Diffuse Lamellar Keratitis (DLK)

Diffuse lamellar keratitis (DLK) is an infrequent complication of LASIK eye surgery. DLK is a sterile (non-infectious) inflammation underneath the flap, occurring in perhaps 1 of 500 cases. Nobody knows what causes it, but there is probably more than one cause.

The doctor performing postoperative care typically observes DLK the day after surgery, using an instrument called a slit lamp microscope. Under the microscope, the condition looks like waves of sand inside the cornea. For this reason, DLK is also referred to as "Sands of the Sahara."

When DLK is mild or in its early stages, the patient may or may not experience discomfort or report problems with vision. But severe cases left untreated can lead to permanent vision loss.

DLK is usually treated with frequent use of anti-inflammatory eye drops for several months. In some cases, the surgeon may choose to lift up the flap and rinse the treatment area and the back side of the flap in an attempt to flush away anything that may be causing the inflammatory response. Properly managed, most cases of DLK resolve without any permanent vision loss.