How Long Does LASIK Last?

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LASIK eye surgery is a vision correction procedure that treats vision conditions such as myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism.

One of the most common questions people have regarding LASIK is how long does LASIK last?

Is LASIK Permanent?

Yes, LASIK procedures provide permanent vision correction. During the procedure, the laser reshapes your cornea by removing some corneal tissue. After surgery, this tissue does not grow back. However, your vision may continue to change for other reasons. 

LASIK laser vision correction is typically a safe surgical procedure. More than 95 percent of patients who receive LASIK surgery are satisfied with the outcome. However, as with any surgery, there can be risks. A small percentage of patients experience adverse side effects or complications.

Rare visual disturbances and side effects of LASIK surgery include:

  • Halos
  • Glares
  • Starbursts
  • Poor night vision
  • Vision problems discerning contrast
  • Dry eyes
  • Vision loss

If this regression becomes bothersome, some patients undergo LASIK enhancement to restore clear vision.

However, many patients who experience minor refractive errors following LASIK laser eye surgery aren’t bothered by the change and do not seek additional vision correction. Others may decide to wear prescription eyeglasses for certain activities, such as driving at night. 

For those who opt for LASIK enhancement surgery, there may or may not be a cost involved. Any fees depend on how soon after the primary LASIK surgery enhancement is performed and the LASIK surgeon or clinic's policies. If you are unsure about LASIK enhancement costs, speak to your surgeon for financing options.

Vision Changes After LASIK

There are several factors to consider before deciding on LASIK surgery. These things can affect how long you retain clear vision post-LASIK.

Refractive Error

The focusing power of your eye comes from your cornea and lens. The cornea is responsible for two-thirds of your focusing power, while the lens comprises about a third. If your focusing power is inaccurate, this results in refractive errors.

graphic comparing normal vision, myopia refractive error, and hyperopia refractive error

For example, if you have a myopic refractive error, your eye’s focusing power is too strong. If you have hyperopia, your eye is under focused. 

LASIK alters the focusing power of your cornea to correct your refractive error. However, the focusing power of your lens can still change over time. When this happens, your vision may worsen post-LASIK. This is called regression. Even if you regress, it is unlikely that your vision returns to its pre-LASIK state.

Studies show that only 1 to 2 percent of patients regress enough to require an enhancement procedure in the first year after LASIK. After ten years, about 10 percent of patients need enhancement to restore their vision. 

Additionally, the higher your refractive error is pre-LASIK, the more likely you are to regress. This is particularly true for people with highly nearsighted corrections.

Age

Age is another important consideration for LASIK. Typically, your vision stabilizes in your mid-20s. If you receive LASIK before your vision is stable for at least a year, you have a higher chance of regression.

As we get older, many age-related changes in the eye take place. Around age 40, most people start to notice difficulties seeing up close. This process, called presbyopia, continues until about age 60. LASIK cannot prevent presbyopia from progressing. 

While LASIK does correct vision in people approaching their 40s, they should keep in mind that they will need reading glasses once presbyopia begins. Although this is not a form of regression, presbyopia causes continual changes in the vision after LASIK. 

A common side effect of LASIK is dryness. The frequency of dry eye also increases with age, particularly in menopausal or post-menopausal women. Dry eye complications can affect the overall quality of vision, which may emphasize symptoms of blurred vision related to regression.

Cataracts

Cataracts are another age-related change that affects almost everyone over the age of 60. Although there is no age limit on LASIK, older patients should consider potential vision changes due to cataracts.

cataracts scaled e1598035826129

Cataracts develop in the lens of your eye, not the cornea, so LASIK does not affect cataracts. If you develop cataracts after receiving LASIK and your vision worsens, there is a chance you also need to have cataract surgery.

One benefit of cataract surgery is that it can correct your vision. During the procedure, the surgeon places an artificial lens implant into your eye. This implant corrects your vision so that you may not need to wear glasses after surgery. 

Some people who have mild cataracts choose not to have LASIK, knowing they may need cataract surgery in the near future. This way, only one operation is necessary, as opposed to two.

Does One Type Of LASIK Last Longer Than Others?

There are two ways the surgeon can create a corneal flap during LASIK. One method uses a femtosecond laser, which is known as bladeless LASIK. The traditional method uses a surgical blade called a microkeratome. Both ways are safe and effective, delivering excellent visual results.

