An epidemic of eye pain and poor vision has swept around the world during the last thirty years. The ophthalmologists have done nothing to stop it. The reason? The epidemic was caused by LASIK eye surgeons, who have cleverly suppressed the truth about the complications of LASIK. Patients have no idea LASIK can blind and kill them. “LASIK” is the acronym for Laser-Assisted in SItu Keratomileusis (kerato means “cornea”; mileusis means “to reshape”, in ancient Greek).
The goal of LASIK is purely cosmetic – to eliminate the need for distance glasses. It is heavily advertised as a “cure” for refractive errors of the eye – nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. LASIK is the eye equivalent of breast augmentation, a tummy tuck, a face lift, or a nose job.
Eye doctors are supposed to heal sick eyes. LASIK surgeons take healthy eyes, and make them sick. There is nothing wrong with eyes that need glasses for distance. They see well with glasses before the procedure. They ought to see equally well without glasses after the procedure, but they see worse. Patients are not told this nasty fact. LASIK should either be banned, or all patients must be accurately informed about the risks they are taking, and the long-term consequences they will face.
LASIK surgeons shave the cornea into a new shape using an ultraviolet excimer laser, which gives off incredibly short bursts of ultraviolet light – 1 to 8 nanoseconds. It can re-shape the surface of the cornea with dazzling exactness.
Stunning technology. Disastrous results.
Because LASIK is cosmetic, it is not covered by insurance. Medicare.com says: “LASIK is not considered medically necessary; therefore, it is not covered.” LASIK.com states: “Most insurance companies don’t cover LASIK…it is nearly always considered an elective or cosmetic surgery.” This means LASIK surgery is not subject to the price limits set by insurance companies. LASIK surgeons make more money than other eye surgeons.
LASIK inevitably causes complications
When I talk to ophthalmologists in private, they readily admit how dangerous LASIK is, but they refuse to criticize this multibillion-dollar industry. They know there will be serious push back. I am one of the handful of ophthalmologists willing to criticize LASIK publicly.
I am in my office. It is 2010. I am interviewing a new patient. Four months ago, he had LASIK surgery performed on both eyes on the same day by one of my fellow ophthalmologists. Since then, he has suffered constant, severe, incurable pain in his eyes. His vision is distorted, and he sees glare and halos around everything. He is in tears. He is disabled from his job – from all jobs.
I ask him if he is contemplating suicide. He says yes. I take him seriously. At least thirty LASIK patients have committed suicide. He says he feels betrayed. I agree. I refer him to a psychiatrist.
A few days later, my cell phone rings. A LASIK activist in England wants to check a few facts for an upcoming article, which will quote me. He knows all about the dangers of LASIK. His life was ruined by LASIK-induced blindness and pain. He has dedicated his life to banning LASIK.
On June 12, 2018, an article exposing the dangers of LASIK was published in the New York Times. It received over one million page views (one hundred thousand is considered impressive). I made this article happen, with the help of a retired NYT editor. I guided the writer, Roni Caryn Rabin, through the laborious process of making sure each statement was backed up by peer-reviewed science. She quoted me in the article. Two days later I appeared on “Good Morning America.”
Today, most people have forgotten about it.
The assault from my colleagues was swift, personal and lacking in scientific evidence. One ophthalmologist accused me of promoting “fake news,” and said I am “no scientist.” Several colleagues pointedly ignored me at a professional meeting. One told me I wasn’t qualified to criticize LASIK because I am a retina specialist. A few filed letters of complaint against me with the president of the society.
Notably, however, no one disputed the facts: LASIK inevitably causes complications, many mild, some so severe they cause suicide.
I am not the only ophthalmologist who has been attacked for criticizing LASIK. A world-famous South African cornea specialist was blackballed and excluded from ophthalmology meetings after he testified for the patient in a LASIK malpractice case. Other ophthalmologists who testified in LASIK malpractice cases have been threatened by their department chairs. Some have been reported to the American Academy of Ophthalmology for bogus ethics violations.
If people understood the risks, nobody would have the procedure
If people knew how LASIK is performed, and understood the risks, nobody would have the procedure. LASIK surgeons begin by flattening the eye with a suction ring, squeezing this delicate structure in a vise. The pressure inside the eye shoots up to sixty or even more, i.e., three times normal or more. (Normal is between eight and twenty-two.) Imagine how much damage this causes to the eye.
