Warning about rare, but extreme pain after LASIK eye surgery

Rare symptom can lead to depression, suicide

VIDEO: Ashley Harding reports on doctors' warnings of pain after Lasik surgery.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A local ophthalmologist warning about rare, but extreme pain after LASIK eye surgery.

The dangers are now the focus of a new Wall Street Journal report. Dr. Arun Gulani took part in the report and is warning people about the extreme pain and how to prevent it.

Gulani said while it's a rare condition, this can happen after the nerves are damaged during the surgery. This can make the eyes hypersensitive to many things, even something as simple as a gust of wind.

“In a typical LASIK procedure, you make a cut in the cornea. Then you lift this flap up. While cutting this cornea, is where you end up damaging the nerve,” explained Gulani. The procedure may be hard to understand for people outside the medical field. Gulani said what might be harder to understand is the debilitating pain that can sometimes come post-surgery.

It’s the reason why patients from all over the world end up in his exam room.

“When these patients fly here, you can imagine the amount of time and money they’re spending just flying to me. It tells you, already, the level of pain they’re going through,” Gulani said.

He has divided these patients into two categories: transient and chronic. 

In a transient case, the pain can become well-controlled in about three months through treatment. The chronic case is different. Gulani said this is where the pain is so severe, it can lead to depression, and in some cases, suicide.

Earlier this year, the husband of a Detroit meteorologist, who killed herself, linked her suicide to the procedure. 

“LASIK is an elective surgery, so you did not begin with a disease. You were normal as far as you were concerned, and to come back with a disease is unacceptable,” Gulani said.

Prevention begins with awareness, for both patients and doctors.

He believes a newer technique, one that doesn’t involve cutting or blades will help with prevention. 

“We’re using the laser in a very superficial but smooth surface way without cutting. Without cutting the nerve,” Gulani explained. He advises patients to work closely with their doctor and be their own advocate.“Find out why that procedure that has been picked is the best for you. Is it because the surgeon already knows the procedure or is that the right fit for you?”

Gulani said there are 23 different laser vision surgeries. LASIK is just one of them. That’s why he says patients should ask questions and be part of the process in finding what procedure is best for them. 


About the Authors:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013. She reports for and anchors The Morning Show.