ingrowth is rare, occurring in not most patients and less than 1% of LASIK patients. Treatment may involve lifting the flap and removing the ingrowth, followed by the use of anti-inflammatory drops.
C. Refraction Changes
In some cases, changes in the eye’s refractive error can cause blurry vision after LASIK surgery. This can occur due to regression, which is a rare complication in which the cornea gradually returns to its original shape after the surgery.
Refraction changes may also occur due to a residual refractive error that was not fully corrected during the initial surgery. Enhancement surgery may be necessary to correct these issues, correct refractive errors and improve visual acuity.
II. Delayed Causes of Blurry Vision after LASIK
You may experience blurry vision after LASIK surgery for various reasons, and it may not always be a direct side effect of the procedure itself. Here are some common vision problems that can lead to blurry vision:
A. Cataract: LASIK cannot prevent the eyes’ natural aging process, and cataracts typically develop with age. The yellowing of the crystalline lens inside the eye characterizes this condition. LASIK reshapes the cornea, leaving the lens untouched. Therefore, if a cataract is present pre-operatively, it will still be there after surgery.
B. Aging Process or Residual Refractive Error: LASIK is used to correct refractive errors in the eye but does not prevent the eyes’ natural aging process. It’s important to document stability with your vision leading up to surgery. If you were myopic pre-operatively and experienced blurred vision after surgery, there may be residual myopia post-operatively. Conversely, if you were hyperopic pre-operatively and over-corrected, your distance vision may be blurry after LASIK because you became myopic. These side effects of LASIK are rare and can often be treated with additional surgery.
C. Presbyopia: If your vision is only blurry when looking at near objects, it could be caused by presbyopia and is not a side effect of the LASIK procedure. Presbyopia happens when the crystalline lens inside the eye becomes less flexible with age, causing difficulty in focusing on close objects. If you had both eyes corrected for distance vision with LASIK, you would still need reading glasses to see up close once you reach your mid-40s
D. Diabetes: Fluctuating blood sugars in those with diabetes can cause changes in vision. Vision may be clear one day and blurry the next. If you have diabetes and blurry eyes, your blood sugar may be unstable, and you should check your sugar levels.
E. Corneal ectasia/Keratoconus: Corneal ectasia is a rare but serious complication that can occur after LASIK. It happens when the cornea becomes weaker and thinner, causing it to bulge and change shape. This can lead to blurry, double vision and other visual disturbances. Corneal ectasia is more common in patients with pre-existing conditions such as keratoconus or those with thin corneas. It is crucial to have a comprehensive eye exam before LASIK to identify any underlying conditions that may increase the risk of corneal ectasia. If corneal ectasia is suspected, your doctor may recommend additional treatments such as cross-linking or other surgical procedures to strengthen the cornea and improve vision.
F. Macular Degeneration: Macular degeneration is a disease that causes deterioration of the macula, the region of your retina that’s responsible for your central vision. This primarily affects those over the age of 60. Macular degeneration can cause your vision to deteriorate over time; however, people often retain their peripheral vision even if their central vision loss is severe. This can cause blurry vision after LASIK surgery recovery, although it is not considered a side effect of the procedure.
III. How long does Blurry Vision Last after LASIK?
A. Normal Recovery Time
In most cases, suboptimal vision after LASIK is a temporary condition that will resolve on its own within a few days to a few weeks.
During this time, the cornea is healing and adjusting to its new shape. The duration of the blurry vision depends on the individual healing process and the extent of vision correction needed.
The doctor may prescribe eye drops and advise you to avoid activities that may cause eye strain, such as reading or using digital devices, to promote faster healing.
Following your doctor’s post-operative instructions is crucial to ensure a smooth recovery and minimize the risk of complications.
B. Prolonged Blurry Vision
In some cases, non-clear vision after LASIK may persist longer than expected.
If your blurry vision continues for more than a few weeks or is accompanied by other symptoms such as pain, redness, or sensitivity to light, it may be a sign of a more serious problem.
This can be due to complications such as dry eye syndrome, corneal haze, or regression.
It is essential to contact your doctor for a follow-up examination to determine the cause of prolonged blurry vision and appropriate treatment.
In some cases, enhancement surgery, wearing glasses or other vision correction procedures may be necessary to correct the issue.
IV. Treatment for Blurred Vision after LASIK
A. Artificial Tears
Artificial tears are a common treatment for blurry vision after LASIK caused by dry eye syndrome.
- Different types of eye drops can be used, including preserved and non-preserved tears.
- Preserved tears contain preservatives that help prevent bacterial contamination and extend the shelf life of the drops. However, some patients may be sensitive to the preservatives and experience irritation or other side effects.
