|CLEARER WARNINGS ON LASIK EYE SURGERY|
On Friday April 25, patients harmed by Lasik eye surgery told federal health advisers of severe eye pain and blurred vision. The advisers recommended that the government warn more clearly about the risks of the operations.
About 700,000 Americans a year undergo the elective laser surgery. And while many benefit - most see 20-20 or even better - about one in four people who seeks Lasik is not a good candidate. A small fraction, suffer serious, life-changing side effects: severe dry eye, worse vision, inability to drive at night and glare.
A decade after Lasik surgery became available there still are questions about just how often patients suffer bad outcomes from the $2,000-per-eye procedure. The FDA advisers - a group of mostly glasses-wearing eye doctors - recommended that the agency make more clear the warnings it already provides for would-be Lasik patients:
* Make more understandable the conditions that should disqualify someone from Lasik, such as large pupils or severe nearsightedness.
* Clarify how often patients suffer different side effects, such as dry eye. Some eye surgeons say 31 percent of Lasik patients have some degree of dry eye before surgery, and it worsens for about 5 percent afterward. Other studies say 48 percent of Lasik recipients suffer some degree of dry eye months later.
* Add photographs that illustrate what people suffering certain side effects actually see, such as the glare that can make oncoming headlights a huge "starburst" of light.
* And spell out that anyone whose nearsightedness is fixed by Lasik is guaranteed to need reading glasses in middle age, something that might not be needed if they skip Lasik.
Lasik is marketed as quick and painless: Doctors cut a flap in the cornea - the eye's clear covering - aim a laser underneath it and zap to reshape the cornea for sharper sight.
The FDA says that only about 5% of patients are dissatisfied with Lasik. We don't know exactly how many of those suffer lasting severe problems and how many just didn't get quite as clear vision as they had expected. The FDA is working with eye surgeons to begin a major study next year to better understand who has bad outcomes.
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