Lasik and Dry Eye - What You Need to Know
Are you thinking about getting Lasik surgery but worried about developing dry eye afterward? Or do you already have dry eyes and are afraid Lasik surgery is going to make it worse? Either way, you need to be informed before making your final decision.
Our guide will help you understand what dry eye is, what Lasik is, and how the two may intertwine. If you do experience dry eye, with or without Lasik surgery, read on to see what home treatments may help relieve your symptoms.
What is Dry Eye?
About 4.88 million people who are over the age of 50 have dry eyes. Dry eye is more prevalent in women than men. Researchers say this is because of the estrogen hormone in women. Dry eye disease happens when your body cannot produce enough adequate tears as lubrication for your eyes. When you don’t produce enough tears, it leads to damage and inflammation on the surface of your eye. It can be extremely uncomfortable, painful, and a nuisance.
Symptoms of Dry Eye
Dry eye disease can happen in one or both of your eyes. Common symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Eye fatigue
- Watery eyes
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
- Difficulty driving at night
- Mucous in or around the eyes
- Scratching, burning, or stinging in the eyes
If you have signs and symptoms of dry eye disease for a while it is important to talk with your doctor. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist, such as an ophthalmologist.
Treatments and Preventions for Dry Eye
Dry eye disease is caused by a number of different things. If your healthy tear film is disrupted, then you will experience dry eyes. The tear film includes mucous, aqueous fluid, and fatty oils. It takes all three of these working together to keep your eyes smooth and lubricated. If one layer fails or has problems, then it can cause dry eyes.
Some common reasons the tear film stops working correctly includes autoimmune diseases, hormone changes, allergic eye disease, or inflamed eyelid glands. If you have one or a couple of these then you are more likely to experience dry eyes.
The easiest way to avoid dry eye symptoms includes not letting the air blow in your eyes, which includes car heaters, hairdryers, fans, or air conditioners. This might seem difficult at first but carry around sunglasses or other protective eyewear to keep the air away from your eyes. Wear eye protection or sunglasses indoors and outdoors to protect your eyes, keep them lubricated, and to avoid increasing inflammation in your eyes.
If you have lots of reading or work to do on a computer be sure to take regular breaks. One your break, close your eyes or blink fast to help spread the tears over your eyes. Breaks and closing your eyes will help keep them moist so you don’t experience so much irritation.
Another option is to use a dry eye mask. These heated dry eye masks are portable, applied directly on your eyes, and makes it easier for oil to flow through your glands and into your eyes. The heated mask has different levels and delivers constant heat to relax and heal your eyes.
What is Lasik?
Lasik eye surgery corrects your vision so you don’t need corrective lenses. Lasik is a refractive eye surgery that will give you 20/25 vision or better. Even though you get Lasik, it still may mean you need glasses in the future as you age.
Lasik surgery is low risk and complications, such as loss of vision, are extremely rare. However, the side effects include visual disturbances and dry eyes. In fact, about 95% of people who have Lasik experience dry eyes right after the procedure.
Does Lasik Cause Dry Eye?
Dry eyes are common after Lasik surgery. If you think your eyes are too dry to have Lasik surgery, talk to your doctor. Many times contact lenses cause symptoms of dry eyes. When people stop wearing contact lenses before Lasik surgery their eyes feel much better and are not as dry.
Some people experience temporary dry eyes after Lasik surgery, which is treated with over-the-counter or prescription eye drops. Other common treatments include a dry eye mask, a warm compress, and nutritional supplements.
Fish oil, flaxseed, and eating foods that are high in Omega-3 can relieve dry eye symptoms and get you back to feeling better.
Long-term dry eye does not happen often, but some people experience it after Lasik surgery. There are risk factors that make it more likely you will have dry eyes. These risk factors include:
- Contact wearers
- Asian descent
- Currently experience dry eye
How Does Lasik Cause Dry Eye?
While researchers don’t know exactly what causes dry eye after Lasik, they do have some ideas. Lasik surgery can cause nerve damage to your corneal nerve. The surgeon reshapes your cornea during Lasik surgery by removing some of the tissue under it. While doing this, the surgeon cuts some of the nerves. It doesn’t affect your eyesight, but it can cause dry eye.
Another reason Lasik may cause dry eye is because of inflammation after the surgery. The new shape of your cornea interacts with your eyelid differently, which may affect tear production or blinking.
After having Lasik surgery, make sure you are ready to combat dry eye with a heated dry eye mask to calm inflammation.
Talk to Your Doctor
Before you decide on having Lasik surgery, be sure to talk with your doctor. If you experience dry eye before surgery there is a higher chance you will experience dry eye after surgery too. Over-the-counter and prescription eye drops can help treat dry eye. An eye mask also helps with dry eye and allows you to relax.