LASIK Eye Surgery: Recovery

While most people who get laser in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK) eye surgery notice an immediate improvement in their vision, or at least do by the next day or so, 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.

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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 healthcare provider will examine your eyes and test your vision. You may be given medicated eye drops (e.g., an 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 additional 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. They must not be neglected.

Recovery Timeline

Resting your eyes and monitoring your symptoms are critical in the first 24 hours after LASIK. After having someone drive you home, your eye surgeon will likely advise you to nap or relax in bed and to avoid reading, watching television, or using other screen devices, 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 12 months.

When to Call a Healthcare Provider

During your recovery, be sure to contact your healthcare provider right away if:

  • You are experiencing severe eye pain
  • Symptoms that are supposed to be temporary, like foggy vision or eye burning, are worsening
  • You get hit or poked in the eye

In addition to resting for the first 24 hours, your healthcare provider 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 healthcare provider may also recommend certain medications to ease your symptoms, such as:

  • Artificial tears or lubricating eye drops for eye dryness
  • A pain reliever, such as Tylenol (acetaminophen), for eye discomfort

Activity Restrictions

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 a week after your procedure.

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

  • Avoiding driving at night
  • Avoiding contact sports, like football, for at least four weeks and then wearing protective sport goggles for a month after that
  • Wearing safety goggles when engaging in risky activities, such as working with power tools

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 optical symptoms (double images, glare, halos, and/or starbursts) or dry eyes.

If this applies to you, 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.

Of note, some people may want to wear eyeglasses or contact lenses after LASIK surgery because of temporary blurry vision or because they have a mild, residual refractive error after surgery.

While eyeglasses are fine to wear, your healthcare provider will advise you to wait two to three months before wearing contact lenses to allow adequate time for eye healing.

If contact lenses are needed, your eye doctor will recommend gas permeable lenses, instead of soft ones. Gas permeable contact lenses are rigid and, therefore, maintain their shape on the front surface of the eye (which is now altered from surgery).

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.

This 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take to heal after LASIK surgery?

    Most people begin to see better immediately after surgery, but complete healing of the eye can take three to six months as vision gradually continues to improve.

  • Does LASIK surgery wear off?

    No. The corrections made to the eye are permeant, so LASIK surgery doesn't wear off. However, your eye can continue to change, which may lead you to have the same problem down the road.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. American Refractive Surgical Council. Everything you need to know about Lasik eye surgery June 2017.

  3. American Refractory Surgery Council. Beyond seeing clearly: What to expect with LASIK recovery. May 2016.

  4. Wilkinson JM, Cozine EW, Kahn AR. Refractive eye surgery: Helping patients make informed decisions about LASIK. Am Fam Physician. 2017 May 15;95(10):637-44.

  5. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. What should I expect before, during, and after surgery? July 2018.

  6. Boyd K. LASIK — laser eye surgery. American Academy of Ophthalmology. December 2019.

  7. Eydelman M, Hilmantel G, Tarver ME, et al. Symptoms and satisfaction of patients in the Patient-Reported Outcomes With Laser In Situ Keratomileusis (PROWL) Studies. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2017;135(1):13–22. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2016.4587

  8. Thompson V. (March 2018). All About Vision. Can I Wear Contact Lenses After LASIK?

  9. Refractive Surgery Council. What to Expect with LASIK Recovery

By Troy Bedinghaus, OD
Troy L. Bedinghaus, OD, board-certified optometric physician, owns Lakewood Family Eye Care in Florida. He is an active member of the American Optometric Association.