Many patients develop dry eyes after undergoing corrective LASIK eye surgery. In fact, dry eyes occur so frequently that fully one-half of all LASIK patients report experiencing this complication. Most often, dry eyes are a short-term syndrome that is relatively minor. Many people continue to have dry eyes for months or years following their operations, however. A large number of them had the condition prior to undergoing surgery. Thus, statistics may be somewhat distorted. In addition, pre-operative LASIK screenings are now available to identify and resolve dry eyes before surgery.
Dry Eye After LASIK Surgery
Dry eye symptoms after having LASIK surgery are by far the most common complication.
Because a corneal flap is made during corrective surgical procedures such as LASIK, the cornea's nerves are severed. Consequently, the eye no longer senses when it needs lubrication. This causes insufficient moisture secretion from tear glands. To retain good health and comfortable use of the eyes, they must be constantly bathed in natural tears. If the eye gets irritated or overly dry, its natural reaction is to excessive produce tears.
Not Just Dry Eyes
Not only may post-operative LASIK patients experience dry eyes; they may also lose visual acuity. To prevent this, doctors frequently suggest eye drops to maintain optimal moisture and lubrication within the eye. Even people with asymptomatic dry eye syndrome may be prescribed such drops as a preventative measure prior to LASIK surgery. For severely dry eyes, doctors may recommend PRK or some other corrective operation that does not use a corneal flap to perform the surgery.
Symptoms of Dry Eye
Some common symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome include sensations of scratchiness, stinging, burning, or too much mucus in or around the eye. Significantly reduced tolerance to smoke or wind with excess tear production may also occur. The last symptom may seem contradictory given the general nature of the disease. Eyes that are not lubricated adequately often get irritated and produce exorbitant amounts of fluid, however.
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Measuring Tear Production and Quality
Unstable tear film may result in blurred eyesight in patients with post-LASIK Dry Eye Syndrome. Extensive Ophthalmologic research and testing have consistently shown that arresting dry eyes yields the best long-term prognoses following LASIK. Newly devised tests that screen for dry eyes before LASIK involve tear film imaging; determining tear deterioration time by placing specialized dye on the surface of the eye; tear behavior assessment; and, tear production measurement with narrow paper strips placed beneath the eye's lower lid.
Careful Pre- and Post-op Management
Before performing LASIK, surgeons may administer tear film fortification treatment to ensure a comfortable, asymptomatic post-operative recovery. Oral consumption of fish or flaxseed oil for several weeks after LASIK may also be advised. Continued use of lubricating eye drops for an extended post-operative period or medicine to retard inflammation may be prescribed. Virtually every post-LASIK case of Dry Eye Syndrome resolves quickly and gradually decreases until symptoms disappear completely within a matter of months after surgery.