New technology and advanced techniques have significantly reduced the risk of infection following refractive surgery. Studies have shown that cataract surgery only leads to infection in about 0.1 percent of cases, while LASIK surgery complications affect less than 1.2 percent of patients. In spite of low complication rates, it is important to take every preventive measure and to know the symptoms that indicate an infection. Without prompt medical attention, an eye infection can result in many serious side effects, including permanent vision loss. Choosing an experienced surgeon and following your post-op instructions are the best means of infection control.
Signs of Infection
It is important to contact your doctor right away if you are experiencing:
- Redness or swelling
- Wateriness or discharge
- Sensitivity or pain
- Blurriness or decreased vision
Without the appropriate intervention from your doctor, these symptoms can quickly worsen.
Preventing Infection at Home
Following surgery, your doctor will provide detailed post-operative instructions to minimize your risk of infection. Infection is most commonly spread through person-to-person contact or through contact with contaminated objects. In order to prevent infection, you must:
Wash Your HandsWashing your hands can prevent infection by eliminating germs. Always use soap and water, especially before touching the area around your eyes or mouth.
Avoid Contact with Your Eyes
Touching your eyes can introduce harmful bacteria to the treatment area and increase your risk of infection.
Keep Bedding Clean
Sheets, pillows, and towels are the perfect breeding grounds for harmful bacteria. Following your procedure, keep your bedding and personal items clean.
Do Not Share Personal ItemsEyeglasses, sunglasses, and other personal items can transfer bacteria from one person to another.
Use Contact Lenses Properly
Your doctor will determine when it is appropriate to start using contact lenses again after your procedure. Once it is safe to do so, be sure to wash your hands before inserting your lenses, remove them nightly, and do not wear them longer than prescribed.
Take Medications as Prescribed
Following your procedure, your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotic eyedrops or oral medication to prevent infection. Be sure to take these as prescribed.
Contaminated water in the ocean, pools, or hot tubs can introduce harmful bacteria to your eyes. For most patients, swimming should be avoided for at least two weeks after surgery.
Do Not Wear Eye Makeup
Eyeshadow and mascara can introduce debris to your eyes. It is important to avoid wearing makeup before and immediately after surgery.
When In Doubt, Call Your Doctor
Because delaying treatment for an eye infection can eventually result in permanent vision loss, it is important to schedule a consultation as soon as you notice symptoms. Your doctor can assess your condition and prescribe the appropriate treatment to help you experience a successful outcome.