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LASIK reduces refractive errors by reshaping the cornea, so you can get at least 20/40 vision, and not have to wear glasses or contact lenses anymore. Despite this, there are some reasons you may need contacts or glasses after LASIK surgery. (Learn More)
Different types of contacts can be safely fitted onto your eyes, including therapeutic contacts, soft or rigid contacts, or combination contacts. (Learn More) If you find glasses or contact lenses are necessary to see clearly after LASIK, you may have an undercorrection and could benefit from a second surgical procedure. (Learn More) LASIK does not protect against age-related eye changes, so you may need reading glasses as you age.
Most often, you will not need contacts or glasses after LASIK. If you are among the 95 percent of patients who get perfect visual acuity after LASIK, contacts or glasses will strain your eyes. (Learn More)
LASIK & Visual Acuity: You Should Not Need Glasses or Contacts
More than 40 million people all over the world choose laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK) rather than continue to wear glasses or contact lenses to correct their vision.
People who have had refractive errors like nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism for several years may be tired of caring for contacts or keeping their glasses prescription updated. LASIK reshapes your cornea, so light is refracted more clearly onto your retina, giving you better visual acuity without needing corrective wear.
More than 95 percent of LASIK procedures result in greatly improved vision. LASIK providers report that their patients get at least 20/40 vision, and most end up with 20/20 vision. While perfect eyesight cannot be guaranteed, you are not likely to need glasses or contacts to improve your vision after LASIK for at least several years.
Your LASIK surgeon may have you wear a protective contact lens for a few days after the operation. This lens does not correct your vision but instead keeps your eye safe from particles and irritants while your cornea heals.
After several years, your refractive error may change enough that you need corrective wear like glasses again. In very rare cases, LASIK may not work for your eyes, and you may need to return to wearing glasses or contact lenses.
It Is Safe to Wear Contact Lenses After LASIK With Your Optometrist’s Help
It is safe to wear contact lenses in specific situations after you undergo LASIK. There are some reasons you may have contact lenses after undergoing this laser-based refractive correction surgery.
- Therapeutic or “bandage” contacts: More invasive or older types of refractive surgery, like photorefractive keratectomy (PRK), required you to wear a protective, therapeutic contact lens to shield your eye for several days after the operation. It is not common to need a therapeutic contact lens (TCL) after modern LASIK procedures, but if your eye surgeon has concerns about healing your corneal flap, they may have you wear a TCL for one or two days after the operation.
- Hydrophilic or “soft” contacts: In the rare case that your refractive error is not corrected enough after LASIK, you can wear standard soft, gas-permeable contact lenses to get better visual acuity. You likely need a new eye exam and contact lens fitting, so your optometrist can update your refractive error and manage a contact lens that will fit over the new shape of your cornea.
Between 10 and 25 percent of people wear contact lenses after LASIK, one survey reports, so they can have full visual acuity including distance vision.
- Toric soft contacts: If you have a minor astigmatism that remains after LASIK, which causes overall blurry vision, toric lenses can adjust this refractive error. However, toric lenses are not capable of correcting an irregular astigmatism, before or after LASIK. They are also not recommended for higher degree astigmatism, regardless of LASIK.
- Rigid gas permeable contacts: These are considered the lenses of choice after most LASIK operations. They can correct refractive errors like astigmatism while managing thinner corneas and higher-order aberrations in sight.
- Combination contacts: Some people have extreme sensitivity to “hard” or “rigid” gas permeable lenses, causing a feeling of irritation or discomfort in the eye. Combination lenses are soft contact lenses with a rigid portion on top. The soft portion rests on the surface of the eye, while the hard part offers better correction of refractive errors. They also have better gas permeability than standard RGPs.
- Post-hypermetropic repair and iatrogenic corneal ectasia contacts: People with post-hypermetropia and iatrogenic corneal ectasia have a cornea that is steeper in the center than the periphery. This is similar to keratoconus, when the middle part of the cornea juts out with extra tissue.This requires contact lenses that fit in a special way over the cornea. Depending on how LASIK reshapes your cornea, they may reshape in an unusual way, so you need contact lenses fitted for these conditions.
- Scleral contacts: These lenses rest on the white part of your eye rather than just on top of the cornea and iris. They are considered a “lens of last resort” since they do not allow much of your eye to breathe, although they are considered gas permeable. If you have an unusually shaped cornea and contact lenses do not rest on it properly, even after having LASIK, you can try these to see if your vision improves.
Undercorrections: Wear Glasses Again or Get Another Surgery?
It is rare for someone to undergo LASIK and need glasses or contact lenses to improve their vision in the weeks after the surgery. If you find your vision has not improved enough that you can perform daily tasks without wearing glasses, this may indicate you have an undercorrection. Discuss options with your eye surgeon to fix this problem.
After LASIK, you will have several follow-up appointments for weeks or months, so your doctor can monitor your vision as it improves and ensure that your cornea heals without scarring or inflammation. If you have an undercorrection, your eye doctor will catch it during the healing process. They can discuss different surgeries to adjust your refractive error further.
Refractive surgeries may include:
- Another round of LASIK, if your corneas have enough tissue and there is enough refractive error left to correct.
- Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) for thinner corneas or more minor adjustments.
In very rare cases, you may not be eligible for a second surgery. You will need to wear contacts or glasses to continue correcting your refractive error.
Again, these cases are very rare. The vast majority of people do not need corrective eyewear after LASIK.
LASIK Works for 95 Percent of Patients
Your vision may fluctuate for several weeks, and you will likely need to wear your regular glasses the day after LASIK for some tasks like driving or reading.
Wearing contact lenses for a day or two after LASIK may cause problems with flap healing, so you will be advised to avoid them. You will be told to keep things out of your eyes as the flap heals. You can safely wear glasses as needed.
If your vision fluctuates too much, and you feel you need to wear contacts again months after LASIK, talk to your optometrist or ophthalmologist. If another procedure isn’t recommended, they can advise you on when you can wear contacts safely, based on your cornea’s healing process.
Some people may assume that they can wear contacts or glasses after LASIK to get better than 20/20 vision, but you will ultimately just strain your eyes if you attempt this. Getting 20/40 or better vision after LASIK means you do not need to wear glasses or contact lenses for most daily activities, and this is what LASIK aims to achieve.
If you attempt to wear glasses or contacts to further improve your vision, you’ll be disappointed. This can stress your eyes and worsen your vision.
You may experience age-related vision decline years after LASIK. In this case, your optometrist will examine your eyes and prescribe appropriate reading glasses. It is perfectly okay to wear these glasses after having LASIK.
How Does LASIK Work? Everything You Need to Know About LASIK Eye Surgery. (June 2017). American Refractive Surgery Council (ARSC).
Contact Lenses After LASIK or Other Refractive Surgery. (August 2018). All About Vision.
Contact Lenses After LASIK. (October 2019). EyeWiki, American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
LASIK Enhancement: When Additional Surgery Is Needed. (June 2019). All About Vision.