LASIK: New Concerns From the FDA.

Since the mid 90s, over 28.3 million people have had LASIK surgery for vision correction and that number is growing by 700,000 every year. Patients often jump for the possibility of “waking up with perfect vision” ;and in the last few years, flashy advertising, celebrity endorsements and lower prices have made this procedure even more popular. We hear success story after success story about LASIK, but what about the patients we don’t hear from that have post-op problems like blurriness, night blindness, or even permanent vision loss? Is 20/20 vision all that really matters?

As your trusted eye care provider, it is our responsibility to keep our patients aware of the latest in developing stories regarding eye care. A compelling story aired on ABC news on September 22, 2010 from Morris Waxler, PhD (former FDA chief in charge of the group that pushed for approval of LASIK), who has reversed his position on the procedure’s safety. He is now telling the public that 50%+ of LASIK corrected eyes are having major permanent long-term damage, and he is urging the FDA to issue an immediate Public Health Advisory to help prevent further injuries to Americans thinking that this elective surgery carries no risk. This comes after Waxler has reviewed peer clinical studies over the past three years which give him reason for concern.[youtube=]

The FDA’s explanation of LASIK is as follows: A painless procedure that permanently changes the shape of the cornea using an excimer laser. A laser device is used to cut a flap in the cornea which is folded back revealing the middle layer. Pulses from a laser vaporize a portion cornea and the flap is replaced. It may take up to six months for your vision to stabilize completely and even with 20/20 vision, patients may experience other problems ranging from dryness in the eyes to visual issues such as halos, glare, starbursts or difficulty driving at night. These problems may or may not improve, and some patients even continue to require vision correction even after the surgery. (

Let’s not paint too grim a picture though. Many people have a wonderful experience with LASIK and love not having to rely on contact lenses or glasses to see. Some say it’s the best thing they have ever done for their vision. Still, others are not happy with the results of the surgery and deal with the above symptoms on a daily basis. If a patient shows interest in LASIK, I gauge a patient’s expectations and evaluate his or her medical and eye history to determine if the surgery is a good choice.

If you decide that you are interested in having LASIK vision correction, do not be swayed to choose a doctor because of slick advertising or cheap deals. This is not a hair appointment, it is surgery. The choices that you make regarding your eyes will be with you for the rest of your life. For the best chances for a successful surgery, be sure you check your facts, do your research and then make your decision. After all, you only have one set of eyes. We refer our patients exclusively to one of the best LASIK surgeons in the southeast, who not only has years of experience, but will ethically decide if surgery is right for the patient’s overall situation.

Per the FDA: “You are probably NOT a good candidate for refractive surgery if:

  • You are not a risk taker.
  • It will jeopardize your career.
  • You required a change in your contact lens or glasses prescription in the past year.
  • You have a disease or are on medications that may affect wound healing.
  • You actively participate in contact sports.”

For more information about the surgery, the risks involved, and pre and post-op information, please visit the section of the FDA’s website devoted to LASIK. It is informative, up to date, and offers a detailed overview of every aspect of the surgery.

Larry Golson is an Eye Doctor in Asheville, NC