For people who rely on contacts or glasses to see clearly, laser eye surgery is an attractive option. LASIK can achieve 20/20 vision or better, meaning you could eliminate or greatly reduce the need for lenses. But like most procedures, LASIK isn’t for everyone. 

If you’re living with diabetes, here are some considerations to bear in mind.

Can You Get LASIK if You Have Diabetes?

There’s no simple yes or no answer here; instead, it depends on several factors. First and foremost, it’s worth noting that as of 2018, the FDA advised that patients are “probably not” good candidates for refractive eye surgery like LASIK if they have hormone fluctuations that can cause prescription changes or conditions that can affect healing — both of which apply to diabetes. 

Since then, however, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) has issued some counterpoints to this debate. The AAO notes that the FDA’s recommendation was based on limited data, as very few patients with diabetes have received LASIK. The recommendation, they claim, was therefore based on theoretical, and not actual, risk. They further point out that while research is mixed, growing evidence indicates LASIK may be safe for diabetic patients who maintain strict control over their blood sugar levels and have no other complications.

What Are the Risks of Getting LASIK with Diabetes?

LASIK is considered a low-risk procedure with excellent success rates. But certain pre-existing conditions could affect surgical outcomes. Even though diabetes is not an eye condition in itself, having it could increase your risk of complications, including diabetic retinopathy. In this condition, blood pressure can damage the tiny blood vessels in your retina, causing them to swell and leak. Symptoms like blurred vision, floaters, and difficulty seeing colors can occur. While LASIK can correct astigmatism, nearsightedness, and farsightedness, it wouldn’t address any vision issues caused by diabetes complications.

A more pressing concern is the potential for postoperative complications or infection. Diabetes causes chronic inflammation which can impede wound healing. Reduced circulation can also interfere with healing (as seen in nonhealing ulcers in the feet, a serious complication of diabetes). This risk may be lower, however, for people with diabetes who manage their blood sugar effectively. There has been some research that indicates people with well-controlled diabetes experience no greater risk for complications than their non-diabetic peers, though the study is small and somewhat dated. 

Diabetes & LASIK: The Bottom Line

Since the FDA’s initial recommendation, research into how people with diabetes would fare with LASIK continues to be limited. The AAO has compiled what little evidence we do have and has issued the following advisories:

  • Patients should have an established history of controlling their glucose levels, and maintain glycosylated hemoglobin levels of less than 9.
  • Patients with diabetic retinopathy may be considered depending on severity, but those with a history of eye-related complications should not receive the procedure.
  • Systemic complications such as peripheral neuropathy should also disqualify patients from LASIK.

In general, it’s our belief that people with no pre-existing eye conditions or systemic conditions that could affect eye health are likely to experience the best outcomes from LASIK and other eye surgeries. We consider candidacy on a case-by-case basis and will discuss your health and vision history in detail to reach an informed decision about the best treatment plan for you.

If you’re considering LASIK, you’re in the most capable hands with our eye surgeons. Start your pre-assessment online by taking our LASIK Self Test, or schedule a consultation by calling 404-351-2020.