How Long Does LASIK Surgery Take?

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How Long Does LASIK Take?

LASIK refers to Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis, a type of refractive surgery. The LASIK procedure helps correct vision problems like astigmatism, farsightedness, nearsightedness, or presbyopia. It does this by altering the cornea (a transparent tissue on the front of the eye). As the name suggests, LASIK requires the use of a computer-controlled excimer laser (a laser device).

In general, LASIK eye surgery takes less than 30 minutes. The procedure is done on one eye at a time and each eye takes 10 minutes or less to complete. You should plan on being in the surgeon's office for about an hour and a half the day of your laser vision correction surgery.

diagram showing six steps of lasik eye surgery

What to Expect During Your Laser Vision Correction Procedure

The surgeon will place you in a reclining chair. They will lean you back and give you an anesthetic (numbing) eye drop. This liquid solution helps numb your eye and prepare it for the incision into the cornea.

There may be some pressure and discomfort at this point in the surgery, and your vision will become blurry temporarily. The energy emitted from the laser helps form tiny, expanding bubbles of gas and water to dislodge the tissue beneath the cornea surface. This separates the outer layers of tissue into the corneal flap. The surgeon peels this flap back for the next step of surgery.

When the eye is in the proper position, the laser will send pulses to the eye to vaporize corneal tissue. The ophthalmologist uses the laser to reshape the tissue based on the measurements gathered during the pre-surgical assessment. After this step, the eye surgeon will return the flap to its original position and place a protective eye shield over the eye.

How Long Does It Take To Recover From LASIK?

LASIK recovery time will not be the same for every person who undergoes LASIK surgery.

Immediately after surgery, individuals may note some discomfort or mild pain. A pain reliever may be prescribed. Other symptoms that can arise after LASIK are:

  • Sensitivity to light
  • Glare
  • Starbursts or halos around lights
  • Red or bloodshot eyes

These side effects usually clear up within hours. In some cases, they may last a day or two. By the time you attend your follow-up appointment, you should experience sharper vision with less discomfort. Your follow-up appointment usually takes place the first day or two following surgery.

If these symptoms do not go away in the first week, request a follow-up visit to the eye clinic and consult the eye doctor. Re-operation may be necessary if eye measurements do not change for two subsequent visits held at least three months apart.

Recovery time will lengthen if an eye infection occurs. Certain cosmetic products, such as creams, eye makeup, and lotions, can increase infection risk. The eye doctor will recommend avoiding such products before the day of surgery. Residue and debris caught in the eyelashes may also heighten the risk. 

Other factors, such as contact sports and hot tubs, can increase the risk of infection or lengthen the healing process time. 

Overall, a visit to the eye doctor within the next day of the surgical procedure and at consistent intervals will ensure a healthy, controlled recovery.

When Will I See Results?

Your vision should be improved immediately after the surgery. Fluctuating vision may last for a couple of days. As mentioned before, complete vision stabilization may take 3 to 6 months.

A reported 99 percent of LASIK patients achieve better than 20/40 vision. More than 90 percent achieve 20/20 vision or better after laser vision correction.

Some patients, especially those with strong refractive errors may still have to wear reading glasses, eyeglasses or contacts for optimal vision.

Farsighted individuals may notice that results decline with age. This can happen if the manifest refraction (a vision examination before dilating drops) differs significantly from the cycloplegic refraction (a vision examination after dilating drops).

Wearing contact lenses before LASIK surgery can have detrimental effects. The cornea must return to its natural shape before surgery. If it does not, the ophthalmologist may take inaccurate measurements that influence the surgical plan and lead to undesirable postoperative results like poor vision. The surgeon will advise you on how long to stop wearing contacts before surgery.

Tips for Protecting Your Vision After Your LASIK Procedure

Here are 14 tips to help protect your vision after laser eye surgery:

  • Avoid driving until your vision stabilizes (at least a couple days)
  • Avoid screens completely for the first day. Reduce screen time for the following week
  • Do not rub your eyes for at least a month
  • Wait a day to shower and wash your hair. When you do shower, keep the water, shampoo, and soap out of your eyes
  • Use a protective eye shield for as long as recommended. Your eye doctor will provide this
  • Avoid spas, whirlpools, hot tubs, swimming pools, and saunas for a few weeks
  • Avoid any strenuous activity (including exercise) for the first two to three days
  • Wait a few weeks before playing sports. When you do, wear goggles for the first few months 
  • Wear sunglasses when in direct sunlight
  • Stay away from dusty or dirty environments for at least a week
  • Avoid using eye makeup, lotions, and creams near the eyes for two weeks. Be careful when using products like shaving cream or hair spray
  • Use eye drops to prevent dry eyes
  • Stick to the eye care plan provided by your surgical care team. Use any medications provided as directed
  • Attend follow-up appointments. Discuss any questions or concerns with your eye doctor

If you are interested in undergoing LASIK surgery, visit the nearest eye clinic to discuss all the procedure’s risks and benefits.

With the proper eye exam and comprehensive consultation, you and your eye care doctor can determine if this is the right procedure to improve your eye health.

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

“What Should I Expect before, during, and after Surgery?” U.S. Food and Drug Administration , FDA - Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, www.fda.gov/medical-devices/lasik/what-should-i-expect-during-and-after-surgery.

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