The study involved 262 active-duty Navy personnel (average age 29) and 312 civilians (average age 32) who filled out a web-based survey before having LASIK eye surgery and a few times afterward.
First the good news. Only 1-4% of patients in both groups were dissatisfied with their vision at 3-6 months post-surgery.
The bad news is that 3 months after LASIK surgery, 43% of the Navy group and 46% of the civilian group reported new vision problems like halos, glare, starbursts, or double-vision they did not have before.
These symptoms can make it dangerous to drive, especially at night when oncoming headlights create starbursts. Driving in direct sunlight can also cause glare that makes it impossible to see the road.
For patients without dry-eye problems before LASIK surgery, 28% developed mild to severe dry-eyes at 3 months post-surgery. In severe cases, dry eyes are painful and require eye drops every few hours.
The researchers said the study was too small to generalize its results to everyone who has LASIK. However, they recommended informing patients about the risk of new vision problems after surgery.
The problem is that many ads for LASIK downplay risks and promise “20/20 vision or your money back.” The FDA warned a few companies about misleading ads in 2009 and 2012, but they are still common on TV and radio stations.
The study was conducted by a team of researchers at the Department of Defense, the National Eye Institute, and the FDA. It was published in JAMA Ophthalmology on November 23, 2016.
LASIK eye surgery uses lasers to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. The lasers permanently re-shapes the cornea, which is a clear layer of tissue on the front of the eye that helps focus light and create an image inside the eyeball.
The most serious risks of LASIK surgery are dry-eye syndrome (which may be severe), needing glasses or contact lenses after surgery, development of new vision problems, blurred vision, driving problems, and permanent vision loss.
Source: Symptoms and Satisfaction of Patients in the Patient-Reported Outcomes With Laser In Situ Keratomileusis (PROWL) Studies — JAMA Ophthalmology (November 2016)