Side Effects: Halos and starbursts after Laser Eye Surgery

Over the last few decades, Laser Eye Surgery has evolved to become the most popular elective surgery in the world – and for good reason. Ongoing development has helped to make Laser Eye Surgery less invasive and more effective, reducing recovery times and allowing surgeons to treat higher prescriptions than ever before.

Despite dealing with an incredibly complex and sensitive organ – the eyes – Laser Eye Surgery is most often not associated with serious complications or side effects. Complications can usually be corrected immediately, and side effects usually resolve on their own.

Nonetheless, it is important to be aware of the common side effects that can occur as a result of Laser Eye Surgery. One of these is the appearance of starbursts and halos.

What are Halos and Starbursts

Halos and starbursts are visual distortions that appear around light sources. For example, halos are rings that appear around lights while starbursts refer to the glare from lights – particularly at night. These occurrences may also be referred to as night glare.

What Causes Night Glare?

Expert Laser Eye Surgeon Mr Glenn Carp explains the effects of night glare after Laser Eye Surgery.

Night glare occurs as a result of swelling in the eye that occurs following Laser Eye Surgery treatment. Laser Eye Surgery is performed by creating a small hole in the epithelium of the cornea or removing a layer of the epithelium altogether (in LASIK surgery, access is gained to the cornea by creating a corneal flap; in PRK/LASEK, the layer of the epithelium is removed altogether).

The severity and longevity of halos and starbursts can vary significantly between patients; however, there is no way to completely prevent their development in the days and weeks after surgery.

While Laser Eye Surgery is now largely a minimally invasive surgery – especially in clinics that offer ReLEx SMILE treatment – tissue still needs to be removed from the eye to treat the refractive error. This triggers the body’s inflammatory response – including swelling.

This swelling can cause changes in the way you perceive and view light for a period of time after your treatment. The good news is that halos and starbursts and the swelling that causes them are a completely natural part of the eyes’ healing process.

Can you treat halos and starbursts?

While the occurrence of halos and starbursts can be inconvenient, for most patients, they only last for a few weeks to months, typically until the swelling in the eyes has gone down. Therefore, intervention is usually not needed. However, for some, night glare can become a serious issue – particularly for people who may work in conditions with bright artificial lighting.

There are a few things that can be done to help reduce the strength and severity of halos and starbursts.

Our experienced world-renowned surgeons will make sure that you are equipped with the knowledge to make your recovery as fast and comfortable as possible. This includes a personal care plan to follow during your recovery.

For example, you may be advised to wear sunglasses in bright environments. This may help to reduce the severity of night glare and make for a less disrupted field of vision. It is also recommended that you avoid driving at night as there are often more light sources that can affect your quality of vision.

Your Pre-Surgery Consultation

The screening and consultation process is the most important part of your treatment. It is during these tests that your optometrist and surgeon are able to precisely identify your refractive error and identify any factors that should be considered for your surgery. Your surgeon is then able to design a tailored treatment plan specific to your eyes.

One factor that often plays a role in night glare is the size of the pupils. Our pupils dilate at night in order to allow more light to reach the retina. In some cases, the pupils may dilate beyond the area of the cornea that has been treated. In these circumstances, you may be more likely to experience more severe night glare.

It is therefore important for your optometrist and surgeon to determine what area of your cornea will require treatment and establish whether this can be done. Such measures give patients the best chance of achieving higher-quality vision with fewer side effects.

If you would like to learn more about the side effects of Laser Eye Surgery or find out if you are eligible for treatment, get in touch with one of our friendly clinic coordinators. Alternatively, Book a Consultation today.