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Some thoughts on “LASIK horror stories”

Meanwhile, in my boredom and obsession, I’ve stumbled back (I found them when researching LASIK years ago) upon some of the LASIK horror story sites and community boards. It is frustrating all around. There is no question that many people have suffered poor outcomes from LASIK. Many of these problems are because they were not good candidates in the first place, and were told that everything would be fine. Other adverse outcomes were simply bad luck.

I am not sure that many of these communities are very helpful.  I fear that the emphasis on how bad it is has a negative effect on the perception of pain and discomfort, on the perception of their vision, and on the patient’s ability to cope with the poor outcome. Those communities that encourage a culture of victimization and suffering do no service to those who come to them for help and support.

In a lot of ways, this kind of behavior resembles that of alternative medicine practitioners.  The difference is that rather than promoting an intangible “wellness of being”, those websites and communities devoted to poor LASIK outcomes promote unwellness of being, often using the same tactics: anecdotal evidence having more power than studies or statistical evidence, the demonizing of medical and scientific authority, out of context quoting, partial truths, and appeals to emotion. Some of the more outlandish claims from this group are that 100% of LASIK patients have poor outcomes and that the corneal flap never heals, and that refractive surgeons do this surgery to become rich despite knowing how it ruins lives.

For the most part, participants are simply sufferers looking for community support. They might gain this, but too often it is at the cost of losing rational grounding in what has happened to them and how they can best deal with it. Rather than it being the refractive surgeons who have taken advantage of them, as they are told over and over, it is the ringleaders of the “LASIK horror story” community who take advantage, either emotionally or financially.

I noted one site that did not allow even viewing their discussion boards without a paid subscription, except for the original post op experiences that patients wrote. These serve as teasers, enticing not only patients but the curious to pay the fee in order to find out what happened next. Many of them were posted before the bulletin board became subscription only by patients seeking support and advice.

It is possible that we might find a handful of lawyers involved in this community as well. Litigation and public accusation without telling the whole story is a common theme.

What is there to find in this mess? Same old story: when using the internet to find out something, take what you find with a grain of salt and apply common sense liberally. This particular pseudoscience episode convinces me even more that we need a formal course on logical and critical thinking in our public schools with lots of supplementary support within other courses.

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19 comments

  1. Amen to that! It truly is amazing how illogical people can be about things. I hope that your eyes are healing well and you are enjoying your new found clear vision.

  2. This site is such a croc. I know you don’t exist and were manufactured by the LASIK people to make it sound like you are a level headed person who had a successful LASIK experience and everybody else is crazy. I know I have poor night vision and halos/starbursting. It sucks. I am thankful my vision isn’t completely ruined. I wear thin glasses (after LASIK + one touch up). The unfortunate part is that my correctable vision will never be 20/20 (even with the best glasses, my vision isn’t crystal clear and will never be).

  3. Thank you for shining the light on these jerks that keep posting negative stuff on the internet to freak people out!
    I had LASIK and was FINE until I started reading these horror stories and got scared, thanks a lot people.
    I do have dry eyes and headlights at night sometimes bother me (I had it in Nov. 06) but I can see clearly without my glasses and would never have worn contacts to begin with.
    People need to stop using the internet to whine about their LASIK problems because they are just scaring people. Do they not read the risks/possible side effects before they have it done? Millions of people have had it done with no problems, sorry about the people who have issues but they don’t need to worry other people by making a website about their problems. STOP TRYING TO SCARE PEOPLE WITH THESE NEGATIVE HORROR STORIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Hi Ami!

    Interesting entry. I also had LASIK, which I regret because of the poor night vision and halos/starbursting (the same as Bill Hopenuts) but after reading one of those webpages I felt like committing suicide and I thought I had made the worst mistake of my life.

    LASIK is not perfect and that’s why I don’t recommend it but making people worry innecesaryly after doing it is no good either.

