Laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis, or LASIK, is a joint eye surgery that is a safe and effective way to correct vision problems such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.
It’s been studied in various forms since the 1950s but only came to market in the 1990s and has been approved by the FDA since 1995. LASIK has helped millions achieve clear vision without glasses or contact lenses; sometimes, people may need it more than once.
While it is possible to get LASIK twice, only 1-2% of patients require re-treatment within the first year of LASIK surgery. After that, the percentage goes up by approximately 1% per year. Roughly 20% of patients need a second LASIK procedure 20 years after the first treatment. Thus, the chances of you needing laser eye surgery more than once are relatively low, even decades down the line.
There are different reasons a person may need another procedure done. In extreme cases of astigmatism or other visual impairments, the first LASIK procedure may undercurrent the error, creating the need for another. Another reason for a second surgery is aging. Your eyes change as you get older, which is inevitable.
Technically, there is no limit to how many of these procedures you can get, but several factors affect whether or not you can have the surgery more than once.
A second LASIK procedure is most often called secondary or enhancement surgery. Because LASIK is considered permanent, the enhancement surgery will be slightly different since it is thinning the already-altered cornea more.
The main factor in determining if you can have LASIK again is the size and thickness of your cornea. During LASIK, specialized lasers are used to form a thin flap in the corneal tissue to correct the inner part of the cornea—changing its shape to correct refractive errors.
The shape of your cornea can cause you to be farsighted, nearsighted, or suffer from astigmatism. Second or more surgeries will need more corneal tissue to work with, and eventually, you won’t have enough. Each LASIK surgery makes the cornea thinner. LASIK is not a viable option if there isn’t enough corneal tissue.
Other risks of a second procedure are epithelial ingrowth and corneal ectasia. Epithelial ingrowth is when extra cells collect under the flap, leading to visual complications and discomfort. Corneal ectasia is the bulging of the cornea after the surgery. Both of these risks are very rare.
If you have already had the procedure done, and are considering another, discuss your circumstances with an eye doctor and be sure your eyes have reached a stable point.