Can You Have Cataract Surgery after LASIK?

Jun 28, 2023

LASIK and cataract surgery are two of the most popular vision correction-related procedures. LASIK, or Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis, is a laser-based ocular treatment used to correct myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism. Vision correction is achieved by using a laser to reshape the surface of the cornea, which is the outermost layer of the eye. Cataract surgery, on the other hand, is a procedure that remedies clouded or spotty vision by removing the natural lens of the eye and replacing it with IOLs (a form of artificial lens). 

One of these procedures treats issues with the cornea, while the other treats issues with the lens, which would make them seem completely separate. But does that mean you can have cataract surgery after LASIK? Read on to find out.

What Causes Cataracts?

The most significant factor that leads to cataracts is aging. This is why most of our patients who suffer from cataracts are over 50. However, there are many other specific factors that can lead to cataracts, including the following:

  • Traumatic Cataract: A traumatic cataract is caused by damage to the eye through injury or trauma, and even has the potential to develop years after the trauma.
  • Congenital Cataract: This type of cataract is present at birth or develops in early childhood, and is contracted genetically.
  • Radiation Cataract: This cataract is caused by excess exposure to ultraviolet light.

It is important to note that smoking and alcoholism, as well as abusing drugs such as corticosteroids and chlorpromazine, can intensify your risk for cataracts.

How are They Diagnosed and Treated?

Once a patient begins to notice the symptoms of cataracts—which typically includes cloudy, blurred, or double vision—an ophthalmologist will perform an examination to confirm the diagnosis. This might involve a visual acuity test, a slit-lamp examination, and/or a retinal examination, all of which are fairly quick and non-invasive. Once your surgeon confirms the presence of cataracts on your eye lens, you can discuss your options for treatments or surgical correction.

While you may just need a new treatment or stronger glasses prescription, some patients will require cataract surgery. It is important to know that, while cataract surgery is very helpful to numerous patients, it may be potentially riskier for diabetic patients. However, delaying the surgery if and when it is necessary can also be a risk for your vision. Overall, this procedure is very successful and you should be completely healed within about eight weeks.

What is LASIK Surgery?

LASIK surgery, on the other hand, is the best-known laser refractive surgery for treating he common eye issues. LASIK is ideal for patients  seeking a long-term solution to nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism that will likely reduce the need for glasses or contact lenses afterward. During the LASIK procedure, your surgeon will use a cutting laser to precisely reshape the dome of your cornea so that it refracts light properly, thus fixing your vision. LASIK is one of the most common procedures in the ophthalmological field, and for a good reason: it has a high success rate and a recovery period of just around 1-2 weeks.

What can LASIK patients expect directly after surgery?

LASIK itself only takes around 30 minutes. Directly after the procedure, your eye(s) may itch, burn, or feel as though there is something in them. Some LASIK patients report discomfort, which is very normal, and your surgeon may instruct you to take a mild pain reliever temporarily. Your eyes may tear up or water more than usual, which is also completely normal. No matter what, you must make sure not to rub or itch your eyes after LASIK surgery, as this could dislodge the flap created in your cornea during the procedure. If you accidentally rub your eyes during recovery and any new symptoms arise, you should contact your surgeon immediately.

After LASIK surgery, you will be instructed to refrain from using any creams or makeup around the eyes for two weeks, and to avoid strenuous sports for at least a month. This will help ensure that you are protected from infection and potential injury to the area. It may take up to six months for your vision to fully stabilize after LASIK, and you should contact your eye doctor or surgeon immediately at the first sign of any abnormal or lasting symptoms.

Is it Possible to Have Cataract Surgery After LASIK?

For most patients, it is possible to have cataract surgery following LASIK, or other types of refractive surgery (such as Contoura vision), since cataract surgery involves replacing the eye lens. Keep in mind that, if possible, it is helpful to provide your surgeon with information about your vision and eyes prior to LASIK.

Why is My Prior Vision Important to Cataract Surgery?

You may be thinking, why does my vision prior to LASIK matter to cataract surgery if they are treating separate parts of the eyeball? While not all patients have access to pre-LASIK records, if you do, this can assist in making cataract surgery even more accurate, though it is not imperative. Overall, if you do not have this information, predictability for your new lenses may not be as accurate as they would’ve been with pre-LASIK measurements, but the procedure is still very likely to be successful.

What are the Benefits of Cataract Surgery?

The most common complaint associated with cataracts is blurred or ‘cloudy’ vision, which is why clarity of vision is the biggest benefit after cataract surgery. Not only can cataract surgery clarify vision, but it can treat presbyopia, otherwise known as age-related farsightedness. This is a refractive error that impacts the eye’s natural lens, so the replacement of the lens involved in cataract surgery can improve this condition.

Because cataract surgery can improve your vision, it will also prevent falls and injuries. Having clouded vision makes it difficult to see what’s in front of you, which may put you at a higher risk of injury. Additionally, because many people in the age group most impacted by cataracts wear bifocal or multifocal lenses, they are already at a higher risk for falls, since these lenses can reduce contrast sensitivity and depth perception. Since you are less likely to need multifocal lenses after cataract surgery, and your vision is clearer, you will be less likely to suffer an injury.

Additionally, research that links vision loss and dementia has recently supported the case that cataract removal may reduce the progression or development of dementia. The heightened visual acuity and topography achieved after cataract surgery allows patients to be more active and to have a more accurate perception of the world around them, which is very helpful in maintaining physical health and cognitive function.

Clear vision is very important for a myriad of activities and daily tasks, and something that will seem invaluable once you finally have it back. The power of clearer vision will undoubtedly enable you to enjoy a much higher quality of life. 

Is it Better to Pick One Surgery or the Other? 

Many people ask, is it necessary to have both LASIK and cataract surgery–would it be best to just choose one? Because these procedures target different problems and different parts of the eye, there is an added benefit to having both of them when necessary. You should always consult your ophthalmologist about your unique needs before undergoing any procedure, and you may have to wait a certain period of time between receiving both surgeries. Because LASIK surgery aims to improve upon your vision by reshaping your cornea, and cataract surgery replaces a cloudy lens to provide clarity, having both procedures may be game-changing for your vision and health.

What are the Risks for Receiving Both Procedures?

The primary risk associated with having cataract surgery after LASIK is that the wrong IOL prescription will be calculated, which can result in unfocused, blurry vision after surgery. Fortunately, this can usually be solved by a new LASIK procedure or a new lens placement procedure. In most cases, this issue can be prevented if you are able to provide your surgeon with the following information:

  • Pre-LASIK eye measurements
  • Pre-LASIK vision correction prescription
  • Post-LASIK eye measurements
  • Post-LASIK vision measurements (prior to developing cataracts, keep in mind)

Therefore, the risks for having cataract surgery following LASIK are not, by any means, reason enough not to ask your ophthalmologist if this could be a right step for you.

Overall Takeaways

The most important thing to know is that it is very possible to have cataract surgery after LASIK as long as you have gathered the proper information. If you work closely with your ophthalmologist from the beginning of your vision correction journey, you are most likely to have a completely successful result from both of these procedures. Communication is key, and we as ophthalmologists want to help you achieve the best vision possible, because seeing your best allows you to feel your best.

If you have any more questions or wish to schedule an appointment, please call Columbus Laser and Cataract Center at (614) 939-1600.