Updated on  February 20, 2024
8 min read

Side Effects of LASIK Eye Surgery

8 sources cited
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What is LASIK Eye Surgery?

Laser in-situ keratomileusis, or LASIK, is a form of laser eye surgery used to treat refractive errors, such as:

LASIK surgery involves creating a flap on the cornea using a sharp blade device known as a microkeratome. What follows is reshaping the cornea using an excimer laser. 

The cornea is the clear part that focuses light on the retina, enabling clear vision. Reshaping the cornea enhances its focus on the retina, improving visual acuity.

Hospital room with patient who is recovering from LASIK eye operation

Common LASIK Side Effects

After LASIK surgery, you’re likely to experience side effects. However, most are mild and can be managed with medication and other post-LASIK care practices.

Common side effects after LASIK include:3

  • Dry eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Gritty or itchy feeling in the eyes
  • Mild pain and discomfort
  • Red eyes
  • Glares, halos, and starbursts around lights
  • Blurry vision
  • Watery eyes/excess tearing

The side effects of LASIK are normal and will improve gradually. Follow your doctor’s instructions closely for successful healing.

9 Potential Complications of LASIK

The potential of severe complications from LASIK is rare.4 According to statistics, only one percent of LASIK patients develop complications.

These complications include:

1. Overcorrection or Undercorrection 

This means you have not achieved your desired visual acuity. Undercorrection means that not enough corneal tissue was reshaped. Meanwhile, overcorrection means too much corneal tissue was reshaped during the procedure.

For undercorrection, you’ll need a secondary LASIK procedure to address it. In the case of overcorrection, surgery may not be possible, this means you’ll need corrective lenses.

2. Irregular Astigmatism

An irregular astigmatism is less common and occurs when the eye isn’t completely round. The uneven curvature causes:

  • Distorted vision
  • Blurriness
  • Halos
  • Glares
  • Starbursts
  • Shadows

The condition can be corrected via a repeat LASIK procedure.

3. Regression

One of the potential after-effects of LASIK is regression. This means your vision may return to how it was before the procedure or worsen.

According to studies, about 10 percent of LASIK patients experience regression ten years after the surgery. It can be addressed via LASIK enhancement.5

4. Eye Infections

Although your doctor will provide antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, eye infections may occur. Talk to your ophthalmologist if you’re experiencing the following:

  • Extreme pain
  • Discomfort
  • Eye discharge
  • Visual changes

5. Corneal Flap Complications

Flap complications typically occur during the healing process. This is the most severe LASIK complication. 

Corneal flap complications happen when the epithelial flap doesn’t heal properly. This could be because of an uneven corneal surface or just poor healing. 

This can lead to severe visual issues or vision loss, especially if the flap is dislodged due to eye rubbing or isn’t repositioned well after surgery.

6. Decentration

This occurs when the laser is not centered well during LASIK treatment. Decentration often leads to irregular astigmatism and can be corrected via a repeat procedure.6

Other symptoms include:

  • Double vision
  • Glare
  • Halos
  • Blurred vision

7. Epithelial Ingrowth

This occurs when epithelial tissue grows under the corneal flap. This can lead to problems such as:

  • Pain
  • Discomfort
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurred vision

Epithelial ingrowth can be corrected by lifting the flap and removing the ingrown tissue.

8. Corneal Ectasia

The thinning of the cornea. The major risk factor for corneal ectasia is keratoconus, an eye disease characterized by thinning of the cornea. People with this condition are discouraged from laser refractive surgery.

9. Diffuse Lamellar Keratitis (DLK)

An inflammation underneath the healing corneal flap. Mild cases resolve with time, but severe DLK may require treatment with steroid eye drops. DLK is more common after bladeless LASIK (iLASIK).

How Long Do LASIK Side Effects Last?

How long side effects last varies from person to person. However, they usually disappear after a few weeks to a month, sometimes longer. Mild discomfort typically goes away with time.

You’ll notice some positive outcomes of the surgery within the first weeks. During this time, you should contact your eye doctor for close monitoring. 

If you have concerns or experience complications, talk to your eye doctor. They can help address any vision problems early.

Do The Benefits Outweigh The Risks? 

The benefits of LASIK outweigh the risks because of the following reasons:

  • Clear vision a day after surgery
  • 99 percent of patients attain clear vision (20/40 or better)
  • 90 percent achieve 20/20 vision or better
  • The procedure is quick and fairly safe
  • Reduces or eliminates dependence on glasses or contact lenses
  • Almost painless
  • Enhancements can be made after the initial surgery to improve eyesight further
  • No need for bandages after the surgery

8 Tips to Ensure Your Eyes Heal Properly

Follow the tips below to ensure you heal properly after LASIK:

1. Rest Your Eyes

After LASIK surgery, you may feel some mild pain and discomfort. Your surgeon will prescribe pain medication and eye drops to relieve the discomfort.

