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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.
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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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Medical professionals consider LASIK a safe and effective procedure. But like all medical procedures, some risk is involved.
Rarely experienced complications include:
Common side effects immediately after LASIK that last a few hours or days include:
Here are some tips for protecting your eyesight after LASIK surgery:
“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.
Facts About LASIK Complications. “Facts about LASIK Complications.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 20 Dec. 2018.