An epidemic of eye pain and blindness caused by LASIK has swept the US during the last thirty years. The ophthalmology establishment has done nothing to stop it. The reason? This devastating epidemic was caused by the ophthalmologists themselves. A multibillion industry has managed to suppress the truth about the many dangers of LASIK.
It is 2010. I am sitting in my office, listening in horror as a new patient sits in front of me, crying uncontrollably. He has gone blind, and he suffers from constant, severe, incurable eye pain – all because of a cosmetic surgical procedure performed by one of my fellow ophthalmologists. I ask him if he is contemplating suicide. He says yes. I take him seriously. At least 25 LASIK patients have committed suicide. He says he feels betrayed. I silently agree.
A few days later, my cell phone rings. A LASIK activist in England wants to check some facts for an upcoming article that will describe me as the only ophthalmologist in the world willing to criticize LASIK. He knows about the dangers of LASIK. His life was ruined by LASIK-induced blindness and pain. He and I have dedicated our lives to banning LASIK.
I am the only ophthalmologist who is willing to criticize this dangerous cosmetic procedure publicly, although when I talk to other ophthalmologists in private, they readily admit how dangerous this procedure is.
My campaign against LASIK included a June 12, 2018, front page article in the New York Times, written by Roni Caryn Rabin, on the dangers of LASIK. Most articles in the Times are lucky if they get a few hundred thousand page-views.This article had over a million page-views.
I made this article happen, with help from a friend who is a former editor at the Times. I guided Roni through the long, strenuous process of making absolutely certain every statement was accurate and backed up by peer-reviewed scientific articles. She quoted me in the article. Two days later I appeared on “Good Morning America.”
The assault from my colleagues was swift, personal, and lacking in scientific critique. One doctor accused me of promoting “fake news,” and said I am “no scientist.” Many colleagues pointedly ignored me at a recent professional meeting. One told me I wasn’t qualified to criticize LASIK because I am a retina specialist. Several letters of complaint were filed against me.
Notably, however, no one addressed the merits of the well-documented facts: LASIK inevitably causes complications, many mild, some so severe that more than two dozen LASIK patients have committed suicide.
I am not the only ophthalmologist who has been personally attacked for criticizing LASIK. A world-famous South African cornea specialist was blackballed and excluded from ophthalmology meetings after he testified in a LASIK malpractice case. Other doctors who have testified for LASIK-damaged patients have been threatened by their department chairs and reported to the American Academy of Ophthalmology for bogus ethics violations.
What is LASIK, and why does it cause so many devastating side effects? LASIK is the acronym for Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis. An ultraviolet excimer laser is used to change the curve of the cornea. This changes the basic focus of the eye. (The cornea is the transparent curved window that lets light into the eye.) This treatment supposedly “cures” refractive errors of the eye – nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism – and thereby eliminates the need for distance glasses in some people.
LASIK surgeons begin by flattening the eye with a suction ring. This squashes the eye as if it has been squeezed by a vise. Remember that normal eye pressure is between eight and twenty-two.During the squashing phase of LASIK, the eye pressure shoots up to around sixty – three times normal.
Once the cornea is flat, the LASIK surgeons can slice off a flap, with a knife or a femtosecond laser, from the cornea – as if they were cutting a slice from a loaf of bread. Then the surgeons use the excimer laser to shave the cornea underneath the flap, thereby changing its curve. Finally, they place the flap back on the eye, and hope it will seal itself back onto the cornea.
A similar procedure, Photo Refractive Keratectomy, or PRK, also uses the excimer laser to reshape the cornea, but instead of making a flap the surgeons scrape off the top layer of the cornea. They then often put a toxic chemotherapy agent, Mitomycin C, on the cornea, to prevent haze. This drug is usually not mentioned in the consent form patient sign.
PRK is more painful than LASIK short term, but PRK patients do not suffer flap complications. That is the only advantage of PRK over LASIK. Aside from that one advantage, patients who have had PRK run the same risk of post-op complications as LASIK patients.Like LASIK, PRK is a purely cosmetic procedure. PRK was the first procedure approved by the FDA to re-shape the cornea using the excimer laser.
I was one of the first eye surgeons in the world to hear about LASIK. I was working with the eye residents in the Eye Clinic at the Harkness Eye Institute at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in the early 1980s when Dr. Steve Trokel burst into my room. He shoved a piece of paper into my hands, plopped himself in a chair, and began to talk. I had never seen him so excited.
