Does LASIK Hurt?

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Does LASIK Hurt During the Procedure?

LASIK causes little to no pain during the procedure. Your surgeon will administer local anesthetic eye drops to numb your eyes before the LASIK eye surgery begins. Many patients describe feeling a "slight pressure sensation" during the surgery. But in most cases, patients feel no pain throughout the procedure.

Here's what to expect during LASIK surgery:

You are awake and alert during the procedure. There is no leftover foggy or groggy feeling once the LASIK procedure is complete because there was no use of general anesthesia. However, surgeons often offer a mild sedative to help you relax before the surgery.

Step 1: Your eyelids are held open with a tool so the eye surgeon can work. First, your eye doctor places eye drops that contain a numbing agent in your eyes.

Step 2: The surgeon uses a small blade or special laser to cut a corneal flap in your eye. This is the part that may cause some discomfort for the patient. Many people report feeling "a sensation of pressure" during this part of the surgery.

Step 3: The excimer laser gently reshapes your cornea. It is guided by a computer that has a map of your eye preloaded into it.

Step 4: After the excimer laser finishes, the surgeon smooths the corneal flap back into place.

Step 5: That’s it, the laser eye surgery is complete. If you are getting both eyes operated on, this process will immediately be repeated on the other eye.

The entire procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes for both eyes. Approximately 10 minutes is needed to complete the surgery on each eye.

diagram showing six steps of lasik eye surgery

Does LASIK Hurt After the Procedure?

Most patients experience little to no pain after their laser vision correction surgery.

In some cases, people report a minor stinging or burning sensation as the anesthetic eye drops wear off. There may be some mild pain or discomfort as your vision stabilizes and your eyes heal, but overall it is relatively pain-free. The after-effects are usually gone by the time of your follow-up appointment (within 48 hours). They may last a few days past that as well.

If you experience pain or discomfort for more than a week after your surgery, contact your eye doctor immediately.

Risks & Side Effects of LASIK

LASIK is a safe procedure with relatively few side effects. It is FDA approved, as long as the patient’s vision has stabilized and a qualified eye surgeon performs the procedure with an approved laser.

Most people who undergo LASIK experience mild, temporary side effects. As their vision stabilizes, they have blurriness, mild discomfort, and tearing. Some people also report light sensitivity. All of these side effects clear up within a few days after surgery.

Some patients experience halos with night vision for a few weeks after the procedure. You might also struggle with dry eyes for a few weeks.

There are very few side effects associated with LASIK procedures. However, it is still surgery and this means things can still go wrong. It’s important to work with an experienced LASIK surgeon and discuss the potential risks before opting to have the procedure.

LASIK is not appropriate for correcting all eye conditions and not everyone is a good candidate for the procedure. It corrects nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Most doctors offer a free LASIK consultation to help you determine if you are a good candidate. There is a risk of lost vision for some people.

Although LASIK is considered a safe and effective procedure, there are complications associated with the surgery. For example:

  • Severe dry eye syndrome, in which your eyes are no longer able to produce sufficient tears
  • Touch-up or follow-up procedures for further vision correction because changes occurred during
  • Vision loss

13 LASIK Recovery Tips

Recovering from LASIK Surgery is relatively uncomplicated for most people. However, it was a surgical procedure, so most people experience some mild side effects including itching or burning in their eyes. Most of the side effects ease within a few days.

The following are helpful post-LASIK tips:

  • Avoid rubbing your eyes
  • Take any medications as prescribed by your doctor
  • Wear the eye shield provided by your doctor
  • Avoid wearing contact lenses even if your vision is blurry
  • Don't exercise or engage in any physical activity for a few days
  • Avoid the use of eye makeup and other cosmetic and skincare products around the eyes until your doctor says they are safe to use
  • Avoid any activity that could result in bumping or hitting your eyes for at least a month after the procedure
  • Avoid hot tobs or saunas for at least a few weeks
  • Wear sunglasses in direct sunlight
  • Don't shower the first day, when you do shower, keep the water, shampoo, an soap out of your eyes
  • Don't use screens for the first day, reduce screen time for the first week
  • Stay away from dusty or dirty environments
  • Attend your follow-up appointments

Make sure you contact your doctor to schedule an eye exam if you experience severe pain or your vision appears to be worsening after the initial recovery time. The healing process can take up to six months for your vision to stabilize completely. Proper eye care is important and you should continue to undergo annual eye exams once you are completely healed.

Will I Be Awake During LASIK Surgery?

Yes, you will be awake during the LASIK procedure. The entire process usually takes about 10 minutes, which includes about a minute of laser shaping on each eye.

The surface of your eye will be completely desensitized from the numbing agents in the eye drops, so you won't feel any pain.

What Happens if You Blink During LASIK Eye Surgery?

It’s easy to understand why people undergoing LASIK procedures are concerned about blinking. Most people blink many times per minute and this rate increases if they are nervous or focused on their eyes.

But there is no reason to worry about blinking during LASIK. Doctors performing LASIK use a special tool that holds your eyes open during the procedure. This ensures that even if you get the urge to blink your eyes will stay open.

Furthermore, the anesthetic eye drops lubricate your eyes and reduce discomfort. 

Can You See Immediately After LASIK?

Yes, but most people experience some blurriness that eventually gives way to clear vision within a few days after surgery. You’ll wear a protective covering over your eyes initially and won’t know for sure what your vision is like until your doctor instructs you to remove the cover. If your vision does not gradually clear or you notice blurriness worsening, you should follow-up with your doctor.

Resources
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Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “What Should I Expect before, during, and after Surgery?” FDA, 8 Feb. 2019, www.fda.gov/medical-devices/lasik/what-should-i-expect-during-and-after-surgery.

Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “What Are the Risks and How Can I Find the Right Doctor for Me?” FDA, 3 Nov. 2018, www.fda.gov/medical-devices/lasik/what-are-risks-and-how-can-i-find-right-doctor-me.

Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “List of FDA-Approved Lasers for LASIK.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2018, www.fda.gov/medical-devices/lasik/list-fda-approved-lasers-lasik.

“LASIK Surgery: Is It Right for You?” Mayo Clinic, 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/lasik-eye-surgery/in-depth/lasik-surgery/art-20045751.

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