When the retina gets stretched, it becomes more fragile and more likely to detach. The rate of retinal detachment in normal eyes is .006%, but after LASIK it shoots up to between 0.25% and 0.36% (link). In other words, the risk of a retinal detachment in LASIK patients is TWO THOUSAND TIMES greater.
The crystalline lens inside the eye is squashed, so LASIK patients inevitably develop a cataract that needs surgery FIFTEEN YEARS earlier than people who have not had LASIK.
Next, the surgeons slice a flap off the cornea with a knife blade or a femtosecond laser, as if they were cutting a slice off a loaf of bread – again, major trauma to a vital part of the eye. Then they shave tissue from the cornea with the excimer laser. Finally, they put the flap back on the cornea, and assume it will seal itself back again.
It never does.
A similar procedure, Photo Refractive Keratectomy, or PRK, also uses the excimer laser to reshape the cornea, but instead of using a flap the surgeons scrape off the top layer of the cornea. PRK was the first procedure approved by the FDA to re-shape the cornea. Like LASIK, PRK is purely cosmetic.
PRK is more painful than LASIK at first, but PRK patients have one advantage over LASIK patients – they do not have a flap, so they do not get flap complications. Aside from this one advantage, PRK patients have the same complications as LASIK patients – plus a complication that LASIK patients do not get.
The risk of sight-impairing corneal haze after PRK is very high, so most PRK surgeons today treat the cornea with a chemotherapy agent, mitomycin-C (MMC). MMC has not been approved by the FDA for this use. This toxic drug kills the corneal cells, so they don’t grow back normally. This reduces haze, but at a price. PRK patients have no idea that an experimental chemotherapy agent known to produce mouth sores, hair loss and extensive tissue damage to flesh has been applied to their eyes, with unknown long-term consequences.
I was one of the first people in the world to hear about LASIK. I was working in the Harkness Eye Clinic in the early 1980s when Dr. Steve Trokel burst into my room. I had never seen this man so excited. He shoved a still-warm piece of paper into my hands, plopped down in a chair, and began to talk. It showed an electron microscope photograph of a cornea with a perfect rectangle sliced into it, sides straight as a ruler. I could not believe my eyes. Steve told me this was created by an excimer laser.
I was impressed. This laser could carve the cornea, molecule by molecule, and eliminate the need for distance glasses? The thought crossed my mind I might have this procedure myself, to eliminate my nearsightedness.
When Steve ran out of my room to show his photograph to the ophthalmologist next door, I began to have second thoughts. What he said was much too simple. The more I thought about what he was planning to do, the more doubts I had.
One of the flaws in Steve’s technique was that it would – obviously – make the cornea thinner. Thin corneas are weak – more likely to be injured and/or develop other serious problems. Also, the cornea has no blood supply, and therefore it would be notoriously slow to heal.
The large wound created in the cornea would heal by forming scar tissue, and the patients would for the rest of their lives look at the world through frosted glass, instead of clear glass. One of my LASIK patients described this problem by saying: “I always feel as if I am looking through Vaseline.”
The worst problem, I thought, was how much pain this procedure would cause. I knew the cornea has more nerve endings than any other part of the body. Any injury to the cornea – for example, a corneal abrasion – is excruciating. Anybody who has accidentally scratched a cornea knows all about this.
I decided Steve’s idea was great in theory, but it would never catch on. The side effects would be too horrific.
I was wrong. I had vastly underestimated the desire of the public to get rid of their glasses. Remember that corneal refractive surgery is cosmetic surgery, and there is a huge market for this type of surgery. People crave any procedure that they think will make them look more attractive.
Steve’s corneal refractive surgery technique took off like a rocket. So did my negative opinion about LASIK – year by year, patient by patient, scientific article by scientific article. I saw many happy LASIK patients, but I saw others whose eyes, and lives, had been ruined. All the problems I foresaw when Steve told me about it turned out to be true, and more arose I did not anticipate. Go to Google and type in “LASIK complications” and hundreds of pages will come up.
I realized I had to start telling the truth about refractive surgery – which today is almost entirely LASIK. I get nothing for doing this except the criticism of my peers, but I could not live with myself if I didn’t do it.
