LASIK Eye Surgery: How to Prepare

Even though LASIK is a relatively safe procedure, because eyesight is so important, it is normal to experience some nervousness prior to surgery. Knowing how to prepare yourself in the weeks and days leading up to your surgery can help you feel more at ease and increase your chances of a favorable outcome.

Location

LASIK surgery is performed under local anesthesia in an outpatient surgery center or in your ophthalmologist's office.

Your eye surgeon will advise you to arrive about an hour early to your scheduled appointment.  Early arrival gives you enough time to complete any necessary paperwork and relax a bit before the procedure.

When ready, you will be taken into the procedure room where you will lie back in a reclining chair. Next to you, you will see a laser system which consists of a large machine, a microscope, and a computer screen.

What to Wear

Wear loose-fitting, casual clothing that does not need to be pulled over your head on the day of your surgery. You will want to be comfortable during the procedure and avoid having to change when you arrive home.

Also, avoid wearing hair accessories, as these can interfere with how your surgeon positions your head underneath the laser.

In order to prevent debris or chemicals from getting into your eyes, avoid applying or using these items prior to your surgery:

  • Make-up, especially eye makeup (remove the night before surgery)
  • Perfume or cologne
  • Eye or body lotion or creams
  • Clothing that has loose fibers or animal hair from a pet that may shed

Food and Drink

On the day of surgery, you should eat a light meal before leaving for your appointment. You do not need to fast.

You can drink water and other fluids, but avoid alcohol.

Medications

Most patients can take their prescription medications as normal, though there are some exceptions.

Medications that may need to be stopped around the time of surgery include:

  • Certain migraine medications, like Imitrex (sumatriptan), which can affect wound healing of the cornea
  • A medication used to treat severe, cystic acne called Accutane, which can cause eye dryness
  • Over-the-counter antihistamines, which can contribute to eye dryness

In addition, if you take a medication that makes you drowsy or sleepy, your physician may ask you to skip your dose on the day of your surgery. 

To help prevent complications, it's important to tell your eye surgeon all of the medications you are taking, including:

  • Prescription drugs
  • Over-the-counter drugs
  • Supplements (e.g., vitamins, herbals)
  • Recreational drugs

While simply talking through the procedure may be enough to quell any anxiety about LASIK that you have, some people do require anti-anxiety medication.

If you feel like you need medication to calm your nerves before LASIK, be sure to talk about this with your surgeon prior to your surgery date.

What to Bring

There are a few essential items for you to bring to your LASIK surgery appointment. These items include:

  • A credit card or another form of payment, which may be due on the day of (or sometimes prior to) your procedure
  • Your insurance card, although LASIK is not usually covered by insurance because it is considered an elective procedure
  • A case for your eyeglasses (you'll wear doctor-provided sunglasses when you go home)

Arrange for someone to drive you home after the procedure. The actual surgery usually takes around 20 to 30 minutes, but you can expect to be in the office for about 90 minutes in total. There should be no issue with that person waiting in the waiting room while you're in surgery.

It's also a good idea to pre-arrange for that person, or someone else, to stay with and help you for a few hours while you rest at home. Your vision, for example, may be too blurry for you to prepare yourself a meal or get around safely.

Pre-Op Lifestyle Changes

To optimize the safety and quality of the surgery, your surgeon may advise you on these practices prior to your procedure:

  • Discontinue contact lenses (prior to preoperative consultation and surgery): one to two weeks for soft lenses and three to four weeks for hard lenses.
  • Arrange to take time off of work for at least one to three days; this may be longer if you work under certain circumstances (e.g., within a dusty environment or if you work with power tools).
  • Thoroughly wash your eyes and eyelids prior to the surgery to help prevent infection.
  • Cut back on alcohol use and/or smoking, as excess use can negatively impact healing after LASIK eye surgery.

A Word From Verywell

LASIK eye surgery is a complex, albeit generally very safe and effective procedure. To optimize your eye healing and vision improvement, it's important to follow your personal ophthalmologist's instructions as precisely as possible.

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Article Sources
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  2. The LASIK Vision Institute. Preparing for Vision Correction Surgery.

  3. Wilkinson JM, Cozine EW, Khan AR. Refractive Eye Surgery: Helping Patients Make Informed Decisions About LASIK. Am Fam Physician. 2017 May 15;95(10):637-644.

  4. U.S. FDA. (July 2018). What should I expect before, during, and after surgery?

  5. Birdsong O. (October 2019). American Academy of Opthamology. Preoperative Evaluation for LASIK Surgery.

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