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Dry Eyes Before LASIK Surgery

Women covering face

Can You Get LASIK With Dry Eyes?

Dry eyes can be a painful and irritating condition. According to the American Optometric Association, dry eye is “a condition in which a person doesn’t have enough quality tears to lubricate and nourish the eye.” These tears are important because they maintain the health of the front surface of your eye and also provide clear vision.

Dry eye syndrome can exist in many forms and degrees of severity, but some common causes of dry eyes can include older age, specifically in women who have had menopause, taking allergy medications like antihistamines, as well as exposure to unusually dry climates. Usually, people with dry eyes either produce an inadequate amount of tears or tears that are poor quality—meaning they don’t contain oil, water, and mucus, the key components of quality tears.

The symptoms of dry eyes include:

  • Redness
  • A burning or stinging sensation
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Watery eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Mucus near the eye

Dry Eyes and LASIK

Unfortunately, if a patient is suffering from dry eyes, he or she may not be a strong candidate for LASIK surgery. Here’s why:

During LASIK, a flap is created in the cornea using a laser. This corneal flap causes sensitivity in the eyes, and the eyes do not sense the need for moisture. This, in turn, produces fewer tears. Dry eyes typically last just a few days for most LASIK patients, however, this effect can be harder for patients who already suffered from dry eyes before LASIK surgery. For this reason, LASIK surgery is sometimes not the best option for patients who suffer from dry eye syndrome. In its place, PRK surgery, which does not involve the creation of a corneal flap, is recommended, as it does not affect the eyes’ ability to produce tears.

There are, however, actions that a patient can take before LASIK surgery to treat dry eyes. Most LASIK surgeons will screen their patients for signs of dry eyes. These tests will aim to determine both the quality and the quantity of a patient’s tears. The doctor may take a sample of the patient’s tears, or use imaging to view the tear film on the eye. Using the results of the testing, the doctor can put the patient on a course of treatment. In some cases, a patient’s dry eyes can be treated with artificial tear eye drops that add moisture or other medication. The doctor will then follow-up with the patient to determine whether the treatment had any effect and whether the condition has improved.

If you suffer from dry eyes, and wonder if LASIK surgery is still an option for you, the best action you can take is to schedule a consultation with a LASIK surgeon. He or she can perform a screening and discuss whether you are a strong candidate for LASIK.

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