What causes dry eyes after laser vision correction?

laser eye surgery expert

Nerves play an important part in the Laser Eye Surgery recovery process. I’m not talking about the jitters, patients are usually very calm by this time — I’m on about a different set of nerves: those on the surface of your eye.

The nerves on the surface of the eye are momentarily interrupted because of the laser process. These nerves, however, have the incredible power to regenerate over a period of three to six months, further regenerating over the subsequent three to six years.

In addition to this, the tear film becomes slightly irregular due to changes in the glands surrounding the eyelids (whose function is to produce an oil layer to coat the tears).

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Due to these two mechanisms being temporarily affected — with the nerves needing to regenerate and the glands to come back to full functioning — it is possible that the patient may experience dry eye after Laser Eye Surgery.

Expert Laser Eye Surgeon Mr Glenn Carp explains post-surgery dry eye

In the short video above, Mr Glenn Carp designs why you may experience dry eye after Laser Eye Surgery.

Finding out if you will experience dry eye after Laser Eye Surgery

The corneal nerves supply information to the lacrimal gland to supply a continual amount of lubrication to the eye. Laser Eye Surgery techniques like LASIK and PRK disrupt the corneal nerves so they can no longer supply the appropriate information, therefore decrease the normal amount of lubrication to the eye, and leading to dry eyes.

Over the course of the weeks, months, and years after Laser Eye Surgery, the nerves heal, and the lubrication level of the eye returns to normal. However, a small number of patients with pre-existing dry eyes are at risk of prolonged dry eye and more significant symptoms. In the rarer of cases, some patients even years after surgery have dryer eyes than they did before having Laser Eye Surgery.

In general, the use of artificial tears is important in the recovery of the eye’s nerves following Laser Eye Surgery. Careful discussion with your Patient Care Coordinator both before and after surgery is important in determining the amount of lubrication required.

In severe dry eye cases, patients can use a punctal plug. A punctal plug is a plastic plug that prevents the outflow of tears from your eye to the nose. This device can raise the amount of lubrication in the eye, just like plugging the drain of a sink. A surgeon can place and remove the plastic plugs months later if required.

Find out if you are likely to experience dry eye following Laser Eye Surgery by leaving us a comment below or contacting our team of friendly experts on on 020 7224 1005.

What causes dry eyes after laser vision correction? [VIDEO]

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  3. Deanna R. Jones 25/03/2015 at 23:13

    Thanks for the information! I have friends who experienced dry eyes after getting laser eye surgery. It’s interesting how laser eye surgeries affects how much eyes are lubricated. I didn’t know that the nerves eventually heal after a few weeks or months until the eyes can lubricate themselves normally again. It’s good to know that patients can use artificial tears after getting surgery until their eyes can lubricate themselves normally again.

  4. Pinkesh 03/12/2016 at 07:14

    It’s about one month I have been operated PRK in both eyes,but still I have dryness in left eye. It’s not healing at all even I am using eye drops & gel. Local Docter who did PRK is saying that it will 3 months to cure. It’s becoming hopeless for me.

    • Bethany Kingsley 05/12/2016 at 07:56

      Hi Pinkesh,
      You would need to be fully assess for us to give you clinical information. I would reccommend you go back to your surgeon so they can fully explain where you are in the healing process. These things do take time to heal so be patient. If you are worried, you should always seek advice.
      London Vision Clinic

  5. Rob Sebeston 21/12/2016 at 21:11

    I have not had the laser surgery but want to except I was told I had dry eyes . I was put on omega 3 etc but I then researched dry eye problems and was put off . Is there any regulated data specific to dry eyes ? How many patients experience severe dry eyes and for how long ?


    • Bethany Kingsley 22/12/2016 at 10:21

      Hi Rob,
      At least 50% of patients experience some degree of post-operative dry eye. Normally this can be well managed with lubrication, and resolves by 6-12 months. However it can go on for up to a year depending on pre-operative status and environment. If someone has dryness pre-operatively they may always experience some symptoms post due to their underlying status. We assess dryness status at the pre-operative consultation, and attempt to address any underlying concerns prior to surgery. In some cases we may deem patients unsuitable if their status cannot be sufficiently improved.
      Please call the clinic on 0207 224 1005 if you have any further questions.
      London Vision Clinic

  6. Melina 23/12/2016 at 19:20

    Hi i had Lasik surgery a month ago but on the third day after my operation a drop of rain went into my right eye and since then I feel my eye dry, symptoms of burning and a discharge as if it is irritated and have a blurred vision. The eye looks fine but I feel all these. Will it heal over time?

    • Bethany Kingsley 03/01/2017 at 10:49

      Hi Melina,

      If you are concerned at all about your recovery I would recommend going back to the surgeon that performed your surgery and ask them to check the eye. Unfortunately, we cannot comment clinically if we have not assesed the eyes fully.
      London Vision Clinic

  7. sd 02/03/2018 at 04:27

    This is great info! thank you for sharing.

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