LASIK surgeons usually operate on both eyes at the same time, which violates a universally accepted rule of eye surgery. Other eye surgeons always let an operated eye heal for at least two weeks before they operate on the second eye – yet LASIK surgeons insist patients have both eyes done on the same day. Some even offer discounts for the second eye. Why do they do this? The only possible explanation is they know vision is always worse after LASIK. When one-eye LASIK patients compare their operated eye to their unoperated eye, they are immediately aware the operated eye has blurred vision, distortions, glare, etc., so they will refuse to schedule the second eye.
LASIK surgeons always measure post-LASIK visual acuity using high contrast black letters on a white background. That isn’t the way we see in the real world. Objects are not all pitch black with straight crisp sides standing out against a clear white background. Our eyes need to distinguish between multiple subtle gradations of color, brightness and form in the real world. LASIK-injured eyes cannot do this.
LASIK surgeons are clever. They define “success” as being able to see 20/40 using high contrast black letters on a white background without glasses. By this criterion, they claim the “success” rate of LASIK is 99%. They never ask the LASIK patients themselves. By their definition, many miserable patients are “successes.” The unhappy patients I have seen would not agree with this definition of “success”, even if they can see 20/40 in the LASIK surgeons’ offices.
A patient who had LASIK in only one eye came to see me, saying: “I cannot see with my LASIK eye. You have to give me glasses.” I tested her operated eye the way LASIK surgeons test their patients, using high contrast letters, and her vision was 20/20 without any correction. She was one of the lucky 33% of LASIK patients who do not need distance glasses.
Her LASIK surgeon would tell the world her operation was a complete success. She thought her operation was a disaster. Like all LASIK patients, she had visual distortions, ghost images, and decreased contrast sensitivity, which do not show up in the usual office eye test.
“I’m sorry to tell you glasses will not help your vision.” I told her. She stormed out of my office, saying she would get glasses somewhere else.
The devastating complications of LASIK have been known for years
I began to speak out about LASIK complications in the 1990s. I was largely ignored until 1994, when Dan Dorfman telephoned me out of the blue in my office one day and asked my opinion of LASIK. I have since learned Dorfman was an infamous “stock picker” for CNBC. Stock market traders followed him closely. His opinion about a stock caused it to move sharply up or down.
I told Dorfman LASIK is “experimental and unpredictable” with “worrisome complications”, including “over and under correction, fluctuating vision, poor vision at night, and pain”. Bloomberg reported my comments, and the value of the excimer laser companies stock plunged tens of millions of dollars. The LASIK surgeons retaliated by claiming I was “naïve” and did not know what I was talking about.
I am glad Dorfman helped to reveal the truth, but I do not believe his motives were pure. I suspect he – and/or his partners – were shorting LASIK stock.
Complications of LASIK have destroyed careers. It has ended marriages. Two LASIK victims have had the inside of an eye removed to get rid of unbearable post LASIK pain. (The outer shell of the eye was retained for cosmetic purposes.) LASIK has caused at least thirty victims to commit suicide. The names of many of these victims are known. The names of others have not been disclosed, at the request of the families.
The devastating complications of LASIK have been known for years, but the public remains clueless about its dangers. Exhibit A: David Brooks wrote a column in the New York Times on January 13, 2017 saying “LASIK eye surgery produces more patient satisfaction than any other surgery.” (He was using LASIK as an example of how free markets work to lower the price of surgery.) He was dead wrong. As you now know, the LASIK surgeons never asked the patients how satisfied they were. Studies have revealed that seven years after LASIK, fifty-five percent of patients are unhappy with their vision.
When Dr. Jon LaPook, the CBS medical correspondent, found out I was speaking out LASIK, he interviewed me on May 18, 2008, I told him LASIK caused chronic pain, disability, and death by suicide, and nobody should have it. On November 24, 2013, I discussed the disastrous complications of LASIK on the Oz show. Both programs are readily available on YouTube, and are on my website, https://eyedocmackay.com/. They have failed to discourage people from having LASIK.
Patients are gullible. They believe the glowing ads of the LASIK surgeons. They trust doctors. They think doctors will never do them harm. They do not do their homework. They don’t want to hear bad news. And – most of all – other ophthalmologists will not speak out.
