LASIK has had a life-changing effect on many people.
A quick look at our testimonials will tell you that once you’ve had LASIK, you can’t imagine how you lived without it. The freedom it gives you is unparalleled.
While LASIK is an overwhelmingly positive experience, it is common for some patients to experience dry eyes to some degree after surgery. This is usually just for the first 6 to 12 months after the operation.
If you’re finding that you’re eyes are drier than they used to be before LASIK, it’s reassuring to know that there are safe ways to treat them.
Read on for why dry eyes occur and our top three safe ways to treat dry eyes after LASIK.
LASIK Dry Eyes 101 – Why Am I Getting Them?
If you’re suffering from dry eyes after LASIK, but do not normally have a problem with them, then there’s good news. In people who don’t have a history of dry eyes, LASIK related dry eyes usually clear up quickly.
It is not fully understood why LASIK causes dry eyes. What we do know is that the corneal nerve is responsible for signaling to the tear ducts that it’s time to move into action.
As the LASIK procedure affects the corneal nerve, it is possible that this is the reason that LASIK and dry eyes often go hand in hand straight after the procedure. Happily, though, any effects on the corneal nerve usually heal very quickly following surgery and dry eye symptoms often disappear in time.
If you are a contact lens user, a diabetic, or had very serious nearsightedness corrected by LASIK, dry eyes may take longer to resolve.
Let’s look at the three effective and safe options that most people with dry eyes after LASIK find effective.
Option 1 – Eye Drops
Perhaps one of the more obvious solutions for dry eyes is to look to the drugstore ‘eye drops’ section. Here you’ll find a range of options, from artificial tears to medicated options for particular conditions.
Look out for options that are labeled ultra lubricating or high performance to get the highest level of relief from post-LASIK dry eyes.
Some Ophthalmologists recommend a course of eye drops every hour for the first few days following surgery. This can then be cut back as you notice improvements over time. Given this high level of dosage, there is something to be aware of: preservatives.
Watch Out for Preservatives
Commonly, preservatives are included in eye drops as a way of extending their shelf life. The problem is that the preservatives themselves can be the cause of eye irritation!
The best eye drops for dry eyes after LASIK are preservative-free lubricating eye drops or artificial tears. These options can be used frequently and are safe to use.
The great thing is that now there are lots of options on the market that are advertised as preservative free. That means that you don’t have to memorize a bunch of scientific names and scour the ingredients listing on every bottle of eye drops before buying them.
Different brands suit different people and people find that they evaporate at varying speeds as well. Try a few different brands to find one that gives you the longest lasting relief.
If symptoms persist, your Ophthalmologist may recommend a medicated eye drop, such as one containing corticosteroids. This can give relief in the short term, but it’s not a good longterm option.
Some people find that artificial tears alone are not enough to give them full relief from LASIK dry eyes. Another safe and effective option involves a minor procedure at the doctor’s office.
Option 2 – Punctal Occlusion
The punctal occlusion approach to dealing with LASIK dry eyes looks at the problem from a different angle.
Rather than applying artificial tears to top up what the body is already producing, this works by blocking the drainage of the tears produced. The idea is that by keeping the tears on the surface of the eye for longer, the sensation of dry eyes will be reduced.
A very small plug is inserted by a doctor into the tear canal. We’re really talking tiny here – just over half of a millimeter in diameter. Yet that’s enough to block up the opening, preventing the tears from draining away.
Most patients find that they do not feel the plug at all. It’s also not possible for others to see the plug, so there are no cosmetic concerns with this procedure. It is performed under a local anesthetic and only takes a few minutes.
Most people find that punctal occlusion helps their symptoms. It can provide great relief to people who suffer from more severe, long-term dry eyes after LASIK.
There are two types of punctal plugs available and they work differently.
Collagen Punctal Plugs
Collagen punctal plugs are a non-permanent solution that blocks the tear drainage ducts on a temporary basis. They are effective for around 4 days and are then completely dissolved after ten days.
This is useful for immediately after surgery when symptoms are usually at their worst. Some practitioners have even started making the insertion of dissolvable puntal plugs standard practice after every LASIK surgery.
They can also be used as a short-term measure to see whether semi-permanent plugs would be helpful to the patient.
Silicon Punctal Plugs
Once it has been decided that punctal occlusion is the way to go, silicon plugs often provide a good semi-permanent solution.
They do not dissolve like their collagen equivalents and can stay in place indefinitely.
What to Expect
If you choose to undergo punctal occlusion to treat your dry eyes, then you can expect a short procedure that is minimally uncomfortable while it is being carried out.
The effects are immediate and you should quickly adapt to the feeling. Most people are not aware of them following the procedure, much like when one wears contact lenses. You can drive home and carry on with your normal activities with no downtime.
If you experience side-effects such as excessive tear production or feel that they are not working for you, then speak to your doctor.
Option 3 – Scleral Contact Lenses
If you are suffering from severe post-LASIK dry eyes or burning eyes after LASIK, then scleral contact lenses may also offer the relief that you need.
Scleral contact lenses are larger than regular contacts, covering more of the surface of the eye. This can be useful in the treatment of dry eye. They keep a layer of tears trapped between the lens and the cornea.
They are made from oxygen permeable material, which gives the greatest level of comfort to the eye. Users may find that changing the fluid every few hours with artificial tears specifically designed for use with contact lenses gives the greatest level of comfort.
It can take a little practice to master the use of scleral lenses. Here are a few tips:
- Get proper training in handling and inserting the lenses
- Put makeup on after putting lenses in
- Give them time – they can take about 20 minutes to feel good
The advantage of using scleral lenses is the constant bathing of the surface of the eye in tears. Dry eyes after LASIK are usually caused by a lack of tears as the corneal nerve heals and gets back to relaying the right information to the tear ducts about how many tears are needed.
By keeping the tears you are producing in constant contact with the surface of the eye, the dryness, irritation, and burning that some patients experience are alleviated.
They also provide a barrier between the inflamed surface of the eye and the constant action of the eyelids. Although blinking is essential, on dry eyes it can have an irritating effect. Using scleral lenses gives the eye surface time to rest and heal after long-term irritation.
The Takeaway: Treating Dry Eyes After LASIK
Dry eyes after LASIK might not be a lot of fun, but take heart!
There are many treatment options to that are safe and effective. Whether you find sufficient comfort from eye drops or need a small procedure like punctal occlusion or some scleral lenses, you don’t need to suffer in silence.
Remember, the dry eye effects are usually temporary! You can expect to be back to normal within a year of surgery.
If you’re experiencing dry eyes or burning eyes after LASIK then don’t delay.
Get in touch with us today to make an appointment to see one of our experienced team. We’ll get you on the path to more comfortable eyes so that you can enjoy the benefits of the clearer vision LASIK provides.