Updated on  February 20, 2024
6 min read

Managing Pain After LASIK

9 sources cited
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LASIK Surgery Overview

LASIK is a common refractive surgery to treat: 

LASIK surgery treats these conditions by reshaping your cornea for the light to focus well on the retina.1 The retina is the light-sensitive back part of your eye that receives light and sends images to the brain for interpretation.

LASIK is a great alternative to contact lenses or glasses. Many surgeons recommend LASIK because it’s fast, safe, and requires minimal downtime. It’s also a permanent solution for refractive error correction.

LASIK studies indicate that 96 percent of LASIK patients achieve satisfactory outcomes after making a full recovery (20/40 vision or better).2 The outcomes of LASIK surgery typically last a lifetime. Some people may experience vision issues years after LASIK surgery, though, requiring enhancement (repeat surgery). 

Studies show that only 35 percent of LASIK clients may require enhancement after ten years.3 These issues may result from natural aging, eye diseases, or trauma, but not LASIK surgery.

Is Pain Common After LASIK?

After laser vision correction, you may experience mild pain and discomfort. The pain will fade away as your eyes heal and adjust. You can use over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication to ease your eye pain.

How Much Discomfort is Normal?

Some slight discomfort is normal and part of the healing process. You may feel an itchy or gritty sensation in your eyes, like there is a foreign object stuck in them. 

Sensitivity to light might also affect your ability to see clearly. But the discomfort should go away with time.

When Should You See a Doctor? 

Although very rare, some people report severe post-LASIK pain. Severe pain may result from flap dislocation, infection, or other LASIK complications.7

Contact your surgeon immediately if you experience extreme pain accompanied by tearing or vision changes. 

What to Expect During and After LASIK

You can expect the following both during and after LASIK surgery:

During LASIK

If you’re undergoing traditional LASIK surgery, you will sit on a reclining chair. After a final examination, your surgeon will use a blade known as a microkeratome to cut a piece of your cornea. They will leave a hinge location to hold the tissue in place.  

Your surgeon will then fold the flap backward to expose the inner corneal tissue.

Next, your surgeon will use wavefront technology if you’re under IntraLase LASIK – or iLASIK. This is the newer version of LASIK is computer-guided to map your eye, create the flap, and reshape your cornea. They’ll treat this tissue with an excimer laser to give the cornea a new shape.4

Unlike traditional LASIK that uses a sharp blade (microkeratome), iLASIK uses an IntraLase® laser to create the flap.5 The laser minimizes potential blade complications.

Both LASIK and iLASIK use a device known as an excimer laser to reshape the cornea. After the laser portion of treatment, your surgeon will reposition the flap and smooth it out to remove bubbles and folds.

They will also prescribe pain medications and lubricating eye drops to ease any flap-related discomfort.

The LASIK procedure lasts about 30 minutes or less for both eyes.


After LASIK surgery, your doctor will prescribe pain medications and lubricating eye drops to ease any discomfort. You’ll have to care for your eyes properly to avoid irritation, dislodging, or infection. 

Your doctor will also provide you with post-operative instructions to help you manage the healing process. Most people develop clear vision a day or two after LASIK. However, it may take 2 to 3 months for your flap to heal and your vision to fully stabilize.

You can resume normal activities such as driving and reading after about a week of healing, but do so in moderation. 

Although LASIK involves minimal downtime, you may experience some side effects after the procedure.

Some people report:

  • Dry eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Gritty or itchy feeling in the eyes
  • Mild discomfort
  • Red eyes
  • Glares and halos around lights
  • Blurry vision
  • Excess tearing
  • Temporary vision loss

Most LASIK side effects are normal and will improve gradually. To avoid complications, strictly follow your doctor’s instructions for a successful recovery.

7 Ways to Reduce Pain after LASIK 

Here are seven tips to help you manage pain after LASIK surgery:

1. Rest Your Eyes

After the procedure, avoid all activities that might cause eye strain.8 For example, don’t watch TV, read, or use your smartphone or computer.

Rest your eyes instead. Most doctors will advise you to sleep after the surgery. Sleep helps ease the pain and eye discomfort. Your eyes also heal faster if you limit function.