I liked and respected Steve. His restless mind was always churning out new ideas. He had made a name for himself pioneering the use of the MRI to diagnose and treat diseases of the bony structure around the eye, which is called the orbit. His work greatly improved the ability of ophthalmologists to treat orbital diseases.
I was amazed when I looked at Steve’s paper. It showed an electron microscope photograph of a cornea. A rectangle, sides straight as a ruler, had been sliced into this cornea. Steve told me this perfect rectangle was created using an ultraviolet excimer laser.
I was impressed. This excimer laser could obviously shave the cornea with unbelievable precision, molecule by molecule. I listened with interest as Steve explained his new cornea-shaping technique. The thought crossed my mind I might have this procedure myself someday, to eliminate my nearsightedness.
After Steve ran into the next room to show his picture to another ophthalmologist, I began to have second thoughts. What he said was far too simple. The more I thought about what he was planning to do, the more doubtful I was.
One of the major flaws in Steve’s technique was that it would obviously make the cornea thinner. Thin corneas are weak, and more likely to be injured and develop other serious problems. It would also create a huge wound in the cornea, which would regenerate by forming scar tissue. A cornea covered with scar tissue will not see well. Also, the cornea has no blood supply, and therefore it would be notoriously slow to heal.
The worst problem, I thought, was how much pain this procedure would cause. The cornea has more nerve endings than any other part of the body. Any corneal injury – for example, a corneal abrasion – is excruciating. Anybody who has accidentally scratched a cornea knows about this problem. Corneal injury produces neuropathic pain – which is the worst pain of all.
I decided Steve’s idea was great in theory, but it would never catch on because 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. There is a huge market for cosmetic surgery – and LASIK is cosmetic surgery.
Eye doctors are supposed to take sick eyes, and make them healthy again. LASIK surgeons begin with healthy eyes, and turn them into sick eyes. There is nothing wrong with eyes that need glasses for distance. They see well before the procedure. They ought to see equally well after the procedure, but LASIK does not make eyes see better. All eyes see less well after LASIK if they are carefully tested. Patients are not told this nasty fact.
If both eyes are done at the same time- a practice that is frowned upon in other eye operations – LASIK patients sometimes do not realize their vision is worse.
Because LASIK is a cosmetic procedure, it is not covered by most 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.
My negative opinion of LASIK grew slowly, patient by patient, scientific article by scientific article, over many years. I saw happy LASIK patients, but I saw more and more whose lives had been ruined. All the problems I foresaw when Steve first told me about LASIK have come true, and more have arisen that I did not anticipate. Go to Google and type in “LASIK complications” and hundreds of pages will come up.
I realized I had to speak out against LASIK.
I was largely ignored until a man called Dan Dorfman telephoned me out of the blue in the early 1980s and asked my opinion of LASIK. I had no idea Dorfman was an infamous “stock picker” for CNBC. Stock market traders followed his comments closely. His opinion about a stock always caused its value to move sharply up or down.
I told Dorfman how risky LASIK was, and he reported my comments that day. I was astounded when the excimer laser companies stock value plunged. My words had made the laser companies lost millions of dollars. I suspect Dorfman – and/or some of his partners in crime – were shorting LASIK stock. The LASIK surgeons retaliated by claiming I was “naïve” and did not know what I was talking about. I ignored them, and kept warning all the patients I could not to have LASIK.
On May 18, 2008, I was interviewed by Dr. Jon LaPook, the CBS medical correspondent, about LASIK. I told him it was a horrible procedure and nobody should have it. On November 24, 2013, I discussed the disastrous complications of LASIK on the Dr Oz show. Both programs are readily available on You Tube, yet they have failed to discourage people from having LASIK.
Patients are gullible. They believe the glowing ads of the LASIK surgeons. They trust 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 refuse to speak out.
The problems of LASIK have been known for close to thirty years, but nothing has been done to curb this dangerous cosmetic surgery, and the public remains clueless about the dangers. Exhibit A: David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, wrote a column 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 could not be more wrong.
As of this writing, 17 million people in the US have had LASIK. Many are happy – at least for the moment – but many others have suffered devastating side effects that include dramatically decreased vision, inability to see at night because of glare and halos around lights, excruciating eye pain that never goes away, and a weakened eye that can go blind after minor trauma. The exact percentage of these complications is not known, because the LASIK surgeons refuse to report them.
The LASIK surgeons claim that with improved techniques the complication rate has gone way down. I know that is pure hogwash. Also, if they refuse to report complications how do they know the complication rate has gone down?