  5. I had LASIK and am absolutely thrilled with the result–halos, dryness, and reading glasses notwithstanding! Why don’t those symptoms bother me? because I was already dealing with those and other vision issues anyway, and at least now I can SEE! I decided to go ahead with the surgery when, nearing 50, I began having to wear bifocal glasses on top of my contacts, and still suffered decreasing vision. I’ve required corrective lenses since age 9. My pre-LASIK vision was so poor that I couldn’t drive at night because of the glare & halos with glasses and contacts. My best correction was 20/30 OS and “who knows” OD because of astigmatism and some other weird fluctuating focus issue. I had floaters. I couldn’t wear contacts at certain times of the year because of irritation due to allergies and downright PAIN due to changes in the barometric pressure. That’s right–my contacts were my indicator that it was going to rain! I had to remove them or suffer having them become stuck to my eyeballs due to the vacuum or suction effect that the weather had on my eyes. I could not take a nap in my contacts because my eyes would dry out terribly. I had no depth perception; I could not fully appreciate shadows in sunlight or twilight. The four weeks pre-LASIK that I had to wear eyeglasses were the worst–I actually became disoriented because of the blur outside the frames! Yikes. Now, I have a little bit of haloing at night, but it doesn’t interfere with my vision. My eyes don’t feel any drier than they did in contacts. I’m able to ski and snowshoe–yay! I can swim. Sure, I need to wear readers to put on eye make-up and do computer work (which is my livelihood), but it’s been totally worth it. I knew there would be side effects because I did the reasearch first–the trade offs seemed acceptable to me. I even prepared myself for the worst outcome (which fortunately didn’t happen).

    It is unfortunate though, that not everyone has had as successful an experience. But people are different and that’s just how it is. A good friend is afraid to even try it because she experiences very slow healing–we both had a minor facial surgical procedure (same doc) and while my skin healed within a few of weeks with a fabulous result, six months later, her skin hasn’t healed and she is facing a redo to reduce the scarring!

    Anyway, I’m thrilled with my LASIK result.

  6. LASIK is bullshit.

  7. Contact me at Psheahan12@yahoo.com

    Removed at the request of Patrick.

  8. I initially had LASIK six years ago. The vision in both eyes regressed almost immediately after surgery. In an attempt to attain monovision, I have had three more LASIK procedures on my left eye, plus three flap revisions (stitches in the flap each time to help it heal properly. That’s seven surgeries on my left eye in six years. My vision in my left eye is now worse than it was before I had my last “enhancement.”

    Having LASIK is the most regrettable decision I have ever made. I have not had a day of good vision in six years because of a decision that I voluntarily made.

  9. “LASIK horror stories” – We have both success and failures in any type of procedures. The success and failure depends on various factors. I totally agree with your points made in this posting.

  10. Our blog presents many cases of failure and success with LASIK. We give the potential patient the tools to insure a successful procedure

    http://newyorkvisionassociates.com/wordpress/

  11. Without going in depth into all my complications,high order aberrations,dry eye,irregular astigmatism,ectasia,drifting prescription,none of which the technology exists presently to repair. I just want to warn anybody else of how dangerous this surgery is.
    I was never able to return to work and am now on total disability. My problems are so clear,a hearing wasn’t even necessary.
    My “doctor” totally denied everything and I later found that they cover each other and will give you nothing to use to sue another doctor. The statute is 1-2 years in most places.
    If you feel like risking your vision for the rest of your life,roll the dice. It totally ended mine.
    If you think people make up these stories for fun,you are extremely naive.
    This site appears to be another lasik industry snow job.
    Buying their lies was the stupidest decision I ever made.

