Before eye surgery, you will need to get a thorough medical and eye exam to make sure that you are a good candidate for the surgery. (Learn More) Your doctor will walk you through how to best prepare for the specific surgery you are getting.
You will often need to stop wearing your contacts and using products on your face the day before surgery. (Learn More) On the day of the surgery, you will need to fast for several hours beforehand. Make sure that you have a trusted person to drive you home after the procedure. (Learn More)
Follow all of your ophthalmologist’s instructions both before surgery and in recovery. This will help you to get the best results possible. (Learn More)
Before Your Surgery
Eye surgery, particularly LASIK surgery, is one of the most common surgeries done in the United States. It’s estimated that more than 700,000 procedures were performed in 2020. Eye surgeries have a low rate of complications and high rates of success.
To ensure that eye surgery will be successful, you will need a thorough eye exam ahead of time. You and your ophthalmologist will need to discuss your expectations for surgery and beyond. You will also need to make sure you share your medical history with your eye doctor and let them know about any underlying conditions and/or medications you are taking.
Your ophthalmologist will confirm that you are a good candidate for the surgery in question and discuss all of the potential risks and benefits of the procedure ahead of time. Before eye surgery, the ophthalmologist will need to:
- Ensure that there are no additional eye problems that can interfere with the surgery being performed.
- Test your eyes.
- Measure and map your eyes, including your cornea and pupil size.
- Potentially prescribe eye drops or medications to take ahead of time.
Day of Surgery
You will need to stop wearing your contacts at least a day before the procedure. For many surgeries, you will need to stop wearing contacts a few weeks before your final exam prior to eye surgery. Contacts can impact the natural shape of your cornea, and your eyes will need time to return to normal before your eye doctor can measure them properly for surgery.
You’ll also need to stop applying lotions, creams, perfumes, and makeup on your face at least a day before your eye surgery, the FDA explains.
On the day of your surgery, be sure to follow any preparation instructions from your doctor involving medications. You may need to stop taking certain medications or start taking others. You will typically need to stop eating solid foods at least six hours before your surgery time.
Eye surgery is usually a same-day procedure done in a surgery center or an outpatient clinic. It often takes less than an hour to complete.
You will need to arrange to have someone drive you home after eye surgery. The medications can make it unsafe to operate a car, and your eyes will be blurry immediately following surgery. Ask a family member or trusted friend to pick you up after surgery.
Setting Yourself Up for Success
Depending on the type of eye surgery you are having, the preparation before the procedure can be a little different. For example, you will often need to start using prescription eye drops before cataract surgery, and you will need to stop wearing your contacts weeks prior to your eye exam for LASIK surgery.
These general tips can help you best set yourself up for success with eye surgery:
- Follow your ophthalmologist’s instructions precisely.
- Share any and all medical details, history, supplements, and medications with your doctor ahead of time.
- Read through all of the paperwork detailing your procedure. Familiarize yourself with what to expect before, during, and after the surgery.
- Do not put any type of product on your face or near your eyes the day of the surgery. Often, it’s advisable to avoid this the day before surgery as well. Use only mild soap and water to wash your face prior to surgery.
- Drink plenty of water to ensure that you are properly hydrated leading up to your surgery.
- Stop eating and drinking when your doctor instructs you to before the surgery. This ensures that the medications used during the procedure will be effective and not make you sick.
- You can often eat a light breakfast the morning of surgery, depending on your scheduled surgery time. Be sure to stick to something like cereal or toast, and stay away from greasy foods.
- Wear something comfortable that can easily be taken on and off the day of surgery.
- Have a plan for getting home after the surgery.
It can be helpful to have a trusted family member or friend go with you to the surgery. In addition to driving you home after surgery, they can also hear your aftercare and recovery instructions.
Eye surgery like LASIK has over a 95 percent success rate. There is low risk for complications when all instructions before and after surgery are followed directly. Eye surgery is usually safe and successful if you are properly prepared.
Number of LASIK Surgeries in the U.S. 1996-2020. (July 2016). Statista Research Department.
LASIK - Laser Eye Surgery. (October 2020). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
What Should I Expect Before, During, and After Surgery? (July 2018). U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
LASIK Surgery: What to Expect. (June 2020). Harvard University.