CLEVELAND — With over a 95% success rate, LASIK is one of the most popular elective procedures in the country. But after a former FDA adviser spoke out about safety concerns, some are asking if it’s really all it’s made out to be?
For years, Deidre Wenzel had issues with her contacts and glasses.
“I would get constant infections. I was just so tired of that, and then I had to go to daily contacts, and those are a lot more expensive,” said Wenzel.
She decided the near $5,000 cost of Lasik Eye Surgery would eventually be worth it.
“They did an evaluation and said ‘yes,’ I was a candidate,” she said.
After the 10-minute procedure, she was told to go home and take a nap.
“I hear everyone just wakes up and, boom, you can see, that’s what I wanted and that just didn’t happen to me,” she said.
Shortly after she woke up, she noticed her eyes were dry, that dryness got worse over time.
“I couldn’t see out of my eyes, I had to wear contacts again, the dryness was so extreme it was skewing my vision,” she said. “I took trips and I was driving, and I couldn’t see the distance sign. I never had trouble with distance, it was always up close that I was struggling with.”
Dr. Jeff Genos is the clinical director of Lasik Vision Centers. He said dry eye is a common side effect of the procedure.
“The vast majority of dryness fades with time,” he said.
It’s just one of the potential risks he tells people about before they undergo LASIK.
Some of the most common side effects are dry eye, halo, glare, double vision and regression.
“If you come in and have the proper evaluation, the chances of you have a complication are about a 1%, even less if you’re a good candidate,” he said. “But, it’s not zero. There are complications and there are side effects.”
Lasik Vision Centers turn away about 12% of its possible patients during its intense screening process.
“We talk about their health. We need to know their psychological disposition. Are they ready for it? Is their cornea thick enough for surgery?” he said.
The screening process takes about an hour.
You must be at least 18 years old, you should be in good health, your cornea should be thick enough, your prescription must be in certain limits and stable, and patients should consult with their doctors if they’re over 40 years old.
Dr. Genos said not everyone is a candidate and not every doctor will do proper screening.
“People try to make this a commodity and it’s not, guaranteed 20/20, throw your glasses away, I think that’s horrible,” he said. “Don’t be sucked into the buy one, get one free, $250 an eye.”
Wenzel is now wearing contacts again and her dryness has subsided some.
“I’m right back where I started” she said.
While hindsight is 20/20, she said she wouldn’t discourage others from getting it done, she just hopes they know it’s not always a perfect result.
“There are risks. If you look at the big picture, over 20 million people have been done and the complication rate is less than a 1% chance,” said Dr. Genos.