LASIK Eye Surgery: Recovery

Patient undergoing laser eye surgery

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LASIK (laser in-situ keratomileusis) eye surgery is a procedure that uses a laser to improve your vision by changing the shape of your cornea. While most people notice an immediate improvement in their vision after the surgery, it takes the eye about three to six months to fully recover and heal.

To ensure a safe and full recovery and to prevent complications, like infection, it's important to follow your eye surgeon's instructions as carefully as possible.

Surgery Follow-Up

After LASIK eye surgery, it's important to follow-up with your eye surgeon as advised.

Typically, you will have a check-up appointment within 24 to 48 hours after your surgery. During this appointment, your doctor will examine your eyes and test your vision. You may be given medicated eye drops (e.g., antibiotic or steroid) to help prevent infection and inflammation.

Over the course of the next six months, you may experience some vision fluctuations and disturbances—most commonly, dry eyes and night vision symptoms, like seeing glares or halos around lights. As a result, you will have several scheduled follow-up visits to check the progress of your eye healing and recovery.

Your follow-up appointments are critical to your full recovery and vision and must not be neglected.

Recovery Timeline

The first 24 hours are critical for resting your eyes and keeping abreast of your symptoms. After having someone drive you home, your eye surgeon will likely advise you to nap or relax in bed and to avoid reading or watching television, which may strain your eyes.

Symptoms you may experience immediately after LASIK eye surgery include:

  • Eye discomfort, especially after the topical anesthetic (numbing drops) wears off
  • Eye dryness
  • Eye irritation, itching, or burning sensation
  • Blurry or foggy vision
  • Tiny areas of bleeding on the whites of the eye
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Seeing streaks, glares, starbursts, or halos, especially when driving at night

The above symptoms vary in severity from person to person. Eye discomfort or itching/burning usually only lasts for around five hours after surgery. The other symptoms, including blurry vision, typically get better within the first week. In some patients, eye dryness may last up to six to twelve months.

While some mild eye pain or discomfort is normal, call your doctor right away if you are experiencing severe eye pain or any unusual or worsening symptoms.

In addition to resting for the first 24 hours, your doctor will give you specific instructions to follow for the next two to four weeks. These instructions may include: 

  • Wearing sunglasses during the day
  • Wearing a patch or eye shield at night (your eye surgeon may place a see-through shield over your eye at the end of the procedure)
  • Avoiding swimming and hot tubs
  • Avoiding smoky and dusty environments
  • Avoiding rubbing or touching your eyes
  • Avoiding applying lotions, creams, and makeup around your eyes
  • Keeping soap and shampoo out of your eyes when showering

Your doctor may also recommend certain medications to ease your symptoms, such as:

While you can generally get back to work and your everyday routine within one to three days after surgery, you should not engage in any exercising or strenuous activity until after the first week.

Other restrictions your doctor may advise for at least the first month after surgery or longer include:

  • Avoid driving at night
  • Avoid wearing contact lenses, even if your vision is a little blurry (if needed, talk with your eye surgeon about wearing part-time glasses) 
  • Avoid contact sports, like football, for at least four weeks and then wear protective sport goggles for a month after that.
  • Wear safety goggles when engaging in risky activities, such as working with power tools or playing sports

Coping With Recovery

Generally speaking, patients are happy and satisfied after LASIK surgery. In fact, the vast majority achieve at least 20/40 visual acuity (without glasses or contact lenses). More than 90% achieve 20/20 uncorrected visual acuity. 

However, during the six-month recovery period, some patients report and are potentially bothered by new visual symptoms (double images, glare, halos, and/or starbursts) or dry eyes.

If this is the case, please talk with your eye doctor. They may be able to provide you with the reassurance you need (that the symptom will resolve over time) and/or offer a treatment to alleviate the symptom.

A Word From Verywell

LASIK surgery often proves to be a life-changing experience. Most people notice a vision improvement right away and feel near normal the day of or shortly after the procedure.

LASIK surgery, however, is not a guarantee for perfect vision. Your eyes will still change as you grow older, to the point that several years after your surgery, you may need to wear glasses or contact lenses again. With that in mind, it's important to continue seeing your eye doctor for regular check-ups.

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Article Sources
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