Author: Betsy McKay
In rare cases, complications from Lasik or cataract surgery can leave patients feeling as if they have shards of glass in their eyes. Researchers are looking to treat the condition known as neuropathic corneal pain.
Kaylee Patterson woke with a sharp pain in her right eye the morning after she had Lasik surgery. She felt a dull ache on one side of her face.
Worried, Ms. Patterson visited her surgeon and her regular eye doctor several times over the next few weeks. They repeatedly told her that everything looked normal, she says. Yet the slightest thing—a draft of air, a ray of light—would cause excruciating pain in her head. “I was in pain and nobody was helping me,” the 33-year-old mental-health counselor said.
A year and a half after her surgery, Ms. Patterson finally learned why she was suffering. She has a condition known as neuropathic corneal pain, a specialist told her. The nerves in her cornea which had been cut as a routine part of Lasik surgery had become hypersensitive, producing agonizing pain.
It’s an unusual and sometimes severe complication of Lasik and other types of eye surgery. One form, called corneal neuralgia, can be hugely debilitating. Some patients report feeling as if they have fireballs or shards of glass in their eyes. Yet their eyes appear normal to most doctors who examine them. Seeing nerve damage requires a more high-powered microscope.
They often diagnose these patients with dry eye, another Lasik complication with some similar symptoms. The treatments usually aren’t enough, leaving many patients frustrated and in despair. Several patients unable to find relief from the pain have died by suicide.
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