skip to Main Content

Can I have LASIK if I have dry eyes?

Yes you can have LASIK even if you have been diagnosed with dry eyes. Dry Eye Disease is a common condition that we see in prospective LASIK candidates. As a matter of fact, dry eyes are one of the most common reasons that people seek out a specialist in ophthalmology. There are many different factors that can contribute to the signs and symptoms of dry eyes. Nonetheless, at Lucent Vision we address the risk factors associated with this problem and we also initiate therapy to improve the long term health of our patients eyes.

Can I have LASIK if I have dry eyes?

In summary, you can indeed have LASIK if you have dry eyes because of the following reasons:

  1. Contact lens usage suppresses tear production and promotes dry eyes. By ditching your contacts the health of your cornea can improve rapidly. This means more moisture on the surface of your eyes in the long term.
  2. If you have dry eyes, we can optimize your tears using behavior changes, eye drops, or other simple in-office therapies prior to your eye surgery.
  3. If you have an underlying autoimmune conditions that cause dry eyes, we can coordinate with your health care team to optimize your treatment strategies to maximize the health of your eyes prior to refractive surgery.
  4. It is possible that you may not be a good candidate for laser vision correction if your dry eyes cannot be brought under control. In this circumstance there may be other options that are available, such as ICL (implantable collamer lens).

What are the symptoms of dry eyes?

The most common symptoms of dry eyes include:

  1. Visual perception that fluctuates. Sharp and clear sometimes, and not so clear at other times.
  2. A sense of fatigue or eye strain when performing tasks that involve staring at screens.
  3. A scratchy, gritty, or burning sensation in the eyes that can also be accompanied with pain or redness.
  4. Watery eyes are a common symptom of dryness. When your eyes are dried out, there is a reactionary formation of excessive tears.

What are the treatment options for dry eyes before LASIK?

Your LASIK surgeon may use a combination of the following therapies to control your dry eyes before laser surgery:

  1. Lubrication of your dry eyes with over-the-counter artificial tears.
  2. Topical medications (i.e. prescription eye drops) that can boost your tear production and reduce inflammation.
  3. A simple and painless in-office procedure that takes five minutes can be done to occlude the tear drainage system to boost tear retention. We all have a small hole on the inner corner of the eyelid that normally takes tears from the surface of the eye down to the nose. This drainage system can be safely and effectively blocked with punctal plugs to improve lubrication on the surface of your eye.
  4. We all have small oil glands (also known as meibomian glands) along our eyelid margin that contribute oil to our tear film to help stabilize the tear film. Heat therapy can be used to improve the function of these glands.

How common is dry eye after LASIK?

Most patients will have a temporary reduction in their tear production system in the first 6 to 8 weeks after laser eye surgery. Dry eye symptoms can generally be controlled with lubricants during this time healing period. These dry eye symptoms tend to gradually improve as the cornea heals from laser eye surgery. Chronic dry eye syndrome that lasts more than a few months after surgery is very rare, and usually associated with other factors such as underlying medical problems, certain medications, and activities that promote dry eyes.

More FAQ’s About Can I Have LASIK If I Have Dry Eyes

How common is dry eye syndrome?

Dry eye syndrome is one of the most common reasons for people in the United States to seek the care of an ophthalmologist, or eye doctor. There are many risk factors associated with our modern lifestyles that may contribute to the large prevalence of dry eye disease.

Does LASIK cause dry eyes?

Although LASIK does not cause dry eyes, it has been associated with a transient reduction in tear production. LASIK (also known as Laser Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis) causes an anatomical change in the nerves that are found in the deeper layers of the cornea. This temporary interruption in nerve function leads to the symptoms of dry eyes after LASIK eye surgery. Over time, this network of corneal nerves regenerates and tear production improves and eventually stabilizes.

Who is most at risk of developing dry eyes after LASIK?

There are a number of pre-existing conditions that can give patients a higher risk of dry eyes after laser vision correction. These risk factors include:

  1. Women experiencing menopause may suffer from hormonal changes that can impact tear production.
  2. People who suffer from autoimmune diseases such as Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, or Sjogren’s Syndrome may already have decreased tear production as a result of their bodies difficulty with regulating inflammation.
  3. People who suffer from meibomian gland dysfunction may have a chronically unhealthy tear film composition. Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is a common problem associated with abnormally thick oil secretions coming from the meibomian glands located at the base of the eyelashes.
  4. Environment and behavior both play a major role in your eyes ability to maintain a normal tear film. Air conditioning can lower the ambient humidity and cause tear film evaporation. In addition, spending significant periods of time staring at screens causes premature tear evaporation due to infrequent blinking.

How are dry eyes diagnosed before LASIK surgery?

Prior to your LASIK surgery, you will receive a comprehensive eye examination performed by our corrective eye surgery team. We use the best diagnostic technology available including corneal imaging (such as corneal topography and tomography) to assess the health of your eyes. Your surgeon will also personally evaluate the top layer of your cornea (known as the epithelium) with the help of a high-magnification microscope. This portion of the consultation will also allow your eye surgeon to evaluate the function of the meibomian glands (oil producing glands at the base of your eyelashes) which contribute to your ocular health. Based on the results of your consultation, you may be diagnosed with dry eye disease.

Can treating dry eyes improve LASIK outcomes?

Dry eye treatment can indeed improve LASIK outcomes because having a normal and healthy tear film on the surface of the human eye improves its ability to properly bend light rays to the proper location on the retina. By the same token, if there is an abnormal tear film, it may causes blurred vision because light rays are not reliably focused onto the correction location on the retina. Having enough tears that are composed of the correct proportions of water, oil, and mucus can maximize your visual acuity after LASIK.

Is there an alternative to LASIK for patients with severe dry eyes?

There are multiple good alternatives to LASIK for patients who suffer from severe dry eyes. Photorefractive keratectomy (or PRK), is a laser eye surgery that does not involve the formation of a “flap” on the cornea. By avoiding flap creation, corneal nerves may be spared, and this may substantially reduce the effect of dry eyes for these patients. Another great alternative that bypasses the cornea altogether is the implantation of an ICL (intraocular collamer lens or implantable contact lenses). Both PRK and ICL treatments are primarily used for near-sightedness (i.e. myopia) and astigmatism, and may have a lower long term risk of dry eyes compared to LASIK.

How can I prepare for LASIK if I have dry eyes?

Before you undergo LASIK you can optimize your own tear film by making a few minor behavioral adjustments. In particular you can:

  1. Start taking breaks when you spend time in front of screens such as cellphones, computers, and television screens. All of these activities promote drying of your eyes, so if possible, take a few minutes of break time for every hour that you are staring at a screen.
  2. Begin using over-the-counter lubricating eye drops. These eye drops are also known as artificial tears.
  3. Consider using a humidifier in your bedroom or in the room where you do the most screen-based activities. If your ambient humidity is higher, you may lose less of your tear film to the environment.

What are the long-term effects of LASIK on dry eyes?

For the majority of people, the transient decrease in tear production associated with LASIK will cause temporary symptoms that subside gradually over the first three months after LASIK eye surgery. In addition, these symptoms can be treated with a simple regimen prescribed by your LASIK surgeon. Nonetheless, there may be the rare possibility of having more chronic symptoms of dry eye following laser eye surgery.

Avatar photo

Dr. Nimesh Pathak is a board-certified ophthalmologist who has dedicated his career to vision correction procedures such as LASIK and premium cataract surgery. He has given thousands of patients visual freedom in pursuit of his goal to deliver the benefits of clear vision with a personalized experience.

Back To Top