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 an IOL, an artificial lens. One of these treatments targets issues with the cornea, while the other treats issues with the lens.

However, patients often ask, does that mean you can have cataract surgery after LASIK? Read on to find out how eye surgery impacts your ability for future procedures.

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 years old. 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.
  • Secondary cataract: This is a general term used to describe the presence of a cloudy capsule which may occur at some point after cataract surgery. This involves accumulation of cells on the posterior lens capsule. The capsule is the tissue that holds the IOL (artificial lens) that is implanted during cataract surgery.

How are They Diagnosed and Treated?

Once a patient begins to notice the symptoms of cataracts—which typically include cloudy, blurred, or double vision—an optometrist or ophthalmologic surgeon 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 quick and noninvasive. Once your surgeon confirms the presence of a cataract, you can discuss your options for treatments or surgical correction.

While treatment may only involve a stronger glasses prescription at first, most patients will require cataract surgery to remedy the problem. 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 cataract surgery can also be a risk for your vision, depending on your unique needs and situation. Our experts will help you navigate your journey to clearer, healthier eyesight—providing guidance on everything from when to undergo your procedure to how to safely recover.

What is LASIK Surgery?

LASIK surgery, on the other hand, is the best-known laser refractive surgery for treating 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 improving 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 one to two weeks. LASIK is an extremely popular elective surgery due to its high rate of success and practical use. Generally speaking, you can have LASIK if you are over 18 years old and have a glasses prescription that falls within a certain range.

What can LASIK patients expect directly after surgery?

LASIK itself is relatively quick. Directly after surgery, 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 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. Your surgeon will gather information about your vision and eyes, taking in account your previous LASIK experience. If you are considering both procedures, we recommend finding and working with one expert surgeon for both LASIK and cataract surgery, so they can take all details about your vision into account.

Why is My Prior Vision Important to Cataract Surgery?

Why does vision prior to LASIK matter for cataract surgery—especially since both treat separate parts of the eyeball? Not all patients or surgeons have access to pre-LASIK records. Working with experts Dr. Beran or Dr. Weber will ensure you are precisely measured for cataract surgery. Working with someone who specializes in both procedures, like our doctors, can enhance the predictability of your new lenses and ensure a very successful procedure.

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.

By improving your vision, cataract surgery could even help 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. With clearer vision after cataract surgery, you may feel more confident in daily life with your new lenses.

Additionally, emerging research suggests that visual decline, including cataracts, may be connected to the progression or development of dementia. Doctors and researchers theorize that the heightened visual acuity achieved by cataract surgery may help patients be more active and maintain a more accurate perception of the world around them. As a result, it helps them maintain physical health and cognitive function. While more research is needed to determine if these conditions are related, we know that healthy eyes and vision do impact the rest of the body.

Clear vision is important for a myriad of activities and daily tasks, from staying active and driving to enjoying hobbies and seeing loved ones. When you have clearer vision, you will undoubtedly enjoy a much higher quality of life.

Is it Better to Pick One Surgery or the Other? 

Many people ask if it’s necessary to have both LASIK and cataract surgery or if it 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 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 at different phases in your life.

What are the Risks for Receiving Both Procedures?

The primary complication associated with having cataract surgery after LASIK is that calculating cataract measurements is more complex after undergoing the LASIK procedure. Because of this, it is very important to select doctors who have expertise in both LASIK and cataracts to ensure the best possible results. Precise calculations for prescriptions can help you enjoy clear, focused vision after surgery.

Though not necessary for an excellent result, if you have access to any of the following information, do share it with your surgeon before cataract surgery:

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

The most significant way you can reduce your risk of needing a second LASIK procedure or a lens replacement procedure is to ensure you are in the best hands possible. Our experts at CLCC, Dr. Beran and Dr. Weber, have over 50 years of combined experience and 75,000 procedures under their belts, including numerous LASIK procedures and cataract surgeries. With their expertise and care, you will be in the best possible hands to ensure a successful procedure. While the risks for having cataract surgery following LASIK are minimal, you should consult your ophthalmologist about whether this is the 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 select the right team for your cataract and LASIK treatment. By working closely with your surgeon on your vision correction journey, you can enjoy a successful result from both of these procedures. An expert surgeon who has experience with both surgeries—like our doctors here at CLCC—can handle the nuances and deliver great results to help you achieve the best vision possible.

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