Concerns about Lasik eye surgery

April 23, 2008 7:48:25 PM PDT
It's one of the most popular elective surgeries, with 700,000 Americans having Lasik correction each year. Some 12 million have had the procedure since it was approved in the mid-1990's. Most patients are thrilled with the results. But some say the surgery has ruined their eyesight and destroyed their lives. Now, they're taking their complaints straight to the FDA.

Some LASIK patients say they are left with starbursts, halos, double vision or night blindness after the surgery, often touted as quick, easy and problem-free.

"I have halos, I have starbursts, I have glare, my eyes are dry," patient Abby Ellin said. "This is not a success."

It's been a year since Ellin underwent Lasik surgery. She says she can now see without glasses, but only if she squints, and her eyes bother her constantly.

"It's just painful," she said. "And I feel like there is a film around my eye all the time."

Doctors who perform Lasik say, as with any operation, there is a risk. But they insist it's a very small percentage of patients who have serious complications.

The industry says studies show 95 percent of patients are satisfied with their results.

But given the millions who had the procedure, that still leave hundreds of thousands who may regret their decision.

Dr. Roy Rubenfeld, who has done thousands of Lasik operations and has even had the surgery himself, says patients should not take the procedure lightly.

"You have one pair of eyes, and it is a very important part of your life," he said. "And so doing your homework and seeking some who you can trust is critical."

That also means finding a doctor who will do the tests to ensure that you 're a good candidate.

Factors that may rule out Lasik include large pupils, thin corneas and extremely dry eyes.

There are clearly those who find success with Lasik, including the world's greatest golfer. Tiger Wood trusted his sight, and his career, to the procedure.

But those who are suffering say all the successes don't diminish the failures.

"I walk by eyeglass shops and I wish I needed to go inside," Ellin said. "And I meant that. I want my glasses."

For now though, she must live with the eyes and the eyesight she has.