LASIK vs Contact Safety

For years now, multiple debates have been raging on among eye doctors and patients alike, about the safety of contact lenses versus LASIK. The fact of the matter is neither are too dangerous – however, there are certain risks to both which you need to understand in order to better determine which one is the right solution for you and generally safer.

Which One Carries Less Risk? LASIK Eye Surgery vs Contact Safety

This is a fairly open-ended question, although a lot depends on the odds of suffering from a complication. For example, contact lens users are at a 1 in 1000 risk of significant vision loss due to bacterial infections; this is 10 times higher than the risk of significant vision loss from a LASIK procedure carried out by a trained surgeon at a facility which has careful screening and the latest equipment.
Several studies have revealed that even though there is a small chance that LASIK surgery may cause complications such as an eye infection, the risks are dramatically less compared to the infections associated with contact lens use. Furthermore, laser eye surgery is a significantly less risky option, compared to a lifetime of wearing contact lenses.
Researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University confirmed that the risk of vision loss due to refractive surgery is far lower in contrast to using contact lens for life.
Just to add to the above, it can be said that wearing contact lenses may not necessarily be a safer option to LASIK based on these facts:

  • The risk of Acanthamoeba keratitis, a disease that typically affects contact lens wearers, is 1 in 1000 for those who wear them daily for 30 years
  • The risk of another eye infection known as bacterial keratitis is 1 in 100 for people who daily wear contacts for 30 years; 1 in 2000 people lose vision at some point due to this infection
  • Even though newer contact lenses allow more oxygen to reach the eyes, keeping them healthier, the latest LASIK methods, such as more accurate lasers, blade-free surgery, better-equipped surgeons and improved patient screening, are still a safer option at correcting vision

Both long and short term contact lens use can cause serious and in some cases, permanent vision damage. In a worst-case scenario, it can cause permanent blindness. Compared to the vision-threatening infections that occur in contact lens users, 1 in 2000, the same for LASIK is 1 in 10,000.

Unavoidable Risks Which Make Contacts Potentially Unsafe

There are certain risks that only contact lens users have to bear, unfortunately, such as:

  • Forgetting to remove contacts while sleeping or keeping them on as recommended by the manufacturer (those made for continuous wear can often cause premature damage of the corneas as well)
  • Poor hygiene habits – using tap water to lubricate or store contacts and failing to wash hands properly before inserting/removing contacts
  • Reusing contacts that should have been disposed of

A variety of long-term risks, including blindness, can occur as a direct result of using contact lenses for too long. On the other hand, LASIK carries little risk, especially if you are in the hands of an experienced surgeon who uses the latest technology and know how to carry out the procedure.

In a recent FDA study, More than 95% of participants were satisfied with their vision following LASIK surgery.

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