Lack of Reporting on complications of LASIK
As of this writing, roughly 11 million people in the US have had LASIK. The exact number of complications is not known, because the LASIK surgeons refuse to report them.
The LASIK surgeons claim with improved techniques the complication rate has gone way down, which is hogwash. These exciting new “improved” techniques all cut corneal nerves, thin the cornea, and cause scarring just like the old ones do. Also, if they refuse to report complications, how do they know the complication rate has gone down?
The evidence for the dangers of LASIK is hiding in plain sight. The Patient-Reported Outcomes with LASIK (PROWL) study, published in JAMA Ophthalmology in 2017, evaluated two groups of people before, and up to six months after, they had LASIK. It asked patients to fill out a web-based survey about their vision before LASIK, and several times afterward.
The PROWL study showed that, overall, the ability to see small letters on the eye chart without glasses did improve after LASIK. However, the study also showed that a huge percentage of patients developed new visual symptoms after LASIK. Forty-five percent of the subjects who had reported no visual symptoms prior to surgery reported new symptoms three months after their surgery – including double images, glare, halos and starbursts.
There was a major flaw in this study: one of the pre-op questions was: “Do you have glare and starbursts WITH OR WITHOUT your glasses?” Almost all nearsighted patients – especially if they have astigmatism – will have glare, double vision, and starbursts WITHOUT their glasses. These symptoms disappear when they put their glasses on.
As expected, two thirds of the patients reported some visual symptoms before surgery, and these patients were excluded from the tally of those who developed “new symptoms” after surgery. Result: the study statistics are artificially lower than they should be. It makes me wonder if the researchers had a bias in favor of making LASIK appear safer than it is.
If LASIK causes so many distressing side effects, why is it so popular? The answer: deceptive advertising. One ad from the LASIK Vision Institute states: “Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to struggle to see the alarm clock in the morning? Wouldn’t it be better if you didn’t have to take out your contacts at night to go to bed? Wouldn’t it be easier if you could participate in fitness activities without worrying about breaking your glasses? It’s just a better way to live your life.”
These ads make patients believe they can throw away their glasses after LASIK, and they will have perfect vision. Neither of these claims is true.
The FDA website on LASIK correctly states: “Only a certain percent of patients will achieve 20/20 vision without glasses or contacts.” Only a third of LASIK patients are able to stop wearing glasses. Two thirds must continue to use glasses or contact lenses, either some or all of the time, for either distance, or reading, or both, according to a 2009 Consumer Reports survey of seven hundred and ninety-three LASIK patients.
Even LASIK patients who see 20/20 without glasses do not have “perfect” vision. The FDA website also states: “Some patients lose lines of vision that cannot be corrected with glasses or contact lenses.” It would be more accurate if the website said: “All patients lose quality of vision after LASIK.” All LASIK patients lose – permanently – the ability to distinguish between subtle shades of grey – called “contrast sensitivity” – because of the scar tissue in their cornea.
Before corneas are subjected to LASIK, they have one single smooth curve – a perfect dome. After LASIK, the “dome” is converted into a “plateau”. The re-shaped cornea now has two different curves – an artificially flattened curve in the center, and the original, steeper curve in the periphery. The central portion – the “plateau” – of the re-shaped cornea focuses light directly on the retina. The untouched peripheral cornea focuses light either in front of the retina, or behind the retina.
The pupil constricts in bright light. LASIK patients look through the central section of their cornea. Since this section has only one curve, their vision is not double in bright light. In dim light, the pupil dilates, and the peripheral cornea comes into play. The result is that all LASIK patients see double or triple in dim light, with glare, starbursts and halos.
LASIK patients are a danger to themselves and others in dim light. A case in point is airplane pilots.
Federal Aviation Regulations require a pilot’s distance vision to be 20/20 or better, with or without correction, in each eye separately. Nearsighted, farsighted, and astigmatic pilots must wear glasses or contact lenses while they are flying. The FAA permits pilots to have LASIK, and allows them to fly if they have had a “successful outcome” as measured by high contrast letters.
The irony is the actual vision of these LASIK pilots is not even close to normal – especially in dim light. All LASIK patients are taking a risk when they drive a car, bus, train or plane at night. All LASIK patients should have licenses that restrict them to day driving or flying. I would not want to fly in a plane, or drive in a bus or a train, that has a driver or pilot who has had LASIK. Nobody should.
