LASIK During the Time Of COVID
Many patients have been asking me about LASIK and PRK and whether now is a good time given the COVID-19 epidemic. While it is theoretically possible for COVID-19 to transmit via the mucus membranes of the eye, there has not yet been 1 case of COVID-19 transmission reported this way.
Overall, it is a great time to finally perform LASIK (and PRK) and get rid of contacts and glasses forever. A short 5 minute procedure one day will make it so that you wake up the next day and do not need contacts or glasses forever.
Remote Work Affects Contact Lens Patients
The radical change in our work and personal culture from COVID-19 has made it so that we are on our screens more now than ever, and this has affected our corneas. When we are concentrating on screens, our blink time and blink completion is reduced. This causes the corneal surface to dry out, causing the tears on the surface of the eye to evaporate more quickly. This leads to symptoms of dryness such as foreign body sensation, grittiness, tearing, pressure behind the eye, and heavy eyes. Patients as a result have become contact lens intolerant.
Additionally, patients are not able to get a new prescription for their contacts, and I have found some patients over-wearing their contacts significantly. For example, patients in daily contacts (meant to be worn and discarded on a daily basis) are wearing them for a week. Patients with biweekly lenses (meant to be discarded after 2 weeks) are extending them out for a month. Because so many patients are living in other homes not in the city or not near their usual eye doctor, they are extending the normal wear of their contacts.
The Impact of Over-wearing Contact Lenses
This can lead to many consequences, from the most severe – including corneal ulcers, perforations, and scars, to minor consequences such as irritated, dry and burning eyes.
The cornea is avascular (no blood vessels) and gets its nutrients from the oxygen in front of it (and the aqueous behind it). Every contact lens covers the cornea and limits the amount of oxygen that gets to the cornea. Even with the best contact lens use (remove each night, don’t overwear, replace when need to), eventually after years there is peripheral blood vessel growth on the cornea from lack of oxygen to the cornea.
The Value In Eliminating Contact Lenses
Eliminating contact lenses altogether with LASIK is the single healthiest thing you can do for your corneas in the long run.
With more and more people now at home taking care of children and elderly, they find less time for themselves. Taking the time to put in/ remove contacts and clean them appropriately just becomes one more task. LASIK and PRK removes that extra hassle.
The Impact on Eyeglass Wearers
Other patients are not wearing contacts at all and are sticking with their glasses but are annoyed by this. Glasses can pinch the area behind your ears, pinch your nose, decrease the visual field on both sides on the side, and give a headache towards the end of the day. An excellent time to get LASIK and not have to deal with glasses again.
What You Should Know About LASIK During COVID
For patients who have been wearing contacts, you have to be out of your contacts from 10-14 days prior to LASIK calculations. For those who have been only wearing glasses- your corneas are ready for measurement.
If on your first LASIK evaluation you are found to have dry eye (because of some of the reasons mentioned above), then we will treat the dry eye initially with a combination of lubricating drops/ ointment, prescription dry eye drops, punctal plugs, and other treatments. Once the dry eye has resolved, it will then be safe to perform LASIK.
Downtime is minimal. With LASIK, patients go back to their day to day lives the next day; with PRK and LASEK there is a few days of recovery, and vision doesn’t become normal until a week later. With many people working from home, there is a nice flexibility in being able to set your own hours – which makes scheduling LASIK even easier.
The safety of LASIK is the same now as it was before COVID-19. All personnel performing LASIK wear masks, gloves, and take great precautions. While it is theoretically possible for COVID-19 to transmit via the mucus membranes of the eye, there has not yet been 1 case of COVID-19 transmission reported this way.
I have seen a significant increase in LASIK and PRK inquiries and have been preforming more procedures lately, as patients see the benefit of not needing contacts and glasses during this time. I predict this trend will continue as COVID-19 remains in the immediate future.