2. Take Pain Medication as Needed

If you experience pain after surgery, take pain medication only as prescribed by your surgeon. You can also buy over-the-counter pain relievers they recommend.

3. Use Eye Drops

Your surgeon may prescribe antibiotics and lubricating eye drops after your surgery. Antibiotics help prevent infections that cause pain and prolong the healing period.

Lubricating eye drops or artificial tears will help prevent dry eyes and ease pain and itchiness. 

4. Wear a Hat and Sunglasses Outdoors

Your eyes will be sensitive, especially to light, for several days post-surgery. Wear a hat with a brim or sunglasses when you’re outdoors. Hats help prevent direct sunlight from harming your eyes.

Dark sunglasses shield your eyes from harmful UV rays and also protect them from dry air, dust, and debris.

 Try to stay indoors if possible, especially on very bright days.

5. Avoid Potential Dry Eye Situations

Dry eye is likely to be a recurring pain source for weeks or months after the LASIK procedure. Avoid dusty, dry, or smoky places, which may trigger dry eye attacks.

Having lubricating eye drops with you at all times will help you manage sudden dry eye attacks.

6. Wear Your LASIK Eye Shields

After LASIK surgery, your surgeon will provide you with protective goggles to wear. These goggles protect your eyes from rubbing or unintentional contact, especially while you sleep.

LASIK eye shields are typically worn the entire day after surgery and afterward at night only. However, instructions might differ depending on your situation.

7. Attend Follow-Up Visits

Visiting your surgeon for a checkup will ensure successful healing. They will be able to detect any issues before they worsen during these visits. They will also provide post-surgery advice and address any concerns.

Is LASIK Right for You?

LASIK may work for you if you have astigmatism, nearsightedness, or farsightedness. However, some factors may disqualify you as a candidate for LASIK.9 

For example, someone with a thin cornea may not benefit from the surgery. This is because the LASIK flap requires a thick cornea. 

You also have to meet certain criteria to qualify for LASIK. For example, you must:

  • Be 18 years or older (21 years or older is preferred)
  • Have good general health
  • Have no eye diseases such as cataracts or keratoconus
  • Not have irregularly shaped corneas (keratoconus or other corneal disease)
  • Have a stable vision prescription for at least one year
  • Not currently taking any medication that could interfere with healing
  • Have realistic expectations

Insurance does not cover LASIK, and therefore, it can be quite expensive for some people. Generally, the procedure costs about $2,000 to $3,000 per eye. 

Before making a decision, talk to your doctor about pricing to ensure you can afford it.

Alternatives To LASIK

If you don’t qualify for LASIK surgery, there are alternatives that may work for you:

  • IntraLase LASIK (iLASIK)
  • Epithelial laser in-situ keratomileusis (Epi-LASIK)
  • Implantable collamer lens (ICL) or Visian ICL
  • Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK)
  • Small incision lenticule extraction (SMILE
  • Intraocular lens implants (IOLs)

Refractive lens exchange surgery (RLE)

Updated on  February 20, 2024
9 sources cited
Updated on  February 20, 2024
  1. LASIK eye surgery,”Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER), 29 Sept. 2021.
  2. Bamashmus M. et al.,“Functional Outcome and Patient Satisfaction after Laser In Situ Keratomileusis for Correction of Myopia and Myopic Astigmatism,” Middle East Afr J Ophthalmol. Mar. 2015
  3. Ide T. et al.,“Outcome of a 10-year follow-up of laser in situ laser keratomileusis for myopia and myopic astigmatism,” Taiwan Journal of Ophthalmology, Dec. 2014
  4.  Manche E. et al.,“Excimer laser refractive surgery,” National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), Jul. 1998
  5. IntraLase FS Laser,” Stanford Health Care
  6.  Sindt C. “The Compromised Cornea: Take Cover,” Review of Ophthalmology, 15 Aug 2018.
  7.  Shafer B. “LASIK Complications,” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 10 Oct. 2021.
  8. 6 Common Questions About LASIK Eye Surgery,” The University of Pennsylvania, 04 Mar. 2019.
  9. Boyd K. “LASIK — Laser Eye Surgery,” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 21 Oct. 2020
The information provided on VisionCenter.org should not be used in place of actual information provided by a doctor or a specialist.