Patients who must perform jobs in dim light often become permanently disabled after LASIK. One patient had to quit her job as a theatre critic, because she could not see the actors when the lights went down. Another patient – an anesthesiologist – could no longer read charts in a dim operating room. Another woman – a banker – can no longer work on the computer. She now lives on disability. As a bonus, her husband divorced her.
One surgeon I know who once did LASIK told me no longer performs the procedure because – and I quote – “If something goes wrong, you can’t do anything about it”. A bad LASIK outcome cannot be corrected. There is no way to get rid of glare and halos around lights at night. There is no way to restore contrast sensitivity. There is no way to eliminate post-LASIK pain.
And there is no way to eliminate flap complications.
The flap never heals completely after it is put back on the cornea. This means bacteria can creep under it and invade the cornea, years after surgery. All LASIK patients face a life-long risk of cornea flap infection.
The LASIK flap is attached so lightly that even mild trauma – rubbing the eyes, being hit by a wave, contact sports – can dislocate it. When the flap comes off, the eye instantly loses vision. The dislocated flap must be replaced surgically as soon as possible. It is now much more likely to dislocate again.
I tell all my LASIK patients they should wear eye protection during contact sports, and goggles while swimming. I am not the one who should be warning them. This is the responsibility of the LASIK surgeons. LASIK patients with flap complications tell me their doctor never gave them any information about these risks.
Another post-LASIK complication that does not make it into most LASIK consent forms is vision instability. The cornea is not inert, like a sheet of plastic. It is a living structure that continues to grow and remodel throughout life. In some patients, LASIK eyes go back to being nearsighted. Other LASIK eyes go in the opposite direction, and become progressively more far sighted.
The most feared LASIK complication is corneal ectasia, which is a relentless outward bulging of the cornea – rather like a hernia. If patients have thin corneas to begin with, they are at high risk of ectasia following LASIK. (In rare instances, ectasia is caused by a hereditary eye disease, keratoconus.) Again, most consent forms don’t mention, or explain, this devastating complication.
Ectasia is a nasty complications of LASIK. As the bulging becomes worse and worse, the eye becomes more and more nearsighted, and develops marked irregular astigmatism. Glasses and soft contact lenses cannot correct vision destroyed by ectasia.
Remember, LASIK surgeons do not allow data about complications of LASIK to be made public. A LASIK surgeon once said at a corneal meeting he never reported ectasia, because he was afraid of lawsuit. By February 2015, only 100 cases of ectasia had been reported in the world literature.
The world finally got an accurate picture of the true incidence of post-LASIK ectasia in 2016, when a US company called Avedro went public. Avedro is a medical device and pharmaceutical company that invented a treatment that supposedly stiffens the cornea, and halts the progression of ectasia. During this procedure, riboflavin is applied to the cornea, which is then irradiated for 30 minutes with ultraviolet light. It does not work well, and can damage the cornea even more.
Avedro stated in a press release “at least 160,000 patients in the U.S. have developed corneal ectasia following refractive surgery” [i.e., LASIK and PRK]. Aha. Now the truth comes out. If you do the numbers, this means almost 1.5 percent of LASIK patients develop ectasia. How did Avedro get the number 160,000? There is only one possible source – the LASIK surgeons.
Now we get to the problem of post-LASIK eye pain. I knew LASIK would cause pain, but I had no idea how bad this pain would be. The LASIK surgeons call this pain “dry eye” – but these eyes do not show any signs of dryness. What they have is far worse. They have neuropathic pain.
Tiny nerves run through the cornea. Their role is to keep it safe and healthy. These nerves are always cut during LASIK, and they never grow back normally. They fire constantly, causing unrelenting, unbearable, untreatable pain. This same phenomenon occurs when a patient loses a limb. In this case it is called: “phantom pain.” All LASIK patients develop at least some neuropathic pain.
Chronic neuropathic corneal pain causes severe foreign body sensation, burning, and dryness. Some LASIK patients put wetting drops in their eyes several times an hour, trying to alleviate the pain. Yes, I mean every hour. Walk into any drug store and you will see shelves of artificial tears labelled “For LASIK dryness.” The irony is that these artificial tear drops do not help, because the eye is not dry. It has chronic pain syndrome. You will learn about this nasty syndrome when you read Chapter 22, “A Brain Devoured by Pain”.