LASIK has destroyed careers. It has ended marriages. It has driven at least twenty-five victims to suicide. I know the names of many of these victims. The names of others have not been disclosed, at the request of the families. One woman has had her cornea and the inside of her eye removed to get rid of her unbearable corneal neuropathic pain. (The outer shell of her eye was retained for cosmetic reasons.)
The evidence for the dangers of LASIK is hiding in plain sight. A 2016 study, published in JAMA Ophthalmology, followed two groups of people before, and up to six months after, they had LASIK. The patients filled out a web-based survey about their vision before LASIK, and several times afterward.
The study showed a significant percentage of LASIK patients develop new visual symptoms. Overall, people’s ability to see small letters on the eye chart without glasses did improve after LASIK. However, 45% of the subjects who reported no visual symptoms without their glasses 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 WITHOUT your glasses?” Almost all patients who are nearsighted – especially if they also have astigmatism – will see glare, double vision, and starbursts WITHOUT their glasses. These symptoms disappear when they put their glasses on.
The two thirds of the patients who reported some visual symptoms before surgery 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: LASIK surgeons advertise heavily. 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.”
LASIK ads are deceptive. They usually guarantee patients will be able to throw away their glasses after LASIK, and they will have perfect vision. Neither of these statements is true.
The truth is that most patients continue to use glasses after LASIK. In a 2009 Consumer Reports survey of 793 LASIK patients, almost two thirds of them still had to wear glasses or contact lenses, either some or all of the time, for either distance, or reading, or both.The FDA website on LASIK correctly states: “Only a certain percent of patients will achieve 20/20 vision without glasses or contacts.”
Even for the lucky LASIK patients who see 20/20 without glasses, vision is far from “perfect”. The FDA website 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 vision after LASIK.” All LASIK patients lose – permanently – the ability to distinguish between subtle shades of grey, which is called “contrast sensitivity.”
LASIK patients inevitably lose contrast sensitivity partly because after the flap is replaced back on the cornea after the surgery, it heals into place by creating multiple tiny scars. LASIK patients look at life through scar tissue. They are looking through frosted glass instead of clear glass. One LASIK patient told me: “I feel as if I am looking through Vaseline.”
LASIK surgeons take a cornea with a smooth curve – a perfect dome – and convert into a plateau. After LASIK, all corneas have two curves – a flatter curve in the center, and a steeper curve in the periphery. The new, reshaped, central part of the cornea focuses incoming light directly on the retina. The older, peripheral part focuses light either in front of the retina, or behind it.
The result? LASIK inevitably causes decreased vision at night, when the pupil dilates and the peripheral cornea comes into play.All LASIK patients have at least some double images, ghost images, halos, or starbursts around lights at night, although in some lucky patients the changes are subtle enough that people do not notice them.
All LASIK patients take a risk when they drive a car or pilot a plane at night. I believe all LASIK patients should have drivers and pilot licenses that restrict them to day driving and piloting. They are a danger to themselves and others at night. I would not want to fly in a plane that is piloted by somebody who has had LASIK. Nobody would.
The irony is airline pilots are not allowed to wear glasses when they fly a plane. They must have uncorrected vision of 20/20 to qualify for their job. If they do not qualify, they often have LASIK. After LASIK, they may be able to see 20/20 with high contrast letters, but their actual vision is worse than before they had LASIK.
LASIK surgeons define “success” as being able to see 20/40 in their office without glasses. By that definition, many miserable patients are “successes.” The unhappy patients I have seen would not agree with their definition of “success.”
LASIK surgeons are clever. They measure visual acuity in dim light 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 and form in the real world.
I have seen many patients who have been permanently disabled by LASIK. One LASIK patient had to quit her job as a theatre critic, because she could no longer see the actors on the stage once the lights went down. An anesthesiologist I know had to retire because he could no longer see a chart in a dim operating room. Another woman – a banker – can no longer perform her job. She now lives on disability.As a bonus, her husband divorced her.
LASIK surgery is irreversible. There is no way to get rid of glare and halos around lights at night. There is no way to restore contrast sensitivity.A bad LASIK surgical outcome cannot be surgically corrected. One surgeon I know who once did LASIK no longer performs the procedure because – and I quote – “If something goes wrong, you can’t do anything about it”. There is no way to eliminate post-LASIK pain.