- Non-preserved tears are artificial tears that do not contain preservatives and are a good option for those with sensitive eyes or who need to use eye drops frequently. These drops can be used more frequently than preserved tears.
- Serum-based tears are another option that your doctor may recommend. They are made from the patient’s blood serum and can provide longer-lasting relief for dry eye symptoms. They are typically prescribed for patients with severe dry eye syndrome.
- Your doctor will evaluate your needs and recommend the best artificial tears for your situation.
- It is important to follow your doctor’s instructions for the use of these eye drops to ensure the best possible outcome for your vision.
B. Rest and Relaxation
Resting your eyes and avoiding activities that strain them can help reduce blurry vision after LASIK and other forms of laser eye surgery.
Activities that require prolonged use of the eyes, such as reading, watching television, and using digital devices, can cause eye strain and contribute to blurry vision.
Your doctor may recommend taking a few days off work or other activities to allow your eyes to heal properly. Regular breaks and good eye hygiene can also help reduce the risk of complications and promote faster healing.
C. Follow-up Examinations
Attending all scheduled follow-up examinations after LASIK and laser eye surgery is crucial to ensure your eyes heal properly and address potential complications.
Your doctor will monitor your vision and overall eye health during these exams, looking for signs of infection, inflammation, or other issues that may contribute to blurry vision.
If necessary, your doctor may recommend additional treatments or adjustments to your post-operative care to improve your vision further and ensure the best possible outcome for your vision.
D. Enhancement Surgery
Enhancement laser eye surgery after refractive surgery is a secondary procedure that may be necessary to correct persistent blurry vision after LASIK. It is typically performed after the initial laser eye surgery has fully healed, which may take several months.
Enhancement laser eye surgery can be used to refine the initial results of LASIK or correct regression or other complications that may have caused blurry vision.
During the enhancement surgery, the eye surgeon will use the same or similar methods as the initial LASIK procedure to reshape the cornea. The goal is to refine the initial correction and improve the vision further. The surgeon may also need to perform additional tests through eye exams, such as topography or wavefront analysis, to determine the exact cause of the persistent blurry vision and the best approach for correction.
Several types of enhancement laser eye surgery post-refractive surgery include LASIK, PRK, and LASEK. LASIK is the most common type of enhancement surgery and uses a similar technique to the initial LASIK procedure.
In PRK and LASEK, the surgeon removes the cornea’s thin outer layer before reshaping it, rather than creating a corneal flap, as in LASIK.
The recovery time for other laser eye surgeries, such as PRK and LASEK, is typically longer than LASIK. Still, it may be better for patients with thin corneas or other corneal abnormalities.
It is important to note that enhancement surgery is not always necessary or recommended. Your doctor will evaluate your vision and overall eye health to determine if enhancement surgery is necessary and what type of procedure will best address your needs. It is crucial to follow your doctor’s post-operative care instructions carefully to promote healing and reduce the risk of complications.
With proper care and treatment, enhancement laser eye surgery also can effectively correct persistent blurry vision after laser eye surgery and improve overall visual acuity.
V. When to Seek Medical Attention for Blurry Vision after LASIK
A. Red Flags
Mild blurry vision is a common side effect after laser eye surgery and is usually temporary. However, there are some red flags to watch for that may indicate a more serious problem.
If you experience any of the following symptoms after refractive surgery in addition to blurry vision after LASIK, it is important to seek medical attention immediately:
If you experience severe eye pain after LASIK may be a sign of a serious complication, such as infection or inflammation. It is important to seek medical attention right away to prevent infection and further damage to your eye.
Redness in the eye can be a sign of infection or inflammation, which may cause or contribute to blurry vision after LASIK.
If you notice redness in your eye, especially if other symptoms accompany it, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Sensitivity to Light
Sensitivity to light, also known as photophobia, can be a symptom of various eye conditions, including infection, inflammation, and corneal damage.
If you experience sensitivity to light after LASIK, especially if other symptoms accompany it, seek medical attention.
Discharge from the Eye
Discharge from the eye, such as pus or mucus, can indicate infection, inflammation, or dry eyes. Immediately seek medical attention if you notice a discharge from your eye after LASIK.
If you experience sudden vision loss after LASIK, seek medical attention immediately. This may be a sign of a serious complication of laser eye surgery, such as retinal detachment, requiring prompt treatment to prevent permanent vision loss.
Importance of Prompt Action
Prompt action is important when dealing with blurry vision after LASIK to ensure the best possible outcome.
