"LASIK eye surgery complications are already a major public health problem. Hundreds of thousands of eyes are permanently injured each year."
- Morris Waxler, Ph.D., a former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) official in charge of evaluating PRK and LASIK between 1996-2000
Surgeons who make a living performing Lasik eye surgery routinely claim a 95-99 percent success rate, but these claims are not based upon scientific studies. Rather, they are from anecdotal "satisfaction" surveys that would not earn a passing grade in a freshman market research class, much less be accepted for publication in a legitimate medical journal.
A much more accurate assessment of the likelihood of complications is probably reflected by reactions posted online to Dr. Waxler's statement yesterday that the FDA should never have approved Lasik in the first place, and that nobody should subject their precious eyes to the risk of permanent Lasik damage today.
As of midnight last night, there were 32 posts on the ABC News website story. More than half of those were from people who had experienced one form or another of Lasik disaster, and at least two of the favorable postings were from Lasik surgeons. The probability of seeing this sort of distribution if the success rate really was 95+ percent is infinitesimal.
Even if Lasik industry claims of a 95% "satisfaction" rate are taken at face value, it still means there is a one-in-twenty chance you will suffer permanent and irreparable eye damage. It's like going to an orthopedic surgeon who only cripples five percent of his patients.
Last week I received an absolutely heartbreaking email from someone who had (too late) watched my You Tube video Before You Let Them Cut on Your Eyes.
The author of that email is a PhD student in English literature who ended up with double vision, blurred vision, and chronic dry eye disease. Because reading and working at a computer are so central to his career goals, the damage done by Lasik was, he said, "a disaster."
In my You Tube video, I opened by saying that I would not try to talk anyone out of having Lasik but only wanted to help make sure that they went into it fully informed of the dangers. But in the time since producing that video I've heard so many Lasik disaster stories that I've changed my mind.
If the only method available to treat nearsightedness was Lasik eye surgery and someone invented glasses and contacts, that person would win the Nobel Prize.
In the four years since I had Lasik, I have spent more money on eyeglasses than I did in the previous several decades, but my world is still slightly out of focus. I spend about a thousand dollars a year on eye drops, but my eyes still hurt all the time.
As Dr. Waxler says, for hundreds of thousands of people, the dream of life without glasses has become a nightmare of chronic vision problems and constant eye pain.
I hope I will never hear from you, or you will never hear from someone you care about, that entrusting your precious eyes to a Lasik surgery clinic was a disaster, and the worst mistake you've ever made. The potential benefit is simply not worth the terrible risk.