The Truth About LASIK Surgery: The FDA Investigates

Have you had laser eye surgery, or know someone who has? Hopefully your experience with the surgery was a good one and that you’re seeing better than ever. Unfortunately not all laser eye patients are that lucky. And now the FDA is taking note. One by one, people who have suffered poor outcomes after having undergone Lasik eye surgery spoke openly of their ordeals to federal health officials this past April. Let’s take a closer look at the truth about LASIK surgery . . .

The former patients took turns and told federal health advisors the ways in which they have suffered. Some told of blurred vision and extreme eye pain. Distressed parents told of their son’s suicide, which they feel was a direct result of the harm he incurred as a side-effect of Lasik eye surgery. It was strongly recommended by the health advisers that the government must take steps to issue much clearer warnings about the possible risks associated with this procedure.

Lasik has been a popular surgery in the United States for a little more than a decade. It is reported that 700,000 Americans per year elect to have the vision-correcting laser surgery. The vast majority of patients benefit greatly from the procedure and report no side-effects or complications. Legendary golf pro, Tiger Woods, is among the many success stories.  The advertisements promise Lasik surgery will allow you to throw away your eyeglasses altogether. Unfortunately this is not the outcome for everyone.

75 percent of Lasik patients do benefit greatly, often seeing 20-20 (or better). About 25 percent (one in four) seeking the surgery are deemed unsuitable candidates.

While those who suffer serious, life-changing side effects are rare -about one percent of those undergoing surgery – even one percent is one too many.  Of the one percent, complaints range from worsened vision, glare, severely dry eyes and the inability to drive at night.

“Too many Americans have been harmed by his procedure, and it’s about time this message was heard,” David Shell of Washington told the FDA’s (Food and Drug Administration) scientific advisers. The FDA has decided to go forward with an in-depth study of Lasik side effects and, in the meantime, has agreed to provide clearer, sterner warnings to patients considering the surgery.

The testimonies heard at the forum served to reinforce the fact that even after ten years on the market there are many unanswered questions about Lasik corrective surgery. To date, there is no firm data as to just how often patients suffer poor outcomes from the costly procedure.

While some insurance plans cover the surgery, many do not and the cost can be as much as $2,000 per eye.

As of now, there is no indication that restrictions will actually be imposed on the Lasik procedure.  The Federal Drug Administration is, however, working with a group of highly-regarded eye surgeons to begin a major study in 2009.  The focus of the study will be to identify who suffers poor outcomes and why.

Anyone considering Lasik surgery should read all of the data available, speak to your doctor and make your own decision.  Experts do point out the risks are small with the approximate one percent of patients suffering serious or life-changing side effects.  If after reviewing all of the available information you are still not sure, you may want to consider waiting or consulting another doctor for a second opinion.

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