If you have developed dry eye after undergoing LASIK, you are not alone. Dry eye is an extremely common aftereffect of LASIK, affecting approximately 50 percent of patients. The symptoms are usually mild, and they typically don’t last long. However, in some cases, dry eye can persist for months or years.
The reason so many people experience dry eye following LASIK is that the creation of the corneal flaps affects the nerves that regulate the production of tears. For this reason, if you are predisposed to dry eye, a procedure other than LASIK may be the best way to improve your vision while lessening your risk of developing dry eye.
Early detection is the key to avoiding severe dry eye. By undergoing tests with your eye doctor, you can avoid this burdensome condition.
What Causes Dry Eye?
Dry eye can be caused by genetics, eye surgery and other factors.
Eye surgery sometimes reduces the sensitivity of the corneal nerves, which can prevent your eye from recognizing the need for lubrication and cause you to produce less tears. The corneal flap created during LASIK makes this procedure more likely than “surface ablation” procedures (e.g., PRK or epi-LASIK) to cause this problem.
Dry eye isn’t always a result of LASIK or another eye surgery. Many people experience dry eye well before their LASIK procedure. Contact lens use, for example, is a very common cause of dry eye.
How is it Treated?
Dry eye can lead to discomfort and less-than-satisfactory results. Consequently, your eye surgeon may attempt to help you prevent it before it even develops.
The following can help with tear production both before and after LASIK surgery:
- Prescription eye drops
- Supplements containing flaxseed oil and/or fish oil
- Anti-inflammatories such as corticosteroids
- Staying well-hydrated (drink lots of water)
If you develop dry eye after having LASIK, your surgeon may advise you to have punctal plugs inserted into your eyes’ drainage channels to increase moisture.
Screening for Dry Eye
Because dry eye can affect the outcome of your LASIK procedure, your surgeon may conduct screening tests to assess your tear production and distribution, as well as your tear film, prior to the procedure. These tests will help your surgeon determine if you are likely to develop dry eye after your surgery.
Risk factors for dry eye following LASIK include the following:
Severe myopia. If you have severe myopia (nearsightedness), you may be at increased risk of developing dry eye after LASIK, because your cornea will need to be treated at a deeper level.
Aging. This is a significant factor, especially for women who have been through menopause.
Certain medications. If you take antihistamines for your allergies, or if you take blood pressure medication or antidepressants, you may be at increased risk of developing dry eye after LASIK.
Dry weather or environment. Air conditioning and indoor heating cause many people to develop dry eye, as do dry climates such as the desert.
To learn more about causes, treatments, risk factors and other factors pertaining to dry eye, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor today.