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Are You Awake During LASIK?

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You are awake during LASIK procedures. Local anesthesia means skipping the very real risks that come with general anesthesia. Since you won’t need to recover from heavy anesthesia drugs, you can go home the same day. 

Numbing eye drops prepare your eyes for surgery, and researchers say most patients feel only mild discomfort during LASIK

If you’re worried about remaining awake during LASIK, talk with your doctor. Together, you can explore options (like breathing techniques) to help you stay calm while your doctor works on improving your vision.

Why Local Anesthesia During LASIK Is Safer Than General Anesthesia

Two types of anesthesia exist: general and local. During LASIK, your doctor uses a local anesthetic, which is inherently safer than general versions.

While general anesthesia is safer now than ever before, it is inherently dangerous. It suppresses the following:

  • Consciousness
  • Breathing rate
  • Heart rate 
  • Nervous system 

People with diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and other common conditions can struggle with general anesthesia. And while you’re completely sedated, your doctor can’t check your response to a delicate surgery like LASIK.

Local anesthesia numbs only the part of your body corrected by surgery: your eyes. Drops placed inside your eyelids numb the area, but you’re awake and responsive during the procedure. 

Local anesthesia also reduces redness, swelling, and chances of an allergic reaction typically associated with general anesthesia. You will recover quicker with local anesthesia, providing pain relief for several hours after the operation.

Rear View Of Loving Couple Walking Towards House

LASIK Is Safe & Effective With Local Anesthetic

An estimated 800,000 people have LASIK surgery every year. The vast majority of them do not have general anesthesia for the procedure. In fact, it’s important for patients to actively participate in their vision correction. 

You will lie comfortably on your back on the reclining bed or chair. After positioning you under the laser, the surgeon will clean the areas around the eyes and place numbing eye drops inside your eyes. An eyelid speculum will hold your eyelids in place and prevent movement. A suction pad will fixate your eyes.

Your doctor will ask you to stare directly at a positioning light. Once your eye is properly positioned, the surgeon will start the procedure. You’ll keep looking at the positioning light the entire time, ensuring that the right tissues are exposed to the laser. 

Surgery typically lasts less than 60 seconds per eye, but the process takes about 20 to 30 minutes to complete.

What if I Move During Surgery?

One test that determines if you’re a good candidate for LASIK is the ability to stare at a fixed object for a minute uninterrupted. 

Doctors use other safeguards to ensure you don’t move.

  • Positioning: You will lie comfortably with a head support to reduce movement. 
  • Tools: The doctor uses retainers and suction devices to keep you still. 

Your laser will track your track eye movement up to 4,000 times a second. The machine will stop the operation if it detects sudden movements that could cause injury or surgical errors.

In short, you need not worry about movements because plenty of failsafe procedures ensure a successful LASIK operation.

eye laser correction
The topical anesthetic will eliminate any pain or discomfort during the procedure that may cause eye movement, the eyes will be kept hydrated, and the eyelids are held open. Additionally, modern LASIK devices are typically equipped with a safety shutoff. In the event that you do move accidentally during the procedure, which is very unlikely, the device will shut off very quickly, avoiding any accidental changes or nerve damage to the eye. The device is designed to react well before your surgeon can.

What to Expect after Surgery

You will feel little pain under normal circumstances, but your eyes might feel itchy, gritty, or watery.

Your ophthalmologist will prescribe eye drops and pain medication that will last you several hours after the surgery. They may require you to wear an eye shield at night to protect your eyes until you heal.

The first follow-up appointment will be two days after the surgery to check for healing and complications, and the next will be within six months.

LASIK Experience Frequently Asked Questions

What if I cry during LASIK?

LASIK surgery doesn’t take long, and it’s usually completed too quickly for crying. Even if it happens, the doctor can wipe away your tears and pause the surgery for a few seconds. You can ask your doctor to use a drying medication if it’s a concern.

What if I sneeze during LASIK?

Lasers monitor your eye’s micro-movements several times a second and will shut down the lasers when they detect the slightest movement caused by sneezing or coughing. Any involuntary movement will not affect the surgery.

What if I blink during LASIK?

It should be impossible to blink during this procedure. Surgeons secure an eyelid speculum, which stops eyelid movement. Doctors also keep your eyes lubricated to prevent dryness and eliminate the need to blink.

Can I smoke after LASIK?

Your eye doctor will likely advise you not to smoke until the cornea heals. Smoke tends to irritate eyes, cause dry eyes, and slow down the natural healing process of any tissues it encounters.


  1. Patient-Perceived Pain During Laser In-Situ Keratomileusis: Comparison of Fellow Eyes. (March 2012). Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery.
  2. Anesthesia Risks. American Society of Anesthesiologists.
  3. The 25th Anniversary of Laser Vision Correction in the United States. (March 2021). Clinical Ophthalmology.

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