Post-LASIK corneal neuropathic pain has been treated successfully in Europe with drugs like Amitriptyline. LASIK surgeons in the US have not done any studies on the treatment of corneal neuropathic pain, because they do not want to admit the problem exists.
Very few US ophthalmologists treat corneal neuropathic pain following LASIK. They include Perry Rosenthal (now, sadly, deceased), Pedram Hamrah at Tufts in Boston, Anat Galor at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, and John Cason at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. Have the LASIK surgeons referred any of their chronic pain patients to these specialists? Of course not.
The head of the FDA committee that approved LASIK in 1998 was Dr. Morris Waxler, who was at that time their chief scientist in charge of clinical research trials. When Morris retired from the FDA, he began to see more and more LASIK patients with serious complications. He realized something was not right. He took another look at the original data the LASIK surgeons gave the FDA when they were trying to get approval for LASIK. Then he reviewed every scientific paper on LASIK complications in the world literature. (He was able to look at medical research papers not readily available to the general public.)
Morris realized, to his horror, the FDA-required clinical trials had only looked at how well patients could read the eye chart. These trials ignored serious side effects, including persistent night vision problems and chronic dry eye. They failed to detect these permanent long-term complications because they had small numbers of patients and short-term follow-up.
The LASIK surgeons assured Morris these complications of LASIK were “temporary side effects.” Morris realized they were in fact permanent and devastating. The actual original data showed that twelve months after LASIK, 60% of patients had fluctuating vision in dim light, 50% suffered from gritty eyes, 40% had light sensitivity, 20% had fluctuating vision in bright and in dim light, and 15-20% had problems driving at night because of glare and halos.
Morris heard I was willing to speak out about LASIK complications. He invited me to go with him to Washington, D. C. to testify before the FDA on September 22nd, 2010. I accepted.
As Morris and I rose up the gleaming escalator of the shiny brand-new main building of the FDA complex in Silver Springs, Maryland, I thought it would be a slam dunk to convince the FDA to ban LASIK. This dazzling palace must have dazzling minds inside. It was clear LASIK was a massive public health problem. Once the regulators knew the facts, they would surely take action.
Morris told the FDA committee about the misleading statistics that tricked him into recommending LASIK, and why he had changed his mind. I told them how the cornea behaves when it is wounded, and why the side effects are unavoidable and disastrous. I also told them about patients whose lives had been ruined by this procedure. ABC News ran a special about Morris’s testimony that evening.
Three months after we testified, on January 6, 2011, Morris filed a citizen’s petition with the FDA asking it to ban LASIK. His petition is thirty-two pages long. Every statement is based on well-documented scientific research. It includes ten figures, six tables, and one hundred and one references from peer-reviewed scientific literature. Now that is good science. It is readily available online – simply Google Morris Waxler FDA LASIK.
The Waxler petition asked the FDA to withdraw approval for all LASIK devices, and issue a Public Health Advisory with a voluntary recall of LASIK devices in an effort to stop the epidemic of permanent eye injury caused by LASIK. He states “LASIK eyes never completely heal, are permanently weakened, vulnerable to trauma and inflammation, develop neuropathic dry eyes, have pathology that progresses annually, are vulnerable to blinding corneal bulging, have compromised night vision, have unstable vision corrections that regress, and require eye care that otherwise would not be needed.”
Morris concluded by saying LASIK risks and long-term consequences outweigh the benefit of reduced dependence on corrective lenses.
How did the FDA respond? A drop in the bucket. It recommended LASIK patients obtain a copy of their medical record, including the consent form. The FDA website now states visual quality at night is permanently reduced after LASIK, even in patients with 20/20 or better vision in bright light. It also warns visual outcomes of LASIK decline over time.
The FDA did not ban LASIK.
Morris and I refused to give up. Eight years later, we went back to the FDA on September 13, 2018. This time we brought two patients whose life had been ruined by LASIK, and Doctor Nancy Burleson, whose only son committed suicide after LASIK.
I asked the committee members if they wanted their legacy to be blindness, pain and death. Then I handed everybody a consent form that explains, in clear language a layman can understand, the risks of LASIK, and it includes the percent chance for each risk. They were told it was their duty was either ban LASIK, or require all LASIK surgeons give all patients this consent form, at least two weeks before surgery.
