Can you get LASIK if you have dry eyes?
January 4, 2022

Can you get LASIK if you have dry eyes?

LASIK surgery has improved the eyesight of millions over the past decades. Broadly speaking, it entails using a laser to correct vision to a point where a patient no longer needs glasses or contact lenses to see clearly. This procedure works for those who are nearsighted or farsighted. 

Unfortunately, LASIK isn’t for everyone. One common LASIK-related question we receive at Northeastern Eye Institute’s branches in Scranton and other parts of central Pennsylvania involves dry eye: “Can I get LASIK surgery even if I have dry eye?” The answer is, it depends.

What does it mean to have Dry Eye?

Can you get LASIK if you have dry eyes?

white plastic bottle with white cap” used with permission via Unsplash by Towfiqu barbhuiya

Tears play an important role in eyesight besides overflowing the eyelids when a human cries. Our eyes depend on tears to stay moist so we can see comfortably. This saline fluid secreted by the lacrimal gland also cleans our eyes by ridding them of dirt or other irritations. So important are tears that our eyes are constantly secreting them, even when we’re not upset nor super-happy. 

Sometimes, though, our ducts produce enough tears, perhaps because of glandular inefficiency, dry weather, the interaction of certain medications with the immune system, or a host of other factors. That condition of insufficient tears is known as dry eye. Incidentally, dry eye is also a side effect of LASIK surgery and can make you a poor candidate for this medical intervention.

How common is Dry Eye?

Dry eye is widespread, particularly among older adults, in the United States. According to the National Eye Institute, females over 50 are statistically at a higher risk of dry eye. Contact lens wearers and people with certain autoimmune disorders are also highly susceptible to candidates to chronic dry eye.

It’s estimated that as many as 16 million Americans have been diagnosed with dry eye. Worryingly, however, millions more may have it and not realize it.

What are the symptoms of dry eyes?

Individuals with this condition may be unaware they have it because its symptoms can be mistaken as part of everyday life. For instance, your eyes may feel sore and you attribute that pain to your having spent too much time in front of a computer screen.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmologists, symptoms of dry eye include:

  • Blurred vision.
  • Stinging or burning sensation in the eyes.
  • Scratchy or gritty sensation in the eyes.
  • Chronically red eyes.
  • Strings of mucus in and around the eyes.
  • High sensitivity of eyes to wind or cigarette smoke.

The ophthalmologists at Northeastern Eye Institute can test for dry eyes by looking at the surface of a patient’s eye and eyelids and watching them blink. If needed, they’ll also conduct a Schirmer’s test to see if there are sufficient tears to maintain good eye health. Determining the extent of dry eye can help doctors evaluate whether the condition will make LASIK surgery impossible medically.

Can you get LASIK if you have dry eyes?

Every case is different, so there is no one perfect answer. One reason dry eye is a concern involves an element of the LASIK procedure itself. During the procedure, some nerves in the cornea are cut and, as a result, can slow or stop tear production. Should that happen, the LASIK procedure could worsen a case of dry eye. Chronic dry eye even before LASIK can delay or sometimes prevent vision correction surgery. The good news is, there may be ways to address dry eye well enough to allow surgery to proceed.

Dry Eye Treatment for LASIK Candidates

If your doctors recommend against LASIK surgery because of dry eye, be patient and heed their medical advice. That being said, it’s possible to mitigate your case of dry eye well enough for surgical treatment to take place. At Northeastern Eye Institute, we have some treatment options for dry eye to make you a more suitable LASIK candidate, such as:

  • Artificial tear eye drops, which can provide the lubrication needed to keep your eyes healthy.
  • Prescription eye drops or ointments that reduce inflammation enough to allow the eye to resume normal functioning in the production of tears.
  • Insertion of plugs to block the tear ducts so that tears stay in your eye rather than drain out. (These plugs may later be removed.)
  • Self-care treatments such as warm compresses, eyelid massages, or careful eyelid cleaning in the shower. 

We suggest you follow your doctor’s advice to ease dry eye following LASIK surgery. This recommendation could be dietary changes to introduce more Omega-3 fatty acids, getting good sleep, staying hydrating, or avoiding breeze.

How common is Dry Eye after LASIK?

LASIK, considered a safe and effective refractive surgery, is performed an estimated 700,000 times a year. More than 10 million Americans have undergone the surgery over the past 25 years.

Dry eye is an extremely common complication. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 95% of patients will experience some form of dry eye following the surgery. Post-surgery dry eye has also been shown to be most severe immediately after the surgery, though the condition eventually alleviates in most cases.

Thinking about LASIK? Consult with the specialists at Northeastern Eye Institute

LASIK eye surgery can free you from a lifetime of glasses or contacts, but it may not be right for everyone — especially those with dry eye symptoms. The specialists at Northeastern Eye Institute will examine your eyes and help you determine if you’re a candidate. We’re the largest and most comprehensive eye care center in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Our doctors and staff have been serving patients in the region for the best part of four decades. 

We imbibe a proud tradition of service and excellence and seek to remain at the forefront of eye care technology. Our eye care services include treatments for cornea and retina problems, glaucoma, oculoplasty, and retinopathy. Call us or contact us online today for an initial evaluation.