Recovery After LASIK Surgery: What to Expect
If you are nearsighted, farsighted, or have astigmatism, LASIK surgery can correct the shape of your cornea so your vision becomes sharper and clearer. You may no longer need glasses or contact lenses. If you decide to have LASIK surgery, recovery is usually quick, with little or no pain. There are pros and cons to LASIK that are important to discuss with your ophthalmologist, however, including potential temporary and long-term LASIK side effects.
LASIK surgery takes about thirty minutes, most of which is preparation. The medical team will numb your eyes with eye drops so that you don’t feel pain. LASIK does not hurt, but you might feel a slight bit of pressure during the actual procedure. After the surgery, your doctor will check your eyes and give you postoperative instructions. They may also give you an eye shield to protect your eye(s) while they heal.
Here’s what to expect:
After the anesthesia wears off, you may have some itching or burning or feel like there is something in your eyes. Do not rub your eyes, as you may damage the surgical site. Rest your eyes for several hours when you get home and avoid strenuous activity. Your doctor can advise you about mild pain relievers if you need them.
Your vision should improve within hours. You may have some temporary side effects, including foggy vision and bloodshot or dry eyes, which may last for a few weeks or longer. Your doctor can give you drops to lubricate your eyes and help prevent infection or inflammation. Don’t wear contacts, even if your vision is blurry.
Other potential side effects include glare, halos or starbursts, tearing eyes, puffy eyelids, and sensitivity to light. These typically go away within a week, but they can last in some people, as can dry eyes.
Your doctor will want to examine your eyes a day or two after surgery. If they approve, you can return to your normal activities the day after surgery. Always wear sunglasses outside and use your eye shields when you go to bed.
To minimize the risk of infection, avoid hot tubs, pools, lakes, rivers and oceans for at least a week. Don’t wear eye makeup or apply eye creams. Wait until your doctor gives you the OK before you resume water activities or use creams and makeup.
Avoid exercise and contact sports for at least a week after LASIK surgery. You can start exercising if your doctor approves, but use care. Wear goggles if you go swimming. You may be asked to avoid strenuous sports for a month or longer to protect your eyes from being hit during activities.
It can take as long as six months for your vision to fully stabilize after LASIK, during which the improvement may fluctuate. If you have severe nearsightedness, your eyes may take longer to heal than someone with mild vision problems. Your doctor may ask you to wear glasses for a while until your eyes heal and your vision stabilizes.
The great majority of people experience vision improvement with LASIK, often reaching 20/40 or 20/20. Glare, halos, difficulty driving at night, and other visual symptoms usually go away, but in some people, they may be permanent. You may see less contrast between light and dark following LASIK. If you are still having vision problems after six months, your eye surgeon may be able to correct it further.
If you develop any pain, unusual symptoms, or your vision gets worse at any time following LASIK, contact your doctor immediately. Prompt treatment is necessary to prevent complications that could lead to vision loss. LASIK has a high success rate and has improved the vision of tens of millions of people, but your eyesight will continue to change as you age. Keep up with regular eye exams as your doctor advises, to monitor your vision, including age-related vision loss, and overall eye health, including your retina.