Various methods can be used for refractive surgery, including cornea remodeling, lens replacement, or lens implantation. Most of the common methods of refractive surgery use excimer lasers in reshaping the cornea’s curvature.
Successful refractive surgery can help reduce or even cure some common vision issues like hyperopia, myopia, astigmatism, and presbyopia.
Just like any other surgical treatment method, refractive surgery has some side effects. Most of them are minor and can be managed and treated using over-the-counter medications. The doctor also advises you on how to manage those side effects. Some of the side effects include;
1. Dry Eye
This is one of the most common side effects of refractive surgery. It is mainly caused by a temporary decrease in the amount of tears your eyes produce. That happens, superficial nerve endings found on the surface of your cornea have to regenerate and heal after the surgery.
That causes the cornea to become numb, losing the sensation needed to trigger tear production. Also, those nerve endings produce chemical messengers known as cytokines.
Those chemical messengers act as growth factors that coordinate interaction between the cells on the surface of the eye. Therefore, after surgery, the nerve endings may not be in a position to produce the cytokines.
Nerve regeneration may take between 6-12 weeks, and it may take up to 6 months for your eyes to stop being dry. The dryness may cause burning in the eyes and affect your vision. To deal with the dryness, your doctor may recommend eye drops.
If you experience severe dry eyes for a longer period, the doctor may recommend a procedure to have special plugs placed in your tear ducts. Those plugs will stop your tears from drying on the eye’s surface.
In any case, you had an underlying eye condition that was not detected before the procedure; dry eyes can become a permanent problem.
2. Halos and Glare
You may notice that your vision will be affected a few days to a few weeks after the refractive surgery. You may experience double vision and increased light sensitivity. You will also experience glare and halos around bright lights.
The halos and glare happen because the fluid in your recently treated cornea causes the light to scatter. That may make it dangerous for you to drive at night. After a few days or weeks, the fluid in the cornea clears, and the halos and glare clear up.
This is one of the worst side effects but also lasts for the shortest time. Immediately after the surgery, your eyes will feel uncomfortable, which is expected because someone has been touching them for some time.
That discomfort may last for about 30-45 minutes, and the best way to deal with it is to sleep or keep your eyes shut for some time. You will wake up with most of the discomfort gone.
You may however, still have itchy and scratchy eyes, and you may feel as if you have a foreign object in your eye. As much as you are tempted to, do not rub the eyes because that will make things worse.
Doctors recommend preservative-free artificial tears. For better relief, try having them as cold as possible before using them.
4. Flap Complications
Refractive surgery may involve removing or folding back the flap from the front of the eye. That can cause complications like excess tears, infections, buttonholes, irregular fragmented flaps, and partial flaps.
Also, the outermost tissue of the cornea (epithelium) might grow abnormally under the flap as the eye heals (epithelial ingrowth). In many cases, epithelial ingrowth does not cause any complications.
However, there are instances when it may cause blurred vision, double vision, and discomfort. These complications have not become rare among patients, especially those whose doctors use the IntraLase femtosecond laser.
5. Undercorrections and Overcorrections
Undercorrections happen when too little tissue is removed from your eye. That results in you not achieving the clear vision you had wished for. This mostly happens in people who have short-sightedness.
Undercorrections can be fixed by getting another procedure where more tissue will be removed. However, that has to wait for about a year, when you have fully healed from the previous procedure.
Overcorrection, on the other hand, happens when too much tissue is removed from the eye. Unlike undercorrections, nothing much can be done to correct overcorrections.