LASIK surgeons almost always do both eyes at the same time – a practice that is frowned on in other eye surgeries. Why? The patients who are most aware of the visual distortions caused by LASIK are the ones who have had LASIK in only one eye. When they compare their LASIK eye to their other eye, they recognize how poorly they see out of their operated eye.
A one-eye-LASIK patients came to see me, saying, “I cannot see out of my LASIK eye. You have to give me glasses.” When I tested her eye in the usual way, using high contrast letters, her LASIK eye saw 20/20 without any correction. She was one of the lucky 33% of LASIK patients who do not need distance glasses. The LASIK surgeons would call her a complete success, but she did not think her operation was a success. 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.
“Glasses will not help you.” I told her. She stormed out of my office, saying she would get glasses somewhere else.
I have not mentioned flap complications. They are equally devastating. After the flap is put back on the cornea, it never completely heals. Even mild trauma – rubbing the eyes, being hit by a wave, contact sports – can dislocate the flap. The sight will instantly become blurred once the flap comes off. The dislocated flap must be replaced surgically as soon as possible.
I advise all my LASIK patients to wear eye protection during contact sports, and goggles while swimming. I am not the one who should be warning them about this. This should be the responsibility of the LASIK surgeons.
Because the flap never heals down completely, bacteria can easily creep under the flap and inside the cornea – even many years after the surgery. All LASIK patients face a life-long increased risk of cornea infection.
LASIK consent forms rarely mention the complications of flap dislocation and flap infection. I have asked LASIK patients who have flap complications, and they tell me their doctor never told them about it.
There are even more post-LASIK problems patients are not warned about. The cornea is not an inert sheet, like plastic. It is a living structure that continues to grow and remodel throughout life. Result: vision after LASIK is often not stable. In many cases, LASIK eyes go right back to being nearsighted again with time. Other LASIK eyes go in the opposite direction and become progressively more far sighted.
One of the worst LASIK complications is corneal ectasia. Again, the consent forms don’t mention this devastating complication. LASIK works by makes corneas thinner. If patients have corneas that are unusually thin to begin with, the corneas can relentlessly bulge out in the trimmed area after LASIK – a kind of hernia of the cornea. This problem is called “ectasia.” (In rare instances, ectasia can be caused by a hereditary eye disease, keratoconus.)
Ectasia is a nasty problem. As ectasia gets more and more pronounced, the eye becomes more and more nearsighted, and develops marked irregular astigmatism. Glasses and soft contact lenses cannot correct vision destroyed by ectasia.
What is the incidence of ectasia after LASIK? Remember that the LASIK surgeons do not allow any of their data about LASIK complications to be made public.In February 2015, only 100 cases of ectasia had been reported in the literature by the LASIK surgeons. One LASIK surgeon said at a cornea research meeting that surgeons don’t report ectasia to the FDA because they are afraid of lawsuit.
When a company called Avedro, Inc. went public in 2016, the world finally got an accurate picture of the true incidence of post-LASIK ectasia. Avedro is a new medical device and pharmaceutical company that sells a drug-device combination treatment that performs cornea collagen cross-linking, using riboflavin and ultraviolet light. Avedro claims this treatment stiffens the cornea and – supposedly – halts the progression of ectasia.
In a press release in July of 2016, Avedro stated that 160,000 patients in the U.S. are affected with “corneal ectasia following refractive surgery” [i.e. LASIK and PRK].How did Avedro get the number 160,000? There is only one possible source – the LASIK surgeons.
Another major problem I foresaw after LASIK was pain, but I had no idea how bad this pain would be. The LASIK surgeons call it “dry eye” – but these post LASIK eyes do not have any signs of dryness. What they have is far worse. They have neuropathic pain.
Tiny nerves run through the cornea. Their function is to keep it safe and healthy. After these nerves are cut during LASIK, they don’t grow back normally. They fire constantly, causing unbearable, untreatable constant 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.
Neuropathic eye pain consists of severe foreign body sensation, burning, and a sensation of dryness. Some LASIK patients put wetting drops in their eyes several times every hour, trying to get rid of 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 artificial tear drops do not work. Corneal neuropathic pain is a form of chronic pain syndrome. The chapter “Three Weeks in a Pain Center” discusses this devastating syndrome, and its proper treatment. Post-LASIK pain is treated successfully in Europe with drugs such as Amitriptyline. LASIK surgeons have not done any studies on treating corneal neuropathic pain with these drugs, because they do not want to admit this problem exists.
