Does Altitude Affect Colorado Lasik Surgery Safety?


If you're in Colorado, Lasik surgery may concern you because of the high altitude of cities like Denver. And it's definitely a concern, although the surgery is still safe. Refractive surgery like Lasik or PRK use lasers to reshape the cornea, improving sight so that the patient is less dependent on glasses or contacts – in many cases, allowing them to go without corrective lenses entirely. People at high altitudes have had problems if they sleep with their contacts still in, reporting increased corneal edema (swelling of the cornea), so many people question whether having Colorado Lasik surgery in a high-altitude area like Colorado could be difficult or dangerous. According to experts, however, there are no dangers to having laser eye surgery in high altitude areas. In fact, eye surgeons say that refractive surgery may actually decrease the potential for eye problems if you live in an area like Colorado, especially if you enjoy high altitude activities like mountaineering – but it depends on the kind of Colorado lasik surgery you have done. Mountain climbers have sometimes suffered from retinal hemorrhages at high altitudes, and have had problems with extended-wear contact lenses because they decrease the amount of oxygen to the cornea.

There is compelling evidence that the vision of climbers who have had corrective laser surgery is affected by high altitudes. In one particularly tragic event, Dr. Beck Weathers found that his vision decreed so much as he ascended Mt. Everest in 1996, it forced him to quit his climb early and almost resolved in his death (eight climbers lost their lives during the climb, which was recounted in Jon Krakauer's book "Into Thin Air"). Wathers' vision had been corrected several years earlier through radial keratometry (RK), the same surgery as two other expert climbers who experienced reductions in vision during test climbs up Mt. McKinley and Everest. Studies found that climbers who had laser refractive surgery – Lasik or PRK – did not have the same loss of vision as mountaineers who had the old-style RK surgery, however. Recovery times for Lasik and PRK patients are the same at high altitudes as they are at lower altitudes, although PRK takes a little longer recovery no matter where you have the procedure. Be assured that the surgery is safe wherever altitude you're at, and will offer the same benefits.