How Long Does LASIK Last?
In most cases the improved vision LASIK surgery provides is permanent.
But in a limited number of cases — usually due to changes that can occur in the lens inside the eye, with or without LASIK surgery — some nearsightedness, farsightedness and/or astigmatism can return over time, causing blurry vision. If a regression of this sort occurs and becomes bothersome, a follow-up procedure called a LASIK enhancement usually can be performed to restore clear vision.
A recent study published in the Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery evaluated the long-term stability of PRK, a laser vision correction procedure that is very similar to LASIK.
Researchers in the UK monitored the vision of 46 PRK patients for a period of 18 years. Prior to surgery, all patients were nearsighted, with an average eyeglass prescription of -4.86 D (range: -2.75 to -7.37 D).
Patients who were under age 40 at the time of their LASIK procedure had an average regression of -0.54 D during the 18-year follow-up period. Those who were over age 40 when they underwent LASIK had an average regression of only -0.05 D.
There also was a significant difference when patients were sorted by sex. Women experienced an average regression of -0.40 D over the 18-year follow-up period; men experienced an average regression of -0.08 D.
In all cases, the laser procedure was safe, with no long-term complications.
Another long-term study of the stability of laser vision correction published in American Journal of Ophthalmology several years earlier found that among patients who underwent LASIK surgery for the correction of up to -10.0 D of myopia, approximately 6 percent chose to undergo a LASIK enhancement within 10 years due to myopic regression.
In many cases, people who experience minor refractive changes after LASIK or PRK aren't bothered by the change and don't feel a need for additional vision correction. Others choose to wear prescription eyeglasses only for specific activities (driving at night, for example), and some choose to have an enhancement surgery performed.
There may or may not be an additional cost for a LASIK enhancement surgery, depending on how soon after the primary LASIK procedure the enhancement is performed and the policies of the LASIK surgeon or clinic. Ask your LASIK surgeon for details.
About the Author: Vance Thompson, MD, FACS, is the director of refractive surgery at Vance Thompson Vision in Sioux Falls, S.D. He also is professor of ophthalmology at the Sanford USD School of Medicine, a leading researcher in technologies for laser and implant vision correction and a member of All About Vision's editorial advisory board.
Page updated March 2018