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Do LASIK Results Diminish Over Time?
LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis) is a popular treatment for refractive errors. It corrects:
A newer version of the traditional LASIK procedure is IntraLase LASIK (iLASIK). Most surgeons prefer iLASIK because it eliminates the need to use a blade (microkeratome). Instead of the blade, iLASIK uses laser technology to cut through the cornea.
Bladeless LASIK also minimizes the risk of flap-related complications such as decentration. This is when the laser is not centered correctly on the cornea during treatment. This can result in an irregularly shaped cornea (astigmatism).
If you're thinking of undergoing LASIK eye surgery, you may be wondering if it's a permanent solution to your vision problem(s). Generally, LASIK does offer a permanent solution to vision issues. LASIK outcomes do not wear off over time.
However, natural aging can affect your ability to see clearly. This is common among people ages 40 and older. In such cases, vision can be improved by wearing glasses or contact lenses.
Your doctor may also recommend a repeated LASIK procedure known as LASIK enhancement or LASIK touch-up.
LASIK has some long-term outcomes to be aware of, but there are things you can do if your vision worsens after the procedure.
How Long Does LASIK Typically Last?
LASIK is a quick procedure with immediate outcomes. Most people develop clear vision a day or two after surgery.
However, this timeline may vary from one LASIK patient to another. It may take up to 3 months for vision to stabilize. About 96 percent of LASIK beneficiaries report satisfactory results after the procedure.1
The outcomes of LASIK surgery typically last about 20 years to a lifetime. This depends on the age you undergo surgery and the long-term health of your eyes.
Some people who have had LASIK may experience vision issues years after surgery, which might require some interventions such as retreatment or LASIK enhancement.
According to one study, only 35 percent of LASIK beneficiaries may require retreatment after 10 years.2
In most cases, retreatment is necessary because of an underlying condition that affects your vision, not because LASIK has failed.
Will You Need Glasses or Contacts After LASIK?
If you're below the age of 40, you will probably not need glasses after LASIK.
As you age, you're prone to conditions such as presbyopia (age-related farsightedness) and cataracts which affect your vision.3 People with these conditions may need glasses to enhance visual acuity.
Your ophthalmologist may recommend other treatment options if you experience vision issues years after LASIK surgery.
Common Reasons for Vision Changes After LASIK
Although the outcomes of LASIK are permanent, you can experience vision changes years down the line. In most cases, the cause is unrelated to the initial surgery.
Common reasons for vision changes after LASIK include:
1. Presbyopia (age-related farsightedness)
Presbyopia is the most common cause of vision changes after LASIK. As you age, your eye lens becomes less flexible, weakening your eyes' ability to see clearly.
Most people with age-related vision changes will need eyeglasses. However, a version of LASIK known as monovision LASIK can eliminate this need.4
Monovision LASIK involves correcting one eye for distance vision and the other for near vision.
Cataract development is part of the aging process. It's characterized by the clouding of the eye lens.
A clouded eye lens results in the following:
- Blurred vision
- Halos and glares around lights
- Double vision
- Poor night vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Vision loss (severe cataracts)
The condition worsens with time, requiring lens replacement. Your surgeon might recommend a lens replacement procedure such as cataract surgery to restore your eyesight.5
Keratoconus is the gradual thinning and bulging of your cornea, the clear front layer of your eye. Someone with keratoconus has a cone-shaped cornea and may experience problems with their vision.
Keratoconus commonly affects young people and progresses over several years. If you have keratoconus, your surgeon will not recommend LASIK surgery, as it may result in complications.
However, if mild keratoconus goes undetected before LASIK surgery, it can cause vision changes years after surgery.
People who have diabetes are prone to diabetic retinopathy. This condition affects the blood vessels in the retina (the light-sensitive area of the eye) and can cause vision loss.
You can prevent diabetic retinopathy by effectively managing your diabetes through healthy eating, staying active, and keeping up with medications.
5. Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration is an eye condition that causes blurred vision or reduced central vision. The condition is characterized by thinning of the macula, the part of the retina responsible for clear vision.6
Risk factors include age, race, diet, and health status. It typically occurs in people over 50.
Macular degeneration can affect one or both eyes.
During pregnancy, hormonal changes can affect your vision regardless of whether you've had LASIK or not.7 For example, fluid buildup in the body, including your eyes, may change the shape of your cornea, causing vision changes. You may also experience dry eyes during pregnancy, which can affect your vision.
Visual changes during pregnancy are usually only temporary and may not require a prescription change or LASIK retreatment.
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What to Do if Vision Worsens After LASIK
If your vision worsens after LASIK, consult your doctor to understand the reason.
They will conduct an eye examination to determine the root cause of your vision issue and recommend the appropriate treatment.
LASIK enhancement might be necessary if your cornea is in good shape for retreatment. If you don't qualify for enhancement, your doctor will recommend contact lenses, prescription glasses, or lens replacement surgery.
- LASIK surgery is a permanent solution to vision problems.
- The results of LASIK can last up to 20 years to a lifetime.
- Age, pregnancy, and the development of eye diseases such as cataracts can affect your vision after LASIK.
- If you notice vision changes after LASIK surgery, consult your doctor for necessary intervention.
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