  12. I just had Lasik 4 days ago. Unfortunately I didn’t do all the research that I should have. Which is very much unlike me to do and I kick myself for it. I had seen the positive sites the large numbers of people that have had it done and talked to a lot of pleased people that I worked with. I think I was just in such distress about the Economy (crashing) where I work (a prison) that I didn’t want to spend anymore time on reliance on glasses, (after 25 years and 20/400 without Rx). I was afraid of getting into a scuffle at work or breaking my glasses if this country went into a depression that I was feeling panicked. So I was already tired of glasses and had been saving for over 2.5 years to get Lasik done. I picked what I felt was the best surgeon near me. Today, I do have the haze (fairly minor) and halo’s (worst in florescent light) and dry eyes. I didn’t understand why the dry eyes would occur but knew there was a chance. Well, I think more than a chance when corneal nerves are cut that control tears (and that scared me in a bad way–after the fact–if those sites are true about the 3 and 9 o’clock nerves). The sad thing is that I discovered all the horror story sites the day after surgery when I was still in discomfort and bad haze and I had typed in “Lasik recovery” and there they were. I started reading just some of the horror stories and on the dry eyes. It was then that I literally became sick to my stomach and scared to death that I had allowed them to “butcher” my eyes and maybe I’ll go blind have major complications, cataracts or later or have no tears as I age (if their sites are true)? Well, I’m not sure. It makes me too physically ill to mutter through the truths and lies that might be on those sites and truly distresses me to no end. But I know its too late for me now and I can’t turn back. I can see clear 20/20 the day after surgery and I’m hoping so much not to have the complications that I really was unaware could happen in time. Yes I knew there could be complications as I read and signed the release form in the office but still I thought rare cases. As a matter of fact I had visited one of the horror sites just before I started looking for a site like this. A positive one and speaking out against those sites. And then more negative posts to read that brought back all the sick feelings. I really don’t know what to think now only I pray to Jesus in Heaven that I don’t end up being one of the horror stories next week or 5 to 20 years down the road. As I sit here I feel sick again. If I had read those sites before hand I don’t believe I would have done it. I feel horrible for those people that have been damaged forever. It is the worst fear for me to be blind. I really don’t know what to think. I do know that I can be a paranoid individual. But those stories certainly don’t comfort and I don’t know the “half truths”. I just hope that my eyes heal normally and recover as fully as possible. Thank you Ami for your good words of encouragement. I need them!

  13. This particular pseudoscience episode convinces me even more that we need a formal course on logical and critical thinking in our public schools with lots of supplementary support within other courses.

    Imagine that those “logical and critical thinking” skills are taught, but the students (and their parents) turn around and apply it to the whole concept of public school. i.e., Why do we permit the government to have a monopoly on the minds of our children? If we were allowed to keep that portion of our tax dollars (spent on government education) in our own pockets and shop for schools by our own judgement, the resulting competition would light a fire under all the available schools to improve their results. No longer would we have to tolerate the current educational lethargy caused by the ‘captured market’ that the geographically closest public school now enjoys.

  14. Ami t.y very much for posting my story on your website. However i have legal papers and been court ordered to have all my posts removed. If you can please remove my post. T.Y patrick sheahan.

  15. Suffering After Lasik

    I’m not pleased at all with my lasik decision thus far. After reading through the various different internet forums and articles after the fact I now realize that is was the most reckless decision I’ve made in my life. Especially since my correction was only a mild one. Currently I’m in constant pain, it’s the most annoying when I try to read or work on the computer but it never stops even when I sleep. Figure it will be extremely hard to forgive myself. It’s so hard to think positively about the future, I’m trying but it’s hard.

    Low Lighting and Night Vision Sucks after Lasik

    I can not see properly indoors during the day, and i have bad vision indoors in the evenings due to significant loss of contrast sensitivity. I find it very difficult to drive at night due to significant starbursting and halos around all lighting sources. I can not enjoy many of the leisure activities that I used to, such as: movies, playing cards and going out to a dimly lit pub with friends. I never figured it could turn out this way, I feel like living at decent life from this point on will be very difficult.
    I have an extreme feeling of loss, my vision is worse off than it was previous to lasik and then there’s the extreme pain. The only place I feel comfortable right now is in bed with my eyes closed. I can’t socialize anymore and I can’t real work.

    Guilt is another major problem I’ve been dealing with, I feel so stupid for letting somebody do this to me and the fact that I paid them to do this to me. I can’t talk to any friends about this because I’m so embarrassed by the whole situation and feel they’ll think I’m completely nuts for having undergone the procedure.

    I’m really scared about what the future will be, may have extreme difficulties at work and away from work. I don’t think I’m going to enjoy many of the simple pleasures of life like I used to anymore.

