Dry Eye and LASIK

One common fear among the patients I see at Woolfson Eye Institute is of severely dry eyes after surgery, and it’s a question patients are smart to ask. The short answer is that, yes, your eyes will most likely be a little drier for at least a few weeks or even months following LASIK. On the positive side, surprisingly few patients find the temporary dryness bothersome—in fact, lots of patients have no dryness symptoms at all.

Dry eyes are not necessarily a reason foryou to fear LASIK. In fact, it’s frequently the reason people seek an alternative to contact lenses. Patients with mild dryness often are intolerant of their contact lenses, but usually do very well with LASIK. Our approach at Woolfson Eye Institute is to simply assess the degree of dryness based on your responses to our questions and the results of your dry eye testing. Our job is to classify your dry eye problem as mild, moderate or severe, and then counsel and treat you accordingly.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to predict who is more likely to have dry eyes and also plenty of methods for treating it. If you already have dryness as a symptom, you’re more likely to have similar symptoms or worse right after LASIK. Or, if you’re over 50 years-old, you’ll need to be prepared for the higher chance of at least temporary dryness after LASIK. Farsighted patients often have a tougher time, as well. Some health conditions, like thyroid disease and rheumatoid arthritis can also increase the chances of annoying dryness symptoms.

If your history and our testing lead us to determine that you have mild dry eyes, using lubricant drops before and after surgery is usually the only treatment needed. Moderate dry eyes sometimes need more aggressive treatment, like plugs in the tear canal (called punctal plugs) or prescription eye drops, in order to transform you into a candidate for LASIK. Severe dryness typically means that LASIK is not for you.

Dry eye is worth asking about prior to LASIK, and worth treating before and after LASIK, but it’s not always a deal breaker. When you come and see us at Woolfson Eye Institute, we’ll figure out whether your dryness is likely to be a hurdle.

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