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Laser in-situ keratomileusis, popularly known as LASIK, is a treatment that corrects vision problems.1 Vision issues, or refractive errors, LASIK treats include:
LASIK surgery involves changing the shape of the cornea to enhance focus. The cornea is the clear part of your eye that focuses light on the retina, which enables clear vision.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), LASIK is a safe and effective alternative to prescription glasses and contact lenses.
Let's look at what to expect before, during, and after LASIK surgery:2
Before LASIK surgery, your eye doctor will determine if you qualify for the procedure. You must be at least 18 years old, among other candidacy requirements.
Doctors recommend you stop wearing contacts for a certain amount of time before the surgery. This gives your cornea time to assume its original shape, which contact lenses often alter.
Before surgery, if any of these apply, make sure to stop wearing:
Ignoring this caution might result in negative consequences, such as inaccurate measurement or failed surgery. These can worsen or lead to vision loss.
Your eye doctor might also evaluate you several times before surgery and on the day of surgery to ensure accurate measurements. They will also discuss benefits and risks you can expect.
Remember to tell your doctor about any medical conditions and medications you're taking that might affect healing.
During the LASIK procedure, you will sit in a reclining chair, and your doctor will clean your eye(s) in preparation for the procedure. They will also place numbing drops into your eyes.
They will then use a femtosecond laser to cut a flap and safely remove tissue from certain areas in the cornea.3
The device works through photoablative decomposition. This is a process where ultraviolet energy from the excimer laser treats the targeted area without causing any damage to surrounding tissue.
The LASIK procedure takes around 30 minutes or less.
After LASIK, you will need time to recover. Your surgeon will place a protective eye shield over your eyes.
Your surgeon will also educate you on the best practices after surgery. This will enhance healing and help prevent infections.
Your vision might remain altered for some time as you recover. But it should resolve within a few days to weeks.
Be sure to visit your eye doctor 24 to 48 hours after the surgery for close monitoring of the healing process.
Thinking about LASIK? Start a conversation with an experienced Patient Counselor to find out if laser eye surgery is right for you. Learn More
Immediately after LASIK surgery, you might experience:
These symptoms will improve gradually. Your eye doctor might prescribe pain medications to ease discomfort. Also, avoid touching your eyes to prevent complications.
It will take about 3 to 6 months for you to fully recover. But your vision should be crisp within a few days to weeks following the surgery.
During this time, make frequent visits to your eye doctor for follow-up care.
Your doctor might recommend prescription eye drops to prevent infections or inflammation. You may also need prescription painkillers to relieve eye pain whenever it occurs.
Below are tips to help you recover successfully after LASIK surgery.
Like any surgical procedure, rest after LASIK surgery is essential.
You may feel some pain and discomfort immediately after the procedure.
In addition to taking medication, keeping your eyes closed for a few hours can ease pain and enhance the healing process.
Even if you can see clearer than before, avoid overworking your eyes until you recover.
After the surgery, you'll use eye medications to treat inflammation and prevent infections.
To help with dryness, you might have to use artificial tears and other lubricating eye drops. Use these medications exactly as instructed by your doctor.
In many cases, this might mean taking the drops multiple times every day or hour. Failure to administer them correctly can result in significant harm or a prolonged recovery time.
Follow-up appointments will help your eye doctor monitor progress as you recover. It also allows for early detection of any issues or complications.
Make your first follow-up appointment within 24 to 48 hours after the surgery. You will also require weekly and monthly evaluations until you fully recover.
The frequency of your follow-up appointments depends on if you experience complications during the surgery that require close monitoring.
Sensitivity to light is a common issue after LASIK surgery. Although this might go away after a day or two, wearing sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection will protect your healing eyes.4
Sunglasses also protect your eyes from debris, dust, and dry air that can result in dryness.
If you're unsure about the right sunglasses to wear, consult your eye doctor.
Avoid the following after LASIK eye surgery:
Although your eyes may itch following surgery, you shouldn't touch them. This might lead to issues with your corneal flap and, as a result, prolong recovery time.
If your eyes itch, use preservative-free artificial tears to relieve the discomfort. Always consult your doctor before using these drops.5
Remember to wear protective eye goggles at night to prevent accidentally rubbing your eyes during sleep.
Just like any surface, water contains bacteria and other infectious germs.6
As the corneal flap created during LASIK is healing, any contact with contaminated water can result in infection.
To avoid getting water in your eyes, close them as you shower and avoid swimming in rivers, lakes, or the ocean until you're fully healed.
Going without makeup for a few weeks may sound difficult for some people, but it's necessary for a smooth recovery process.
Wearing eye makeup encourages bacteria growth and increases the chances of infection after LASIK surgery.
To be safe, avoid all types of eye makeup, including mascara, eyeliners, eye shadows, and artificial eyelashes.
If you want to resume your makeup routine after LASIK recovery, it's best to talk to your doctor to avoid any complications.
Avoid strenuous activities or sports for a few weeks after LASIK.
Some activities such as heavy lifting can put too much pressure on the eyes and compromise the healing process.
It's also best to avoid contact sports during the recovery period and wear protective glasses when you resume activities.
Pools and hot tubs often contain chemicals that interfere with the healing process after LASIK surgery.
For example, chlorine, which is in most pools and hot tubs, is dangerous and can irritate sensitive eyes after surgery.7
Allow yourself at least a month before you come into contact with chlorinated water.
After LASIK surgery, most people return to regular activity after a day or two.
However, for best results, it’s essential to follow the strict post-op care plan from your surgeon. This involves scheduling follow-up appointments.
You can begin to take normal showers 48 hours after surgery.
After at least a week or two, other activities such as swimming, biking, and relaxing in hot tubs may be allowed in moderation.
Feel free to resume high-impact activities, such as contact sports, after a month of recovery. Just be sure to use protective eyewear.
Note: These are general timelines and recommendations for LASIK post-op care. Consult your eye doctor for specific information about your case.
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