    Hopefully my eyes will improve. I’ve been seeing a counsellor and a psychologist so hopefully some of my dealings with them will allow me to cope better with the whole situation.

    I have been to a number of different docs since the surgery and have been told a number of different things. In the last couple of months I’ve been told my eyelids are inflamed, that my eyes are inflamed, that my corneas are swollen, that my eyes are dry, that my eyes are not dry, that my eyes are dry again, and that I may have eye allergies. The only thing that the doctors seem to agree on telling is that I will get better, now what better means I don’t exactly know, it might mean that my vision and my eye pain will get better it may mean that I’ll simply just learn to deal with it. The only consistent explanation as to my pain is that I had my eyes cut open, I don’t think the docs really fully understand the healing process and that they just hope for the best.

    I wish I would have had the patience to see a number of different docs before getting the surgery done rather than just rushing in to it. Maybe I would have gotten the good advice to not get the surgery. Every day I can’t help to think about the what if I did’nt get this surgery question. Life would be so much better right now, I now realize that I had it pretty good before.

  16. I’m glad there are so many horror stories available. These stories pushed me to do my own research instead of relying on a lasik surgeon to answer my questions. The lasik surgeon would have undoubtedly sugarcoated the risks, I mean come on, it is his business. Even with horror stories about halos, double vision, starburts, I was still not deterred. But then I discovered the deal breaker – the corneal flap never heals completely. This means no eye rubbing ever again without the risk of dislodging the flap. I’ve read various sites that mention that the flap strength after lasik is only 2% – 28%. Note that I have not confirmed these numbers. When I get the time, I will look through the studies to validate these numbers for my own enrichment. I don’t know about everyone else, but I like to rub my eyes – when they’re tired, when there’s something in them. Heck, I even like to massage my eyes at times. With lasik, this would no longer be possible.

    If you are intent on getting your eyes surgically corrected, I highly recommend PRK or ICL over lasik. But of course, do your own research. For me, my vision is way too important to risk with the currently available procedures. Perhaps, if a newer safer procedure with predictable results emerges, I will reconsider. But for now, I’d rather spend my money buying fancy glasses with all the bells and whistles.

  17. The corneal flap actually heals quite well after a few years. Rubbing is never a good idea, even without having done LASIK. Too much eye rubbing will thin your cornea and put you at risk for problems.

    There are safer ways of getting LASIK. First of all, look for a true corneal surgeon. You know, the doc in the area that fixes LASIK horror stories and other corneal diseases or injuries. They’ll be very conservative about who they’ll treat, and if they don’t do LASIK they’ll have good recommendations for you.

    Just avoid the mall and strip mall places, and any provider who wants to push LASIK on you.

  18. My heart goes out to all who’ve had unfortunate experience of LASIK horror stories. I for one do not have a horror story to share. I have had LASIK done on June 12 and although this is only my third day of recovery I am doing quite well. I had experienced blurriness and haze and inflamation the first 2 days and now nothing. No floater, starbursts, double vision. I feel truly blessed and I prayed prior to making my decision to having LASIK. I had reservations but in the end I am very happy with the results. Night vision is fine and I also had very dry eye which is gone as well. I take my prescription eye drops on schedule and lubricating drops on occasion if I feel the need for them. I had serious myopia (nearsightedness) -7.25 in one eye and -8.00 in the other. I have no regrets with going through with the LASIK procedure and I continue to pray and thank God for a permanent full recovery. Please do your research when selecting a surgeon. My surgeon has very good credentials and many years of experience. He is also very exerienced in correcting botched refractive surgery patients which made me feel all the more confident about choosing him to do my procedure. Good luck and God bless you all who either have had LASIK or are in the process of deciding.

  19. I just had Lasik on March 10, 2011. So far, I’m happy. But I do see halos and starbursts at night. Not bad to the point were I can’t drive anymore but they’re there. I did research before having the procedure done and I thought that the negative results were only on rare cases… Now I’m scared after reading about patients who’ve developed ectascia two to eight years after having Lasik done.

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