PURPOSE: To determine the incidence and severity of patient complaints typical of dry eye and recurrent erosion syndrome after excimer laser refractive surgery and to compare the incidence of these symptoms after photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) and laser in situ keratomileusis (LASIK).
SETTING: Outpatient university practice.
METHODS: A questionnaire was mailed to 1731 patients who had had primary myopic PRK or LASIK at least 6 months previously. Questions were designed to determine the incidence and character of ocular dryness and recurrent erosion symptoms and their impact on patient satisfaction and willingness to have surgery again. Responses from PRK and LASIK patients were compared.
RESULTS: Responses from 231 PRK patients and 550 LASIK patients revealed an incidence of dryness symptoms in 43% and 48%, respectively (P >.05). Soreness of the eye to touch was reported by 26.8% and 6.7%, respectively (P <.0001). Sharp pains occurred in 20.4% of PRK patients and 8.0% of LASIK patients (P =.0001). Complaints of the eyelid sticking to the eyeball occurred in 14.7% and 5.6%, respectively (P =.0001). All symptoms occurred predominantly on waking. Frequency of eyelid sticking (P <.0005) and sharp pain (P <.005) symptoms, as well as severity of sharp pain symptoms (P <.0001), were significantly greater in PRK patients than in LASIK patients. On a scale of 0 to 10 (10 high), median overall patient satisfaction with surgery was 9 in both groups. Soreness of the eyelid to touch occurred significantly more frequently among patients with symptoms of sharp pains on waking (P <.001) and the sensation of the eyelid sticking to the eyeball (P <.001). Patients with 1 or more symptoms were twice as likely as asymptomatic patients to have a satisfaction score of less than 8 (P <.001).
CONCLUSIONS: Ocular dryness symptoms occurred commonly after PRK and LASIK. Symptoms suggestive of mild recurrent erosions included sharp pains, the sensation of the eyelid sticking to the eyeball, and soreness of the eyelid to touch, a previously unrecognized symptom of this condition. These symptoms occurred commonly after excimer laser procedures but were significantly more common, more severe, and more prolonged after PRK. The presence of these symptoms had a significant effect on patient satisfaction.