You should keep your eyes shut for a few hours to ease pain and enhance healing. Even if you can see clearly after LASIK, avoid straining your eyes until you recover fully.

2. Follow-up With Your Doctor

A routine checkup can help detect minor complications even when you feel fine. Your first follow-up visit should be within 24 to 48 hours after the surgery. 

There is no limit to the frequency of follow-ups. If you develop complications after surgery, visit your doctors regularly for close monitoring.

3. Protect Your Eyes

Protective eye gear can be helpful when healing after LASIK. One common side effect of LASIK surgery is light sensitivity. 

Because of this, doctors recommend you avoid bright lights or direct sunlight for a few days. You can protect your eyes from bright light by wearing UVA and UVB protection sunglasses. 

Sunglasses can also protect your healing eyes from dust and debris. This can help prevent infections or complications while the flap is healing.

4. Take Medications as Prescribed

After the surgery, you’ll use eye medications to treat inflammation and prevent infections. To help with dryness, your doctor will prescribe artificial tears and other lubricating eye drops. You must use these medications as instructed. 

In many cases, you may have to take the medications multiple times every day or every hour. If you fail to administer these medications properly, it may significantly harm or prolong recovery time.

5. Avoid Rubbing Your Eyes

Your eyes may feel itchy after LASIK surgery. However, you must avoid touching them. 

Rubbing your eyes may cause issues with the healing corner flap. It can also introduce harmful bacteria to the wound.

Doctors recommend using artificial tears and lubricants to ease the discomfort. You can also wear goggles at night to prevent yourself from unconsciously touching your eyes during sleep.

6. Avoid Eye and Face Makeup

It’s highly recommended that you avoid using the following before and after LASIK surgery:

  • Makeup
  • Mascara
  • Eyeliners
  • Artificial eyelashes

Makeup encourages bacteria growth, thus increasing the risk of eye infections. Before resuming your makeup routine after LASIK, seek medical advice from a qualified ophthalmologist.

7. Avoid Getting Water Into Your Eyes

Bacteria and other infectious germs can contaminate water.8 As your corneal flap heals, any contact with contaminated water will result in infection.

To avoid water getting into your eyes, close your eyes as you shower. You should also avoid the following until you’ve fully recovered: 

  • Rivers
  • Lakes
  • Oceans
  • Pools

8. Avoid Intense Activity

Activities such as contact sports and heavy lifting can cause pressure in your eyes and affect the healing flap. Doctors recommend avoiding such activities for about a month to allow proper healing.

You should still use protective eyewear if you can resume work per your doctor’s advice. This will help prevent accidental injuries that may lead to complications.

LASIK Outlook

According to outcome studies, LASIK is a safe alternative to prescription glasses and contact lenses.1 Research also indicates that 96% of people who undergo LASIK surgery are satisfied with their visual outcomes.2 

Over the years, LASIK surgery has been improved to enhance safety and visual outcomes. Notable improvements to traditional LASIK surgery include Epi-LASIK and IntraLase LASIK (iLASIK).

When is LASIK Not the Best Option?

LASIK may not be the best for you if you:

  • Are below 18 years of age
  • Have thin corneas
  • Have irregular corneas
  • Have unrealistic expectations/uninformed about the procedure
  • Have an unstable eyeglass and contact lens prescription 
  • Have eye diseases such as cataracts that may affect healing
  • Have underlying chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and HIV that affect healing
  • Are pregnant or nursing

Alternative Vision Correction Options

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


LASIK is a surgical procedure that uses a specialized laser to correct vision problems like refractive errors. It’s a safe and painless procedure with a high success rate.

The side effects of LASIK surgery are mostly mild and can be managed with medications.

Although surgical complications from LASIK are rare, they can still happen.

However, the benefits of LASIK typically outweigh the risks. If you want your eye to heal correctly, follow your doctor’s instructions and use medications properly.

Updated on  February 20, 2024
8 sources cited
Updated on  February 20, 2024
  1. Ide et al. “Outcome of a 10-year follow-up of laser in situ laser keratomileusis for myopia and myopic astigmatism.” Taiwan Journal of Ophthalmology, 2014.
  2. Bamashmus et al. “Functional Outcome and Patient Satisfaction after Laser In Situ Keratomileusis for Correction of Myopia and Myopic Astigmatism.” National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 2015.
  3. LASIK Complication Rate: The Latest Facts and Stats You Should Know,” Refractive Surgery Council, 2021.
  4. McKinney, S. “Before Enhancing Post-LASIK Patients.” Review of Ophthalmology, 2020
  5. Hardten, D. “A Rational Approach to Irregular Astigmatism.” Review of Ophthalmology, 2011.
  6. What Is the LASIK Success Rate?,” Refractive Surgery Council, 13 Oct. 2021
  7.  Ahmad, S. “Water-related ocular diseases.” National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 2018.
  8. LASIK eye surgery.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER), 2021.
The information provided on VisionCenter.org should not be used in place of actual information provided by a doctor or a specialist.