Eye Infections after LASIK - Know the Signs

Eye infection can occur after LASIK surgery

LASIK has become the most commonly and successfully performed eye procedure (or surgery) over the past decade. As LASIK involves reshaping the cornea (the eye’s protective covering) none of the instruments used in the procedure actually enter the eye. The risk of infection following LASIK is therefore very low. In fact, it has been estimated that infection following LASIK surgery occurs in only 1/1000 cases. However, if it does occur, it can have serious resulting complications.

When the eye infection after LASIK appears?
Eye infection mostly appears early, within the first nine days after LASIK surgery. In rare cases, it can manifest later, usually within two to eight weeks of surgery.

What are the signs of eye infection after LASIK?
The signs of eye infection after LASIK may include:

  • Haze
  • Reduced best-corrected vision (you may notice problems in the vision even if you wear perfect glasses or lenses)
  • Increased sensitivity to blinding glare
  • Redness
  • Pain or tenderness in the eyes
  • Irritation
  • Watery eyes

Serious consequences of an infection after LASIK are also common, and they include:

Reduction of visual acuity: Overall, moderate to severe reduction in visual acuity occurs in nearly one half of the cases that develop eye infection after LASIK.

Vision loss: In some rare cases, vision loss may also occur. According to studies, about one (1) in 2000 people lost some of their vision due to eye infection after LASIK.

Permanent scarring: An eye infection that could not be controlled with antibiotics or other means could lead to permanent scarring or require corrective additional surgery or, if very severe, corneal transplantation or even loss of the eye.

What causes eye infection after LASIK?
Most cases of eye infection after LASIK are caused by the eye’s own native bacteria found on the eyelids, lid edges, and lashes, connective tissue, cornea, and tear canals.

What are the common bacteria involved in the eye infection after LASIK?
Streptococci and pseudomonas are the two most common bacteria responsible for causing eye infection after LASIK. In addition, certain fungi and atypical mycobacteria are also dominant if the infection appears late.

You should also remember that, at times, viruses including herpes simplex virus and enterovirus can also cause post-LASIK infections.

What increases the risk of getting an eye infection after LASIK?
Risk factors for eye infections after LASIK include:

  • Excessive surgical manipulation
  • Contamination during surgery
  • Eye rubbing after LASIK due to prolonged contact lens wear
  • Use of local steroids, as well as all forms of superficial corneal alterations or changes

In addition, patients with chronic recurrent herpes simplex keratitis, atopic eczema, and those with immunosuppressive disorders (such as cancer and AIDS) are also at increased risk.

What is the treatment?
You should know that when an eye infection is diagnosed after LASIK surgery, identifying the culprit (bacteria or germ) is of the highest importance and primary antibiotic therapy must target the same germs as soon as possible for the best result and complete recovery. Delayed therapy may cause the further development of deep, pus-filled abscesses or within the eye, eye ulcers and other serious complications.

If the infection is at early stages, high-dose systemic antibiotics, e.g. tobramycin/cefatoxim combination is usually prescribed. Late infections should be treated with intravenous (given through the vein) tobramycin plus ceftriaxon. Similarly, Ceftazidim plus tobramycin is a suitable option for pseudomonas infections.

Is it possible to prevent or reduce risk of eye infection after LASIK?
After LASIK surgery, you will receive eye drops to help prevent infection. However, it is always better to practice additional measures to minimize your chances of getting any late infections. Following tips will help you minimize your chances of getting an eye infection after LASIK:

  • Choosing a well-qualified and experienced eye surgeon can minimize the risk of infection. You should, therefore, go for a surgeon who can offer you the proper diagnosis, recommend the treatment best suited to your eyes and your vision, and who has the proven experience and expertise to perform the laser eye surgery or another vision correction procedures you choose.

  • LASIK protective glasses are helpful against rubbing or otherwise manipulating the treated eye within the first 24 hours, particularly during sleep. Discuss with your doctor if the same could be suitable for you.

  • Research suggests that antioxidants (leafy green vegetables and citrus fruits), carotenoids (carrots, kale and spinach), zinc (beef, pork and lamb), and selenium (fish, shellfish and red meat) play a beneficial role in helping to reduce the severity and likelihood of certain eye-related infections.

  • If you notice any irritation, redness or pain in the eye even after several days or months, you should immediately consult your eye doctor.

All in all, no surgery is without risks and possible complications and LASIK is no different. The good news, however, is that the chances of eye infection or complications will probably change as technology makes LASIK surgery safer. New ways of doing LASIK are also safer and better at correcting vision.

Did you get an eye infection after Lasik surgery? Post your thoughts below.

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My friend had lasik surgery and suffered a major eye infection after the procedure. Her eyes all where all swollen and red! She had to go back a few times to fix the problem. How do you avoid such infections because I am planning on getting the surgery?