Lasik Side Effects | “Like a knife in the eye”
Double vision, dry eyes, difficulty driving at night… patients considering having Lasik surgery should be better informed about the risks of surgery, advises the Food and Drug Administration, Health Canada’s partner in the United States. In Quebec too, people want to know more about possible complications before getting surgery.
“I must say goodbye my life before,” sighs Gabrielle Bernier, 26.
In January 2019, the young woman underwent surgery to treat myopia. “I have good eyesight since the operation. That’s not the case. That was the pain,” he explained. “It was as if I had a knife in my eye. It’s like being pricked by a needle 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
MI Bernier complained that staff at Lasik MD, one of the clinics that performs Lasik operations, gave incorrect information about the risks of eye surgery. He also said the clinic minimized his pain when it started two years after his surgery. To understand what happened to her, the young woman consulted a doctor in Boston who diagnosed her with a rare disease called corneal neuralgia.
For most patients, nerves severed during Lasik surgery regenerate on their own in six months or less. Gabrielle Bernier’s nerves never healed.
I can’t stay in the sun for a long time, in the wind, in the air conditioner, in front of the computer, I can’t wear makeup.
Gabrielle Bernier quit her job as a financial advisor because she could no longer stand her computer screen. At the peak of the pain, he considered suicide.
Guide to inform the public
Testimony of Mr.I Bernier is far from the only one in this genre. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working on a guide for the Lasik industry to better inform patients about the benefits and risks of surgery. The text, still in draft stage, is highlighted by New York Time in December and is available on the FDA website.
The American agency lists, in a 29-page document, a range of possible complications following Lasik interventions such as dry eyes, appearance of halos, double vision, eye discharge and minor discomfort which resolve in less than six months at most.
“In some patients, the pain may never go away and may be resistant to treatment,” however, qualifies in a sentence in bold.
Some patients have reported severe depression or suicidal tendencies which have been associated with complications from this procedure.
Excerpt from a Food and Drug Administration document
The FDA approved Lasik surgery in 1999. In 2019, one of the experts who served on the FDA committee that approves Lasik in the United States said in a CBS network interview that he regretted his decision and that the operation “absolutely” should be withdrawn, given the possibility complications.
In Quebec, a patient filed a class action lawsuit against Lasik MD in 2019 because the company allegedly failed to inform its customers about the risks associated with vision correction surgery. However, the High Court did not allow this action because the plaintiff had exceeded the three-year period since the appearance of the first symptoms. The judge also decided that this patient’s case was special and could not be extended to all Lasik MD clients.
Clinics operating “by volume”
Dr No wonder Languis Michaud the FDA is looking into the Lasik industry. “I applaud this four-handed initiative,” said the ophthalmologist, who sometimes treats patients who are dissatisfied with their Lasik surgeries at the University of Montreal’s optometry clinic.
” [Au Québec], there are centers that do very well, that inform their patients and leave time for reflection. But unfortunately, there are also centers that operate on a volume basis and hide or minimize the risks,” explained the man who is the director of the optometry department at the University of Montreal. Note that Dr Michaud refrained from naming any clinics in the interview.
Ophthalmologists argue that the eligibility of candidates varies from center to center. A person may be rejected at one clinic, but accepted at another. Clients have also been offered surgery within hours of their first clinic visit, leaving little time for reflection, he added.
In some centers, the patient meets the surgeon for the first time while he is under the machine, both eyes lack of money. I don’t call that informed consent.
Dr Languis Michaud, ophthalmologist
In an email sent to presse, Lasik MD claims that Lasik client satisfaction rates are between 96% and 99%, citing an American study. The FDA talks about a 95% satisfaction rate on its website.
The company also claims that only 1% of its patients use eye drops more than a year after surgery. The FDA instead shows that 17% of patients use drops, five years after surgery. The US agency says that 2% of patients experience difficulties that prevent them from carrying out their daily activities, six months after surgery. There are no statistics on the Lasik MD site about this.
“The number of procedures we have done at Lasik MD over the past 20 years [plus d’un million] allows us to collect clinical data that is different from statistics [de la FDA] explains Jessica Lukian Papineau, Senior Director at Lasik MD. He recalls that scientific literature has shown, for 25 years, that Lasik is “safe and effective”.
“While all medical procedures carry some degree of risk, complications of a surgical nature associated with Lasik are rare. They occur in less than 1% of cases, and most are treatable,” he continues.
MI Lukian Papineau also ensures that patients at Lasik MD are aware of the risks of surgery from their first preoperative appointment. A 32-page information booklet is provided to each candidate. “Lasik MD is very serious about educating patients. We believe it is important for all of our patients to understand the risks, benefits, and possible side effects of the procedure they are considering, as before any other medical treatment. We talk to patients about various aspects of Lasik at some point before they decide to go through with the procedure,” he explains.
Charles-Antoine Masson, he was under the impression that the risks were minimized when he attended the Lasik MD clinic. “They didn’t insist, and the eyes were dry, they said they were cured with drops”, said the man who had surgery in May 2021 because he was tired of the fog on his glasses.
Since the operation, her eye has become so dry that on four occasions, her eyelids have torn her cornea. The pain became unbearable, making it impossible for him to work and forcing him to visit the clinic many times to get his eyes healed.
Every day since her surgery, she’s had to put drops in, which cost her $80 a month (her pharmacist just found a brand that her insurance partially covers).
And every day since May 2021, she’s wondered if Lasik MD is toying with statistics regarding possible complications. “Is there a lack of transparency? Did they assume I had only a few complications? Did they include me in their stats? “, he wondered.
“If the risks of dry eyes had been better explained to me, I would have thought more than 10 minutes before performing the operation,” he says bitterly.
Health Canada says it is “monitoring” adverse reactions to laser surgery devices, including “monitoring” complaints. “When a risk to a patient is identified, Health Canada does not hesitate to take appropriate action, if necessary, to protect the health and safety of Canadians,” the Canadian agency wrote in an email.
What is LASIK?
LASIK can treat vision problems such as myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism, and presbyopia by modifying the shape of the cornea. To achieve this, the surgeon cuts a very thin layer of the cornea called a flap, then removes a certain amount of tissue depending on the patient. The corneal flap is then reattached and eye healing begins. The operation lasts about ten minutes. In Canada, Lasik has been practiced since the mid-1990s. Lasik MD is one of the clinics that performs this type of surgery.
- Myopia: difficulty seeing at a distance
- Hyperopia: difficulty seeing up close
- Astigmatism: distorted vision of distant objects
- Presbyopia: inability to clearly distinguish nearby objects