LASIK Recovery Timeline

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Overview: LASIK Eye Surgery & How it Works

LASIK, which stands for laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis, is a type of laser refractive eye surgery that corrects vision problems. The laser changes the shape of the cornea to improve vision. It also allows someone to live without having to wear glasses or contact lenses. 

Someone with normal vision has corneas that bend (refract) light precisely onto the retina so vision is clear and crisp at varying distances. Someone who is nearsighted or farsighted (or has astigmatism) has corneas that bend light incorrectly, which blurs their vision.

For years, the only solution to correcting vision problems was to wear glasses or contact lenses. But now, LASIK eye surgery reshapes the cornea to improve vision. You should speak to your eye doctor if you believe LASIK might be right for you.

What to Expect After LASIK Eye Surgery

It’s normal for your eyes to feel irritated, itchy, burning, or watery immediately following LASIK surgery. You’ll initially have mild pain that clears up within a few hours or days. Ask your doctor about medication or eye drops if you’re concerned about discomfort.

Following surgery, you’ll be able to see but it’s likely to be blurry for a few hours or days. It takes up to six months for your vision to fully stabilize. How much your vision improves after undergoing LASIK depends on the severity of your vision issues beforehand.

You’ll see your doctor a day or two after surgery for a follow-up examination and a few more times over the first six months following the procedure. 

Can You See Immediately After LASIK?

You’ll be able to see immediately after LASIK, but you’ll have blurry vision. Most people achieve 20/25 vision after surgery, but it takes several weeks or a few months for your vision to stabilize. Approximately 80 percent of people undergoing LASIK no longer need to wear corrective lenses once their vision stabilizes. 

In rare instances, patients need an additional procedure due to under-correction. Even rarer is a patient’s vision returning to its previous level before surgery. This is usually due to hormonal imbalances, pregnancy, or abnormal wound healing. 

In some cases, people who undergo LASIK see better than those who have standard 20/20 eyesight. 

How Long Does it Take to Recover From LASIK Surgery? 

The time it takes to recover from LASIK surgery varies from person to person.

For most, it takes about 6 to 12 hours for the initial post-surgery symptoms to wear off. This includes blurred vision, mild pain, itchiness, and tearing. Most people see clearly within 24 hours after their procedure. But it’s normal to have blurred vision for up to five days.  

You’ll notice immediate results after your procedure and your vision will be noticeably better within a day or two. However, it takes several weeks for you to heal completely. Follow your doctor’s recommendations during this time and avoid anything that could put your surgery results or your vision in jeopardy.

It can take up to six months for your vision to fully stabilize and for your eyes to completely heal from the procedure. During this time, you’ll gradually notice your vision improving.

Factors That Affect LASIK Recovery Time

There are a few things that affect how long it takes you to recover from LASIK surgery and for your vision to stabilize. For example:

  • How closely you follow your doctor’s post-surgery recommendations
  • Infection
  • Condition of your eye health and overall health
  • Age
  • Severity of your prescription before surgery

How Many Days of Rest is Required?

LASIK is an outpatient surgery. You can return home immediately after the procedure, but you’ll need someone to drive you because your vision will be blurred and you will be very light sensitive.

Your doctor will recommend varying degrees of rest following your LASIK procedure. You should be able to return to work, day driving, and showering within 48 hours of the surgery

After a week or two, your risk of infection will decrease and you can return to exercising and wearing eye makeup and creams.

Within two months, you’ll be healed enough to return to contact sports, intense exercise, and swimming safely without concern for contamination.

You’ll notice vision improvement within a few hours, but it can take much longer for your vision to completely stabilize. By the six-month mark, your vision should be stabilized and you can return completely to your normal activities. 

Your doctor will provide you with specific information about your LASIK recovery. Everyone is different. Your exact recommendations are based on your vision pre-surgery, overall health, and lifestyle. Most people agree that the downtime they experience after their LASIK procedure is with the long-term improvement in vision.

Potential Complications & Side Effects of LASIK

Medical professionals consider LASIK a safe and effective procedure. But like all medical procedures, some risk is involved. 

Rarely experienced complications include:

  • Vision loss 
  • Severe dry eye syndrome
  • Need for follow-up procedures to further improve vision

Common side effects immediately after LASIK that last a few hours or days include:

  • Sandy, gritty feeling in the eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Mild pain
  • Tearing
  • Light sensitivity
  • Difficulty with night vision that includes glare and/or light halos

9 Tips to Protect Your Vision After LASIK

Here are some tips for protecting your eyesight after LASIK surgery:

  1. Keep up with regular eye exams immediately after your LASIK procedure, during the days and weeks your eyes heal, and each year after the procedure.
  2. Use the eye drops provided to you by your doctor after surgery.
  3. Wear sunglasses during the day when you are outside or in a vehicle. Also, wear the protective eye shields at night provided by your doctor in the days following the LASIK procedure.
  4. Ideally, you’ll be lens-free after a few weeks, but some people need additional vision correction following LASIK. Avoid contacts and use eyeglasses if you need vision correction in the weeks and months following LASIK. Eventually, it’ll be safe to wear contact lenses or glasses. Also, remember that your vision might continue to improve in the months following LASIK, so don’t worry if your vision isn’t immediately perfect.
  5. Avoid rubbing your eyes or using makeup or creams near your eyes for at least two weeks after surgery.
  6. Do not swim in water with any risk of contamination for at least three weeks after surgery. This includes swimming pools, lakes, rivers, oceans, or hot tubs.
  7. Avoid strenuous exercise for at least a month after surgery.
  8. Avoid night driving until your night vision clears and you don’t see halos, glare, or have any light sensitivity. This can take a few months.
  9. Follow all of the directions provided to you by your doctor and contact them if you have any questions or concerns.
Resources
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LASIK Surgery: Is It Right for You?” Mayo Clinic, 2019.

LASIK Eye Surgery - Mayo Clinic.” Mayoclinic.org, 8 Nov. 2019

Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “LASIK.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2018.

Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “What Are the Risks and How Can I Find the Right Doctor for Me?” FDA, 3 Nov. 2018.

LASIK and Advanced Vision Correction in Rochester NY - Flaum Eye Institute - University of Rochester Medical Center.” www.urmc.rochester.edu.

Facts About LASIK Complications. “Facts about LASIK Complications.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 20 Dec. 2018.

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