If left untreated, complications can worsen and potentially cause permanent damage to your vision. Following your doctor’s instructions for post-operative care and attending all scheduled follow-up examinations is important to ensure a smooth recovery.
VI. How to prevent blurry vision after LASIK?
While it may not be possible to prevent blurry vision after LASIK completely, there are several things patients can do to reduce their risk of experiencing it. Here are some tips:
- Follow pre-operative instructions – Patients should follow all instructions provided by their ophthalmologist before the procedure, including avoiding certain medications and properly preparing their eyes for surgery.
- Choose an experienced surgeon – Patients should choose a surgeon with a good track record of successful LASIK surgeries.
- Use prescribed eye drops – Patients should use them as directed by their ophthalmologist to prevent dryness and inflammation of the eyes.
- Protect the eyes – Patients should avoid rubbing or exposing their eyes to excessive sunlight, wind, or dust, which can irritate the eyes and cause inflammation.
- Rest the eyes – Patients should rest their eyes as much as possible after the surgery to allow them to heal properly.
Blurred vision is a common side effect of LASIK and other types of laser eye surgery, and while it is usually temporary, it can be concerning for patients. By understanding the causes and treatment options for blurred vision after LASIK, patients can ensure the best possible outcome for their vision.
Artificial tears and rest can help alleviate symptoms of dry eye syndrome, while enhancement surgery may be necessary in rare cases of persistent decreased vision.
It is important to attend all scheduled follow-up appointments and to seek medical attention immediately if any red flags, such as severe pain or vision loss, accompany blurry vision after laser eye surgery.
Do not hesitate to speak with your doctor if you have concerns or questions about decreased vision after LASIK.
They can provide more information and help you understand what to expect during your recovery. With proper care and attention, the vast majority of patients experience improved vision and quality of life after LASIK surgery.
Frequently asked questions
A: Yes, blurry vision is a common side effect during the healing process after LASIK surgery.
A: Typically, blurry vision lasts for a few days to a few weeks after LASIK surgery as the eyes heal and adjust to their new shape.
A: Yes, other vision correction surgeries such as PRK, LASEK, and SMILE can also cause temporary blurry vision during the healing process.
A: Vision may take several weeks or even months to fully stabilize after LASIK eye surgery.
A: Yes, it is normal to experience some fluctuations in vision during the healing process after LASIK eye surgery.
A: Yes, sometimes contact lenses can cause blurry vision due to dryness, poor fit, or other issues.
A: It’s important to follow up with your eye doctor to rule out any complications or issues that may be causing blurry vision.
A: It typically takes 3-6 months for the cornea to heal fully after LASIK eye surgery.
A: Yes, dry eye syndrome is a common cause of blurry vision after LASIK eye surgery.
A: Yes, inflammation or infection can cause blurry vision after LASIK eye surgery and should be addressed by a doctor immediately.
A: Yes, the type of LASIK eye surgery and the extent of correction can affect the length of the healing process and the degree of blurry vision.
A: Yes, your doctor may recommend waiting a certain amount of time before wearing contact lenses after LASIK eye surgery.
A: Contact lenses should not cause issues with corrected vision after LASIK eye surgery if they are properly fitted and cared for.
A: It may be possible to wear contact lenses with dry eyes after LASIK eye surgery, but it is important to discuss with your doctor and use appropriate eye drops.
A: Yes, eye drops such as artificial tears can help with dryness and reduce blurry vision after LASIK eye surgery.
A: Eye exercises are generally not recommended for addressing blurry vision after LASIK eye surgery and may even be harmful.
A: Yes, regression or other complications can cause blurry vision after LASIK eye surgery
A: You should avoid strenuous exercise for at least a week after surgery to allow your eyes to heal. After that, you can gradually resume your normal exercise routine.
A: You should arrange for someone to drive you home after surgery as you may not be able to see clearly immediately afterward. Your doctor will advise you on when it is safe to resume driving.
A: It is normal to experience some discomfort or mild pain after LASIK surgery, but if the pain is severe or persistent, you should contact your doctor immediately.
A: While LASIK can significantly improve your vision, it may not give you a perfect vision. Your doctor will discuss your individual goals and expectations with you before the procedure to ensure realistic expectations.
Dr. M. Ronan Conlon started his career in the field of ophthalmology at the same time as the development of refractive eye surgery in Canada. In 1996, he brought laser technology to Canada from Germany, which allowed him to perform laser eye surgery before it was available in the United States. With the establishment of the Conlon Eye Institute, Dr. Conlon has performed more than 40,000 refractive procedures and has advanced his expertise in LASIK and refractive cataract surgery.