However, some studies have concluded that in the first year after surgery, bladeless LASIK carries a lower risk for regression versus bladed LASIK. Learn more about blade vs bladeless LASIK.

14 Tips for Protecting Your Vision After LASIK

Following surgery, visual disturbances may continue for a few days up to a few weeks after the procedure. Excessive dry eyes can occur for as long as six months following LASIK.

Improper care can lead to complications healing the flap, vision issues, or infections can develop. It is essential to practice proper eye care during the healing process to reduce risks and complications.

Here are 14 tips to help protect your vision after LASIK eye surgery.

  • Avoid driving until you can see clearly enough
  • Reduce screen time for the first week or so. Try to avoid screens completely for the first day
  • Do not rub your eyes for the first month
  • Wait a day to shower and wash your hair. When you do shower, keep the water, shampoo, and soap out of your eyes
  • Use a protective eye shield for as long as recommended. Your eye doctor will provide this
  • Avoid spas, whirlpools, hot tubs, swimming pools, and saunas for a few weeks
  • Avoid any strenuous activity for the first two to three days, including exercise
  • Wait a few weeks before playing sports. When you do, wear goggles for the first few months 
  • Wear sunglasses when in direct sunlight for the first month
  • Stay away from environments that are particularly dusty or dirty for at least a week
  • Avoid using eye makeup, lotions, and creams near the eyes for two weeks. Be careful when using products like shaving cream or hair spray
  • Use eye drops to prevent dry eyes
  • Stick to the eye care plan provided by your surgical care team. Use any medications provided as directed
  • Attend follow-up appointments. Discuss any questions or concerns with your eye doctor

Directly after LASIK laser eye surgery, you are likely to experience the following:

  • Redness
  • Soreness
  • A burning sensation
  • Cloudy vision
  • The feeling that there is a foreign object in your eyes

These side effects should clear up within hours. In some cases, they may last a day or two. By the time you attend your follow-up appointment, you should experience sharper vision with less discomfort. Your follow-up appointment usually takes place the first day or two following surgery.

Your eyesight should stabilize within six months following LASIK. If you follow the eye care plan as directed by your doctor and surgical team, you will boost your healing and visual success rate. If any side effects worsen or do not resolve, speak with your eye doctor.

Can You Get LASIK Again? (+Alternatives)

Yes, you can get LASIK surgery again. Generally, there is no limit on how many LASIK surgical procedures you can undergo in your lifetime, but this depends on the thickness of your cornea.

A LASIK enhancement is a second procedure that can be performed if your vision worsens after the first treatment. The enhancement can be done several months after LASIK, or several years later. 

Not everyone is eligible for an enhancement. If your corneas are too thin, it may be too risky to perform another LASIK procedure. 

The surgeon may perform a PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) instead of LASIK for the enhancement procedure. PRK is another refractive surgery that does not require lifting the corneal flap, which reduces your risk for certain complications. 

If your near vision worsens due to presbyopia, your surgeon can perform a procedure called monovision LASIK. If your distance vision is still good, the surgeon may only need to correct one eye for reading, usually your non-dominant eye. 

After the surgery, you will use one eye to see far, and the other eye to read up close. Some people have trouble adapting to monovision. Ask your doctor to test this method out with contact lenses before you commit to LASIK.

The Risks of Lasik Enhancements

Various factors determine whether or not you are a good candidate for enhancement surgery. There are risks with multiple LASIK laser vision corrections, and it is not the most suitable option for everyone.

Epithelial ingrowth and corneal ectasia are potential complications of LASIK enhancement. The rate of epithelial ingrowth is considerably low in initial LASIK surgery. However, the odds for the development of eye conditions like this grow with LASIK enhancement. 

During epithelial ingrowth, additional cells collect under the corneal flap. These extra cells lead to visual disturbances and discomfort. Eye conditions like these are usually treated with more surgery.

The thickness of the cornea is one of the primary determinations regarding the safety of LASIK enhancement procedures. Other eye health considerations and personal factors must also be addressed.

LASIK enhancement surgeries must harvest more corneal tissue. At some point, you will not have enough left. Each LASIK enhancement procedure you undergo makes the cornea thinner. If there is not enough tissue to work with, LASIK is not a safe option.

As you age, your eyes adjust. This can lead to the prescription and correction made by a primary LASIK surgery to change and can affect vision clarity. It may be a factor in considering LASIK enhancement surgery to fix it.

