By Dr. Kasey Brown
Topic: The perception of LASIK causes long-term dry eye.
One common question we get is does LASIK cause dry eye?
Let’s start this discussion by first understanding the components of our tears and the anatomy of the cornea:
Did you know that there are actually 3 layers to tears? There is a lipid, or fat, layer that is made by glands in our eyelids, an aqueous, or water type, layer made by a gland underneath our eyebrow, and a mucin, or protein, layer made by cells in our eyes. All of these layers have to be balanced in order for your eyes to be and feel healthy. Contact lenses can damage these glands and cause permanent dry eye. Studies have shown that contact lens wear is actually more dangerous to your vision than laser vision correction. Other studies have shown that the many people who had dry eye from contact lenses prior to LASIK had improved symptoms and normal ocular surface disease index scores, a score to determine how healthy the surface of your eye is, after their procedure.
Another factor that can contribute to dry eye is the cornea, which is the clear window that covers the front part of the eye. We actually have nerves that are present in the front part of our cornea that send a signal to our brain to blink and produce tears. During LASIK some of those corneal nerves are affected which causes short-term dry eye symptoms. However, the nerves do grow back, just like they do everywhere else in our body! The healing process is different for everyone, but studies have shown that very few patients still have dry eye symptoms at 1 year post-operatively. It’s important to discuss dry eye symptoms at your consultation because often times people have dry eye and do not even know it. There are different tests we can do to determine if your tears are properly balanced and if your cornea is in good health at your appointment.
Most of the time, dry eye issues can be treated making laser vision correction possible!