The Contact Lens vs. LASIK Safety Debate

It has long been debated whether contact lenses are safer than LASIK. According to a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology (2006), researchers have confirmed that LASIK surgery as performed this year is safer than contact lenses. Sight threatening infections from contact lens use occur in 1 in 2,000 contact lens wearers, whereas the study confirms that only one in 10,000 patients risk significant vision loss due to complications from LASIK, making LASIK the safest elective procedure being performed today.

Dr. James Kiley, a pioneer in laser vision who helped introduce laser vision correction to the Triangle area in 1996, has been convinced of this for some time. The risk of laser vision correction has been diminishing as technologies continue to evolve.

All eye doctors are aware of the potential dangers of contact lens infections. Tens of millions of Americans may be at risk of these serious infections for which there is no prevention. Basically everyone wearing lenses is at risk.

“Patients must remember that contact lenses are pieces of plastic (essentially foreign bodies) that are placed in the eye. The incorrect use of contact lenses can lead to an increased risk of infection,” says Dr. Kiley.  A Lancet study showed that people who wear daily contact lenses run the risk of 1 in 100 of developing a bacterial keratitis, an infection that can lead to a loss of vision. Patients who abuse contacts by wearing them overnight or improperly caring for their lenses have an even larger risk.

“One shouldn’t assume that lenses are safe,” explains Dr. Kiley. “It may have been true years back but not anymore, since wearers of lenses are prone to serious infections. 1/2,000 will at least lose some vision or worse.” Infections have become a serious threat to 30 million wearers who may not take good care of their contact lenses as well as episodic occurrence of epidemics of untreatable infections.

Meanwhile conversely LASIK, which years ago did have risks, has gone through diligent work by doctors and industry leaders. This work has lowered the risk and rendered LASIK safe as compared to contact lenses.

Today, LASIK as practiced by experienced surgeons on properly selected patients is safer than wearing contact lenses. Surgeons who use the safest and most advanced lasers and who utilize the sophisticated screening technologies provide an unprecedented level of safety, said Dr. Kiley.”

All LASIK surgeons have observed some unexpected adverse effects in the early days of LASIK. They became the bases for the lawsuits that were reported in the tabloids for the past couple of years.

“The improvements in technology, surgeon experience and properly selected patients have helped eliminate the risk of further negative reports on LASIK,” said Dr. Kiley.

Recently, a large study of more than 32,000 U.S. Armed forces members who had an eye laser surgery found no vision loss greater than two lines in 18,000 procedures performed over ten years. If you have been considering LASIK, the time for clear vision has arrived!

Start the new year off right with clear vision from Raleigh Eye Center. For more information about LASIK or to schedule a consultation, call (919) 876-2427 or visit Raleigh Eye Center online at