Here it is:
LASIK is an elective cosmetic procedure
- After you have LASIK, there is a 100% chance you will no longer be able to distinguish between subtle shades of grey.
- There is only a thirty percent chance you will be able to throw away your glasses, according to a 2009 Consumer Reports survey.
- You have a 50% chance of developing “dry eye” after LASIK. Your eyes will feel as if sand is pasted inside your lids, and they will burn as if they have hot pepper sauce in them. The chance this pain will be with you for the rest of your life is close to 100%. “Dry eye” is a misnomer. The “dryness” is actually nerve pain, caused by destruction of corneal nerves during LASIK.
- You have a 50% chance of developing glare, a 40% chance of becoming sensitive to light, a 30% chance of blurred vision, and a 10% chance of difficulty driving at night because of halos around lights and ghost images. These problems are permanent, not temporary. You may be unable to function in dim light. You may have to give up driving at night and going to the theatre and movies. If your job requires functioning in dim light, you may be permanently disabled.
- The LASIK flap never heals completely, so you have a lifetime risk of flap dislocation after minor trauma, and infection underneath the flap.
- 20% of LASIK eyes do not stay stable. They either go back to being nearsighted, or become farsighted, or fluctuate from one to the other. Some eyes continue to fluctuate in vision for as long as twenty-five years.
- Even if you see better at distance, you will have other problems you did not have before LASIK. For example, people over forty must wear reading glasses.
- LASIK thins and weakens your cornea, which puts it at risk of ectasia, which means a bulge in the cornea. As it sags outwards, the cornea gets steeper and steeper, and more and more warped. This causes irregular astigmatism that cannot be corrected by glasses or soft contact lenses. Your vision will become more and more blurred and distorted as ectasia progresses. The only way to treat ectasia is to use hard contact lenses, or get a corneal transplant. Ectasia can develop twenty-five years after apparently successful LASIK.
- LASIK stretches and weakens your retina. The risk of retinal detachment is two thousand times greater after LASIK.
- Seven years after LASIK, fifty-five percent of patients are unhappy with their vision.
Would you sign this consent form?
The LASIK consent forms do mention complications, but they do not give percentages, and they are not written in language patients can understand. If the risks were explained to each patient like this, with the percentages of each risk, nobody in their right mind would have this procedure.
There are thousands of MedWatch complaints on file with the FDA about LASIK injuries. Three quarters of them involve dry eyes (i.e. neuropathic pain), poor vision at night, and decreased visual acuity. There are over 1,200 signatures on a petition to stop LASIK. (See http://www.thepetitionsite.com.). Despite all this evidence, the FDA refuses to revoke its approval of LASIK.
While the FDA sits on its hands, people continue to go blind and commit suicide after LASIK.
In 2021, the FDA approved a hideously expensive medication for Alzheimer’s Disease, despite unanimous opposition from its independent advisory committee, who all resigned in the protest, and lack of evidence that it was effective in clinical trials. I have a strong suspicion this agency is for sale. The good of the public never seems to enter its mind. Who is watching the watchers?
Dr. Lowell Bellin, New York City’s chief health officer and self-described “medical cop”, spoke at my medical school graduation in 1977. I refused to believe him when he said some doctors do not put their patients first. Now I know LASIK surgeons do not put their patients first. I have become a medical cop myself.
Damaged LASIK patients have burst into tears in my office, sobbing they trusted their doctor but their doctor betrayed them, never warned them this could happen. I would like to drag every LASIK surgeon into my office, one by one, chain them to the furniture, and force them to listen to these suffering human beings until they promise they will never perform LASIK again.
The increasing number of malpractice suits against LASIK surgeons shows LASIK is giving ophthalmology a bad name. Ophthalmologists can save sight, not destroy it. Speak up, my fellow ophthalmologists, and share your reservations. The world is watching.
Bottom line: the less eye surgery, the better. No eye surgery should be done unless there is a pressing need. If an operation is necessary to save sight – retinal detachment surgery, for example – we accept the risk. Getting rid of glasses is not a pressing need.
The only guaranteed way to stop LASIK is to require all LASIK surgeons to have the procedure themselves before they are allowed to perform it on others.