Can LASIK Cause Dry Eyes?

shutterstock_308975768Everyone experiences a bout of dry eyes every so often, but it is more common in laser vision correction patients. Some studies show that up to half of all LASIK patients experience symptoms of dry eye syndrome after surgery. While these symptoms are temporary, they can be challenging and uncomfortable.

Here, the team at Bochner Eye Institute explains the correlation between LASIK and dry eyes, and explains what can be done to soothe the discomfort.

Dry Eyes after LASIK

Because LASIK requires the creation of the corneal flap, the procedure interferes with some of the nerves in the cornea that are responsible for producing tears. When these nerves are affected, the cornea becomes less sensitive and the eye may not recognize that it needs moisture and lubrication. As a result, the body produces fewer tears, which leads to dry eye syndrome.

Dry eye syndrome can cause the eyes to feel dry, itchy or inflamed. It may cause eye redness, a foreign body sensation in the eye and sensitivity to light. These symptoms may persist for months or even years.

Dry eye isn’t always caused exclusively by LASIK. Many people that undergo LASIK already have dry eyes. In fact, dry eye symptoms may be a motivating factor to pursue LASIK. Regular contact lens wear can be uncomfortable due to dry eyes, and individuals that experience constant discomfort from lenses but do not want to wear glasses make excellent LASIK candidates.

Reducing Dry Eye Symptoms in LASIK Patients

Early detection and prevention are key to reducing dry eye symptoms in LASIK patients.

Most LASIK candidates are screened for dry eye syndrome prior to their surgery. Several tests can be performed to measure tear production and distribution and determine whether it is likely a patient will develop dry eye after surgery. A detailed medical and health history are also taken to determine whether there is an underlying condition, such as Sjögren’s syndrome, that can raise the risk of experiencing dry eyes after LASIK.

Patients that are very likely to develop dry eye may opt for an alternative vision correction procedure that does not involve the creation of a corneal flap. PRK is a good option for this demographic.

Special eye drops and anti-inflammatory medications can be prescribed for use before and after LASIK to stave off dry eye syndrome. Additional steps that can be helpful for maintaining adequate tear production before and after surgery include staying well-hydrated and taking fish oil or flaxseed oil supplements. In more advanced cases, punctal plugs can be placed in the tear drainage channels to increase moisture on the eye.

Bochner Eye Institute has established the Toronto Dry Eye Clinic to help diagnose and treat individuals that struggle with dry eye.

If you have additional questions about LASIK, dry eye syndrome or both, please call our office at 416-960-2020 to speak with a member of our team.