Beginning with Perry Rosenthal at Harvard (now, sadly, deceased), several ophthalmologists in the US have described corneal neuropathic pain following LASIK and its treatment. They include Pedram Hamrah, at Harvard, Anat Galor, at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, and John Cason, at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. Have the LASIK surgeons listened? Not much.
Nancy L. Burleson, a doctor herself, sent me the following letter about her son, who committed suicide after LASIK:
“My son, Max Cronin, age 27 years old, committed suicide 1-14-16, as a direct result of complications he experienced from Lasik. He left suicide letters stating this. He kept details of his complications… vision loss, constant eye pain, dry eyes, haze, and loss of quality of life resulting in depression and his suicide. He was unable to work or continue his life goals due to his eye complications.
As a medical physician, I can definitely state that Lasik complications can lead to suicide. I can also say that no one should have elective Lasik on their eyes.
For an elective procedure, the risks and long-term complications are understated. The resultant complications and negative quality of life issues increase the risks of depression, attempted suicide, and suicide
Morris Waxler, PhD, who was formerly the FDA’s chief scientist in charge of clinical research trials, headed the FDA committee that approved LASIK in 1998. Thirteen years later, he took a second look at the original data the LASIK surgeons gave to the FDA. Then he reviewed every scientific paper on LASIK complications in the world literature. (He was able to look at medical research not readily available to the general public.)
Morris realized the FDA-required clinical trials had only looked at how well patients could read the eye chart.They had ignored serious side effects such as 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 claimed these problems were “temporary side effects.”Morris realized, to his horror, they were in fact permanent and devastating injuries. The actual data the LASIK surgeons had presented to the FDA showed that twelve months after LASIK almost 60% of patients had fluctuating vision in dim light, 50% suffered from gritty eyes, and 20% had problems driving at night.
Morris has been an even more effective whistle blower than I have. On January 6, 2011, he filed a citizen’s petition “To request the Commissioner of Food and Drugs to withdraw FDA approval (PMA) 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 lasers… used for LASIK eye surgery.”
Morris’s petition runs thirty-two pages. It contains ten figures, and six tables. It has one hundred and one references from peer-reviewed scientific literature. That is good science. It is readily available online – simply type in Morris Waxler FDA LASIK.
His petition documents – in overwhelming detail – that LASIK eyes, in his words:-Never completely heal -Are permanently weakened, vulnerable to trauma and inflammation – Have neuropathic dry eyes – Have pathology that progresses annually – Are vulnerable to blinding corneal bulging (ectasia) – Have compromised night vision – Have unstable vision corrections that regress – Require eye care that otherwise would not be needed. What a damning indictment.
Morris concludes by saying LASIK risks and long-term consequences outweighed the benefit of reduced dependency on corrective lenses. Glasses and contact lenses are far safer.
How did the FDA respond? It recommended LASIK patients obtain a copy of their LASIK medical record, and the consent form they had to sign. The FDA website now reports that visual quality at night is permanently reduced after LASIK, even when the patient has 20/20 or better daytime vision; and that visual outcomes of LASIK decline over time. This was a drop in the bucket. The FDA did not ban LASIK.
Morris heard I was the only ophthalmologist willing to speak out about the dangers of LASIK. He asked me to go with him to Washington, D. C. on September 22nd, 2010, to testify about LASIK complications
Morris told the FDA committee about the misleading statistics that tricked him into recommending LASIK be approved, 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 my patients whose lives had been ruined by this procedure. ABC News ran a special about Morris’s testimony that evening.
Eight years later, I went again with Morris to testify before the FDA, on September 13, 2018. This time we brought two LASIK-damaged patients, and Nancy Burleson (whose son committed suicide after LASIK), along with us. Their testimony was heart-breaking.
I asked the committee if they really wanted their life’s legacy to be blindness, pain and death. We asked them to ban LASIK, or at the very least require the LASIK surgeons to give their patients accurate consent forms. We are still waiting for their response.
Today 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. Many of the patients make heart-breaking comments. (See http://www.thepetitionsite.com.) Despite all this evidence, the FDA has not revoked its approval of LASIK.
As time goes by, more and more studies show that eyes are made permanently sick after LASIK. We now know that LASIK patients need cataract surgery up to 15 years sooner than people who have not had LASIK.Research done by Dr Davis (www.eyeworld.org/article.php?sid=4164) shows that LASIK patients face a life-long increased risk of retinal detachment – the rate of retinal detachment in normal eyes is only .006%, but the rate after LASIK shoots up to between 0.25% and 0.36% – i.e. a four to six times increase.
