Updated on  February 20, 2024
6 min read

How Long Does LASIK Surgery Take?

Vision Center is funded by our readers. We may earn commissions if you purchase something via one of our links.

LASIK eye surgery is undoubtedly the most well-known laser vision correction procedure available. This laser refractive surgery has helped millions of people achieve clear vision without glasses or contact lenses, and it takes less than 30 minutes. 

Close up shot of a patient undergoing a cataract operation

Learning about the procedure and what to expect beforehand is a good idea if you’re considering getting LASIK. Many people want to know how long the procedure will take and how much time to plan for recovery.

This article covers how long the LASIK laser eye surgery procedure takes and what you need to know to feel prepared.

How Long Does LASIK Take?

In general, LASIK 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.

Plan on being in the surgeon’s office for about an hour and a half on the day of your surgery.

What Is LASIK Eye Surgery?

LASIK refers to Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis. It’s a type of refractive surgery that alters the shape of your cornea (a transparent tissue on the front of the eye). 

As the name suggests, LASIK requires a computer-controlled excimer laser (a laser device).

What Vision Problems Does LASIK Surgery Treat?

The LASIK procedure helps correct several refractive errors, including:

diagram showing six steps of lasik eye surgery

What to Expect During LASIK Laser Eye Surgery

Here’s a general idea of what to expect before, during, and after your LASIK procedure.

Before the Procedure

First, your eye doctor will examine your eyes and review your medical history to ensure you’re a suitable candidate for LASIK. 

They’ll provide you with instructions on how to prepare for the procedure. If you wear contact lenses, you will likely have to stop using them for a few weeks before surgery day. You should wear your glasses instead, as contact lenses change your cornea’s shape.

During the Procedure

LASIK laser eye surgery typically takes 30 minutes or less to treat both eyes. Here’s what happens during that time:

Step 1.

A tool holds open your eyelids 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 thin flap in your cornea. This is the part that may cause some discomfort. Many people report feeling pressure during this part of the surgery.

Step 3.

The excimer laser gently reshapes your corneal tissue. It’s 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.

If you’re getting both eyes operated on, the doctor will immediately repeat this on the other eye.

Step 6.

Your LASIK eye surgery is now complete. Once you’re finished, your eye surgeon or a team member will provide you with an eye shield and detailed instructions for recovery.

After the Procedure

You may have a relatively clear vision right after surgery, but you will need someone else to drive you home. If your vision is cloudy or blurry, it should clear up within 24 hours.

Immediately after surgery, you may note some discomfort or mild pain. Your doctor may prescribe a pain reliever to ease discomfort.

Symptoms that can arise after LASIK include:

  • Light sensitivity
  • Glare
  • Starbursts or halos around lights
  • Red or bloodshot eyes

How Long Does It Take To Recover From LASIK?

LASIK recovery time will not be the same for everyone. Most side effects clear up within two hours or up to 2 days.

You should experience sharper vision with less discomfort when you attend your follow-up appointment. Your follow-up appointment usually takes place within 48 hours of surgery.

If symptoms don’t go away in the first week, request a follow-up visit and consult the eye doctor. Re-operation may be necessary if eye measurements do not change.

Factors That Affect LASIK Recovery Time

Recovery time will lengthen if an eye infection occurs. Factors that can increase the risk of infection or lengthen the healing process time include:

  • Certain cosmetic products, such as creams, eye makeup, and lotions
  • Residue and debris caught in eyelashes
  • Contact sports
  • Hot tubs

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 the Results from LASIK Surgery?

Your vision should improve immediately after surgery. However, fluctuating vision may last for a couple of days. Complete vision stabilization may take 3 to 6 months.

A reported 99 percent of people who got LASIK achieve better than 20/40 vision. More than 90 percent achieve 20/20 vision or better after laser vision correction.3

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

Farsighted people may notice that results decline with age. This can happen due to presbyopia.

Tips for Protecting Your Vision After Your LASIK Procedure

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

  1. Avoid driving until your vision stabilizes (at least a couple of days)
  2. Avoid screens completely for the first day. Reduce screen time for the following week
  3. Don’t rub your eyes for at least a month
  4. Wait a day to shower and wash your hair. When you do shower, keep the water, shampoo, and soap out of your eyes
  5. Use a protective eye shield for as long as recommended. Your eye doctor will provide this
  6. Avoid spas, whirlpools, hot tubs, swimming pools, and saunas for a few weeks
  7. Avoid strenuous activity (including exercise) for the first 2 to 3 days
  8. Wait a few weeks before playing sports. When you do, wear goggles for the first few months 
  9. Wear sunglasses when in direct sunlight
  10. Stay away from dusty or dirty environments for at least a week
  11. Avoid using eye makeup, lotions, and creams near the eyes for 2 weeks. Be careful when using products like shaving cream or hair spray
  12. Use eye drops to prevent dry eyes
  13. Stick to the eye care plan provided by your surgical care team. Use any medications provided as directed
  14. Attend follow-up appointments. Discuss any questions or concerns with your eye doctor

With the proper eye exam and comprehensive consultation, you and your eye doctor can determine if LASIK is the right procedure for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does LASIK take from start to finish?

The LASIK procedure takes 30 minutes or less for both eyes. However, you should plan to be at the surgical facility for about 90 minutes on the day of surgery.

Can you see immediately after LASIK?

Your vision may be hazy or blurry immediately after LASIK. These symptoms should disappear within 24 to 48 hours after surgery.

How long does it take to have 20/20 vision after LASIK?

About 90% of people who undergo LASIK surgery achieve 20/20 to 20/40 vision within a couple of days after the procedure.3  

Summary

LASIK surgery is a safe, effective laser vision correction procedure. The LASIK procedure takes less than 10 minutes per eye to complete. It typically takes 3 to 6 months for vision to stabilize after laser eye surgery.

Following the advice of your eye care team and taking steps to protect your vision after refractive surgery will ensure the best results. If you’re interested in undergoing LASIK surgery, discuss the procedure’s risks and benefits with an eye doctor.

Updated on  February 20, 2024
6 sources cited
Updated on  February 20, 2024
  1. LASIK: What Are the Risks and How Can I Find the Right Doctor for Me?” FDA, 2018.
  2. LASIK: What Should I Expect Before, During, and after Surgery?” FDA, 2018.
  3. Boyd, K. “LASIK — Laser Eye Surgery.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2023.
  4. Kates, M.M., and Tuli, S. “What Is LASIK Eye Surgery?” JAMA, 2020.
  5. Corneal Modifications.” American Optometric Association.
  6. Niparugs et al. “Outcomes of LASIK for Myopia or Myopic Astigmatism Correction with the FS200 Femtosecond Laser and EX500 Excimer Laser Platform.” The Open Ophthalmology Journal, 2018.
The information provided on VisionCenter.org should not be used in place of actual information provided by a doctor or a specialist.