If you are unsure whether to undergo LASIK laser eye surgery again, seek medical advice from your surgeon or doctor. They can help you determine if multiple LASIK vision correction procedures are safe for you. They will likely measure the thickness of your cornea to understand your eligibility for LASIK enhancement.

There are laser surgery procedures such as photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) that can be performed as an enhancement if your cornea is too thin. Many surgeons choose PRK as an alternative to LASIK enhancement to minimize the risk of epithelial ingrowth.

LASIK FAQs

Is LASIK surgery a permanent fix?

Yes, LASIK is a permanent laser vision correction procedure that reshapes your cornea. The corneal tissue does not grow back. However, other vision problems can still develop due to age or trauma.

How often does LASIK need to be redone?

In many cases, LASIK will never have to be redone. In some cases, your vision may change for natural reasons such as age or trauma. This can be corrected with eyeglasses, corrective lenses, or another surgical procedure, such as a LASIK enhancement procedure or PRK.

How long does LASIK procedure last?

During the LASIK surgical procedure, your corneal tissue gets reshaped. This tissue does not grow back, so the effects of LASIK last for the rest of your life. It is still possible for your visual acuity to decrease due to other natural reasons.

Can laser eye surgery wear off?

LASIK is a permanent treatment option, and its effects (the reshaping of your cornea) do not wear off. However, you may experience symptoms of vision loss (such as blurry vision or poor night vision) due to other natural reasons such as a refractive error, age-related vision changes, or trauma.

Is LASIK painful?

Numbing eye drops are placed into both of your eyes before the procedure. Therefore, LASIK is not painful.

Is LASIK safe?

Yes, LASIK eye surgery is considered to be safe with a very low risk of complications. A reported 99 percent of LASIK patients achieve better than 20/40 vision. More than 90 percent achieve 20/20 vision or better after laser vision correction.

Is LASIK worth it?

LASIK is an expensive procedure, but the investment is worth it for many people. With LASIK, you can enjoy clear vision from the time you wake up until you go to bed. You can also live life without the need for glasses and contacts. This is not only convenient but also saves you money in the long run.

How much is LASIK?

In the U.S., the average cost of LASIK surgery is $2,200 per eye or $4,400 for both eyes.

Resources
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Alió, Jorge L., et al. “Laser in Situ Keratomileusis for −6.00 to −18.00 Diopters of Myopia and up to −5.00 Diopters of Astigmatism: 15-Year Follow-Up.” Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery, vol. 41, no. 1, 2015, pp. 33–40., doi:10.1016/j.jcrs.2014.08.029

El-Naggar, Mohamed Tarek, and Dikran Gilbert Hovaghimian. “Assessment of refractive outcome of femtosecond-assisted LASIK for hyperopia correction.” Electronic Physician, vol. 9, no. 3, Mar. 2017, pp. 3958-3965., doi:10.19082/3958

Garcia-Gonzalez, Montserrat, et al. “Effect of age on visual and refractive results after LASIK: mechanical microkeratome versus femtosecond laser.” International Journal of Ophthalmology, vol. 12, no. 3, Mar. 2019, pp. 488-495., doi:10.18240/ijo.2019.03.21

Lim, Sung A, et al. “Factors Affecting Long-Term Myopic Regression after Laser In Situ Keratomileusis and Laser-Assisted Subepithelial Keratectomy for Moderate Myopia.” Korean Journal of Ophthalmology, vol. 30, no. 2, Mar. 2016, pp. 92–100., doi:10.3341/kjo.2016.30.2.92.

Lin, Meng-Yin, et al. “Cox Proportional Hazards Model of Myopic Regression for Laser in Situ Keratomileusis Flap Creation with a Femtosecond Laser and with a Mechanical Microkeratome.” Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery, vol. 38, no. 6, Jun. 2012, pp. 992–999., doi:10.1016/j.jcrs.2012.01.025

Zhou, Jihong, et al. “Predictors Affecting Myopic Regression in − 6.0D to − 10.0D Myopia after Laser-Assisted Subepithelial Keratomileusis and Laser in Situ Keratomileusis Flap Creation with Femtosecond Laser-Assisted or Mechanical Microkeratome-Assisted.” International Ophthalmology, vol. 40, no. 1, Sept. 2019, pp. 213–225., doi:10.1007/s10792-019-01179-5

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What should I expect before, during, and after surgery?, United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA), 2018, https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/lasik/what-should-i-expect-during-and-after-surgery 

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