Patients have no idea of the risks they are running, because the consent forms they sign LASIK are deceptive and inadequate.
I suggest the following consent form for prospective LASIK patients:
LASIK IS AN ELECTIVE COSMETIC PROCEDURE.
-If you have LASIK, there is less than a 50-50 chance you will be able to throw away your glasses, according to a 2009 Consumer Reports survey.
-Even if you see better at distance, you will have other problems you did not have before LASIK. For example, people over forty will almost always have to wear reading glasses.
-There is a 100% chance you will no longer be able to distinguish between subtle shades of grey.
-There is roughly a 50% chance you will develop a painful dry eye. This means your eyes will constantly feel as if sand is pasted inside your lids, and they will burn as if you have hot pepper sauce in them. The chance this pain will be with you for the rest of your life is close to 100%.
-There is a significant chance you will no longer be able to function in dim light. You may have to give up driving at night and going to the movies. If your job requires functioning in dim light, you may become permanently disabled.
-LASIK permanently bends, thins and weakens the cornea, which can lead to ectasia. Ectasia is a progressive steeping, or bulging, of the cornea – rather like a tire that has developed a weak spot. As the weakened cornea is pushed further and further out, the eye develops irregular astigmatism that cannot be corrected by glasses or soft contact lenses. Ectasia can develop twenty-five years after apparently successful LASIK.
-To cap it off, your eye is likely to go right back to being nearsighted, or it may even become farsighted. Some eyes continue to fluctuate in vision for as long as twenty-five years.
The LASIK consent forms today are nowhere near this detailed and specific. These problems are sometimes mentioned, but the forms do not give percentages, and they are not written in language the patients can understand. If the risks were explained to each patient like this, with the percentages of each risk included, nobody in their right mind would have this procedure.
I will close with a recent letter from a LASIK- damaged patient. She had PRK, i.e., LASIK without the flap:
“You have renewed my faith in the medical industry.After meeting with many ophthalmologists (private and at teaching hospitals) to try to find some
relief from my PRK complications, you are the first M.D. I have been exposed to that has questioned the PRK/Lasik outcomes.I have had some that said they would not have it themselves, but they still recommend the procedure to others.
Before my surgery I could find no one unhappy with… the surgery, and after my surgery they seemed to be everywhere.But people will not hear what they do not want to.
I tell everyone I know who is contemplating the procedure, to at least record (not secretly) the conversations with their surgeons.I believe the discussion will follow much more the list you have described, and that I recently saw on my Facebook support group.(Even WebMD and MAYO Clinic websites, where I started my research, portray a surgery where all side effects are short lived – and, as you know, there really are no long-term studies.)I do feel like this is a public health debacle, with young people risking their life-long eye health to problems that will sometimes not show up for years.
Thank you for helping to inform the public.You are a light shining in darkness!”
I do not understand why my fellow ophthalmologists are not willing warn patients about the complications of LASIK. Surely, they must have some empathy for all the suffering people who have been damaged by this procedure. Most seem to accept without question the right of LASIK surgeons to operate on patients who have no idea of the risks they run when they sign up for LASIK. I can only speculate this elective surgery is so financially beneficial their judgment is affected.
I was incredulous at my medical school graduation in 1977 when Dr. Lowell Bellin, New York City’s chief health officer and self-described “medical cop,” told us that some doctors do not put their patients first. Now I have proof that LASIK surgeons do not care about their patients. Instead of doing good, they do harm. They destroy eyes instead of healing them. I have become a medical cop myself.
I get nothing from telling the truth about LASIK except the criticism of my peers, but I could not live with myself if I did not do it. I went into ophthalmology to heal sick eyes. LASIK takes healthy eyes and turns a hefty percentage of them – in some studies, 100% – into sick eyes.
The increasing number of malpractice suits against LASIK surgeons shows LASIK is giving ophthalmology a bad name. Ophthalmologists should save sight, not destroy it. Speak up, my fellow ophthalmologists, and share your reservations. The world is watching.
I have watched damaged LASIK patients cry in my office, sobbing they trusted their doctor and their doctor betrayed them, never warned them this could happen to them. I want 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 vow they will never perform LASIK again.
Bottom line: the less eye surgery, the better. No eye surgery should be done unless there is a pressing need. If surgery is done to save sight – retinal detachment surgery, for example – we accept the risk. Getting rid of glasses is not a pressing need.
The best way to stop LASIK, in my opinion, is to require all LASIK surgeons have the procedure before they are allowed to perform it on others.