Laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) is a surgical procedure that can improve your vision. It permanently reshapes the tissue in the front of your eye, and these changes last your whole life.

However, most people’s vision gets worse over time as part of the natural aging process. LASIK can’t stop this, so your vision may become blurry again as you get older.

How long these changes occur after your LASIK procedure will depend on how old you are when you have LASIK and if you have any other progressive eye conditions.

While LASIK permanently changes your vision, there are reasons your vision may change following LASIK.

According to the American Refractive Surgery Council, your vision may change over time if the initial condition that affected your vision — your myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), or astigmatism (blurry vision) — continues to progress. This progression can cause your vision to change.

Another common reason that vision may change years after LASIK is a natural eye change called presbyopia. It occurs as you age and your lens becomes less flexible and less able to focus on nearby objects.

How long LASIK “lasts” will depend on how old you are when you have LASIK and how much your eye conditions progress, if they do at all.

For the majority of people who have LASIK, they remain happy with their vision after 10 years.

One study found that 35 percent of individuals who had LASIK needed retreatment over 10 years. Another study followed individuals with nearsightedness and/or astigmatism who had LASIK. In 12 years, they found that around 10 percent of study participants experienced age-related vision changes over the course of that time.

If your vision becomes blurry again for other reasons after your first procedure, you may be able to have LASIK enhancement even years later. It depends on how much tissue was removed during the first procedure and how much is left.

When light hits the transparent outer layer of your eye (the cornea) it bends so it’s focused on the retina in the back of your eye. This is called refraction.

When it doesn’t bend correctly, light isn’t focused on your retina and your vision becomes blurry. This is called a refractive error.

LASIK can be used to correct the three main types of refractive errors:

vision problems lasik may correct
  • Nearsightedness (myopia). Your vision is sharp when you look at things that are close but blurry when you look at things far away.
  • Farsightedness (hyperopia). Your vision is sharp when you look at objects far away, but things that are close look blurry.
  • Astigmatism. Blurry vision is caused by an imperfection in the shape of the front of your eye.

LASIK corrects these conditions by using lasers or small blades to reshape your cornea. Once it’s done, light bends correctly and is focused on your retina.

The result is clear, sharp vision close up and far away. The goal is to correct your vision so you no longer need to wear glasses or contacts.

The average cost of LASIK is around $4,200 total, though it can be less. Frequently, this includes preoperative evaluations and postoperative follow-up exams in addition to the procedure.

Sometimes the price also includes a follow-up procedure called LASIK enhancement that’s done to further correct your vision when too little tissue was removed initially.

Because it’s considered an elective procedure, LASIK isn’t covered by most insurance companies.

tips for choosing a doctor for lasik

When choosing a doctor to perform your LASIK, considering the following points might help:

  • Talk to your primary care doctor or family and friends who have had LASIK to help you choose a doctor.
  • Select a doctor who has performed many LASIK procedures and has a high success rate.
  • Choose a doctor whose location is convenient for you.
  • Select a doctor who performs LASIK your preferred way (all laser, bladed, or custom).
  • Compare costs and choose a doctor that’s affordable and has financing options that work for you.
  • Carefully check out clinics that advertise heavily discounted or “bargain” LASIK before having the procedure there.
  • Determine exactly what’s covered in the price and be sure there won’t be additional unexpected costs such as for follow-up visits.
  • Most importantly, choose a doctor you feel comfortable with and have confidence in.

Although it varies from person to person, it usually only takes 10 to 20 minutes to perform LASIK on one eye.

Healing generally occurs quickly. You can see results as soon as 24 hours after the procedure.

During the procedure you’ll be awake, but you may receive a sedative medication to help you relax. It won’t be painful, but you might feel some tugging or pressure on your eye.

The basic steps in the procedure are as follows:

  1. Anesthetic eye drops are placed in both eyes to numb them.
  2. Your eye is held open with an eyelid holder.
  3. A flap is made in the outer layer of your cornea using a small blade or a laser. This is when you might feel some pressure and discomfort.
    • Conventional (bladed) LASIK. A device called a microkeratome is placed on your eye. It consists of a ring attached to a very small blade. Suction from the ring lifts your cornea and the blade cuts a flap.
    • All-laser LASIK. A femtosecond laser sends out energy pulses toward your cornea that gently lifts its outer layer. It then makes a cut, creating a flap.
  4. The flap is gently lifted.
  5. Your cornea is reshaped using one of the following techniques:
    • Excimer laser. This is used to remove tissue from your cornea. The amount removed is based on your eyeglass or contact prescription.
    • Custom (wavefront) laser. Your eye’s unique characteristics are analyzed using light waves and a detailed map of your eye is created. A laser is used to remove tissue from your cornea. The amount of tissue removed is based on the map.
  6. The flap is placed back in its original position where it will heal naturally without stitches.

Immediately after the procedure your eye may itch and burn. Your vision will be blurry at first, but it should become clearer by the following day.

You may be prescribed some eye drops to help your eye heal and stay moist. You’ll also be given an eye shield to cover and protect your eye.

You’ll have a follow-up visit with your doctor a few days after the procedure to make sure your eye is healing well and there aren’t any complications.

It usually takes 2 to 3 months for your eye to completely heal and your vision to stabilize. Until then, you shouldn’t wear contacts or eye makeup. You should also avoid contact sports, hot tubs, and swimming.

There are a few potential risks and complications of LASIK:

risks of LASIK
  • Poorly healing flap. This can be due to infection or an excessive amount of tears.
  • Irregular healing pattern of your cornea underneath the flap. This can cause discomfort and vision problems.
  • Astigmatism. Your eye ends up being an irregular shape because tissue isn’t removed evenly.
  • Severe dry eye syndrome. This can cause discomfort and vision problems because your eye doesn’t make enough tears.
  • Long-term vision problems in dim light. This can lead to difficulty seeing at night or in dim light because of halos and glare.
  • Too much or too little tissue is removed. Results are less than perfect because of over- or under-correction.
  • Vision loss. It’s rare, but loss of or decreased vision can occur.

After the procedure, you might have one or more of the following symptoms that usually improve over the following weeks to months:

  • blurry or hazy vision
  • dry, itchy eyes
  • sensitivity to light
  • visual disturbances such as double vision, a glare, and halos

It’s very important that you don’t rub or poke your eye after LASIK because it can move the flap out of position and disrupt the healing process.

Frequently, you won’t have to wear your glasses or contacts anymore after you have LASIK. However, if your vision isn’t fully corrected, you may still need them for certain tasks such as reading or driving.

LASIK permanently and irreversibly reshapes your cornea. However, this doesn’t mean your vision will remain sharp for the rest of your life. LASIK can’t stop eye changes that are part of the normal aging process.

Around the age of 40, almost everyone needs reading glasses because close-up vision has become blurry due to presbyopia. This condition can’t be fixed by LASIK.

when to see your doctor

See your doctor right away if any of the following happens after LASIK:

  • new symptoms develop
  • vision gets worse (beyond the normal haziness/blurriness that occurs after the procedure)
  • severe pain develops
  • you get hit or poked in the eye that had the procedure