What Causes Light Sensitivity After Lasik?
It can be a pain to have extra sensitivity to light after lasik. Especially if you work or spend lots of time outside. But fortunately the causes of extra light sensitivity after lasik are limited. And each has simple treatments to cut out the light sensitivity and get you back to normal again.
The most basic cause of light sensitivity
It's great not needing glasses or contact lenses. However, those glasses were doing one thing: they were sitting in front of your eyes. Just by sitting in front of your eyes, glasses block some extra light (including UV light) from reaching your eyes.
But after lasik, you don't have that anymore. You give that up for the freedom of not needing to wear anything in front of your eyes (which is still a pretty good trade-off). But as you go along throughout your day, your eyes are completely exposed. Nothing is blocking all that sunlight from entering your eyes.
However, this is easily fixed with a pair of sunglasses. In general, sunglasses are always great outdoors to protect the eye from UV light (and dust, wind and debris). Even before lasik this is the case, but it's also important after lasik.
The best part about sunglasses after lasik is that you can pick whatever pair that you want. You don't need to worry about getting prescription sunglasses anymore. Be sure that they have UVA and UVB protection to protect against UV light. Having polarized lenses is helpful to help cut down on some glare (especially the reflections off of water), but isn't strictly necessary. A good pair of sunglasses can help some of the light sensitivity after lasik.
Dry eye after lasik causes light sensitivity
Everyone after lasik will have some degree of dry eye. The cornea contains tiny nerves which monitor dryness on the surface of the eye. If these nerves detect that the eye is drying out, they send signals to produce more natural tears. But during lasik, the connections of some of these nerves are broken by the lasik flap. These connections regenerate, but until that happens the eye has a decreased ability to produce tears. The eye will become more dry in the meantime.
When the eye dries out, the cornea can become irritated. An inflamed and irritated cornea starts to irritate surrounding nerve pathways. In addition, dry eye leads to a build up of inflammation on the surface of the eye. Again, this inflammation irritates the surface of the eye. All of this irritation makes the eye more sensitive to light.
But you don't have to suffer with dry eye and light sensitivity after lasik. There are lots of treatments to treat dry eye and improve comfort. The most basic treatment is frequent use of preservative free artificial tears. These tears supplement the decrease in production of our natural tears. Use of these tears help to wash away extra surface inflammation to help calm the eye down.
Note: After lasik, you will be using artificial tears frequently. Because of this frequent use, preservative free drops are required to prevent preservatives in other bottles from irritating the eyes.
In addition to artificial tears, other common treatments for dry eye include:
- Omega-3 or fish oil supplements. These pills help provide for a thick and robust oil layer coating to the eye to prevent the eye from drying out as frequently.
- Punctal plugs. At the corner of your eyelid are tiny tunnels called punctum that drain tears from the surface of the eye into the nose. Your surgeon may place a small dissolvable or permanent plug into these tunnels to prevent tears from draining off the surface of your eye as quickly.
- Prescription dry eye drops. This list includes Restasis or Xiidra. These medications help to combat inflammation on the surface of the eye to stimulate additional tear production.
There are even more treatments beyond this short list. Allergy eye drops can help if you have environmental allergies. Lid scrubs can help if you have a lid condition called blepharitis causing the tears to dry out quicker. These are just a few examples. Additional therapies for dry eye are personalized to your needs by your eye doctor
A rare cause of light sensitivity after lasik
The vast majority of light sensitivity after lasik falls into those two categories. There is a third rare category of light sensitivity that can happen called "Transient Light Sensitivity Syndrome". This rare cause develops due to extra inflammation and irritation generated within the cornea by laser-created lasik flaps. This extra inflammation doesn't come with any other observable signs or symptoms, just an increase in light sensitivity.
Unlike the other causes of light sensitivity, transient light sensitivity syndrome presents much later. The symptoms of light sensitivity typically peak at the one or two month mark post lasik. It is characterized by severe light sensitivity. In addition to light sensitivity outdoors, patients often frequently have light sensitivity indoors as well and need to wear sunglasses indoors to help.
But the good news about this syndrome is that it responds dramatically well to a course of steroid eye drops. The steroid eye drops are able to resolve the light sensitivity very quickly and effectively. After a short time, you are back to normal. So transient light sensitivity syndrome isn't anything to worry about (and also quite rare).
How do you tell the best way to treat your light sensitivity? Well, start with the simple things first. Start wearing sunglasses if you aren't already wearing them. Make sure you are following your surgeon's directions to treat post-lasik dry eye. If that isn't doing the trick, be sure to talk with your eye doctor so that they can work with you to get the light sensitivity resolved and allow you to enjoy your new eyes.
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