LASIK eye surgery is a common eye surgery used to improve the eyesight of someone who has myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), presbyopia (farsightedness due to aging) or astigmatism. Doctors have performed the procedure for two decades, and the procedure boasts one of the highest success rates of any performed on the human body. About 95% of patients can see much better after having it done.

Although you may feel some mild discomfort for the first few days after surgery, having LASIK should not cause any long-lasting pain. Any pain after the short term indicates either a complication or the existence of another issue.

Other side effects like dry eyes are also possible, but they are generally uncommon and do not last. If you do have lasting pain or other complications, it may be possible to correct these problems with future surgeries.

Will I Feel Any Pain During Lasik

You will be awake and alert during the LASIK procedure, but you should feel little to no pain during or after the surgery.

When your surgery starts, your surgeon will use eyedrops with local anesthetic in them to numb the eye (or eyes) that will be surgically altered. You may feel some mild discomfort after this is done, but you should not feel any pain.

Beautiful woman's eyes

When you are ready, your surgeon will start the laser and begin to alter your eye. This will take between three3 and 15 minutes per eye, depending on the type of surgery you are receiving and how severe your case is.

Once your surgery is complete, your surgeon will apply special contact lenses to your eyes to cover the area that needs to heal. You will need to be very careful about bumping, rubbing, or straining your eyes for the first few days of the healing process. It may be helpful to wear sunglasses during the day and a sleep mask at night.

A few days before your surgery, you should stop wearing any makeup or scented lotions around your eyes. This will reduce your risk of painful inflammation or infection after the procedure.

Anesthesia and Sedation

Some patients are particularly nervous about getting LASIK surgery. If you want LASIK but think you’ll have trouble managing your anxiety, your eye doctor may offer you a mild sedative (anti-anxiety medication) to take before your surgery begins. This will calm you and help you to make it through the procedure with little stress.

Doctors rarely perform LASIK under general anesthesia (sedation that leaves you completely unconscious). This is because part of the procedure requires you to focus your eye on a light overhead, and you need to be conscious to do this. General anesthesia for eye procedures is also risky, so most ophthalmologists are not comfortable offering it to their patients when a lighter sedative will get the job done.

During the procedure...

During the procedure, your surgeon will put anesthetizing eye drops in one or both eyes, depending on whether you want LASIK for one eye or both. This means that you may feel mild discomfort during the surgery, but you will not feel pain.

What Does It Mean If I Feel Pain After Surgery?

It is normal to feel mild-to-moderate pain for up to 24 hours after LASIK surgery. This means that your cornea is healing and reforming into its new shape. You should be able to manage this pain easily using over-the-counter medications and prescription eye drops.

Shot of an attractive young woman relaxing on her bed in the morning at home

If your pain lasts longer than this or is severe, you may be developing complications. Call your eye doctor’s office and tell the nurse what level of pain you’re experiencing and the duration of it. Your eye doctor might ask you to return for a follow-up visit to make sure everything is OK.

On the other hand, experiencing no pain does not mean your healing process is complete. It takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for corneas to finish superficial healing after surgery. After that, it usually takes several months for the rest of your eyes to heal fully.

Until your eye doctor says you have healed fully, you carefully follow your aftercare instructions to the letter. Among them:

  • Do not try to put your old contacts back in your eyes, even if you’re having a lot of difficulty seeing.
  • Do not rub or poke at your eyes, even if you’re having a hard time seeing of think there’s something in stuck in them.
  • Continue to not use make-up, lotions, or creams around your eyes for up to two weeks after your surgery or as directed by your doctor.
  • Do not go swimming or use a hot tub for a month or two.
  • Do not play contact sports or participate in other high-contact activities for at least four weeks.

You must also attend all of your follow-up appointments, even if you aren’t experiencing pain or other problems. Your eye doctor needs to monitor your progress over all of your appointments to make sure your treatment is still on track to produce good results.

Other Potential Side Effects

Like any surgery, LASIK surgery involves some risk. After your procedure, you might experience any of the following issues:

  • Dry eyes
  • Intense glare or halos that appear in your vision when looking at light sources
  • Reduced contrast sensitivity (ability to distinguish between light and dark)
  • Damage to the retina or other nerves in the eye
  • Overcorrection or under-correction
  • New astigmatism
  • Regression (vision that goes back to how it was before your surgery)
  • Vision loss

Most side effects from LASIK go away in 48 hours or less. Eye doctors estimate that 20% to 55% of people have longer-lasting side effects. However, most of these lasting problems also go away after about six months. It’s rare for them to become long-lasting issues in patients’ lives.

You may be more likely to experience side effects if you have:

  • An autoimmune disorder
  • A condition for which you take immunosuppressant medication
  • HIV
  • Existing problems with dry eyes
  • An inflamed cornea
  • Any eye diseases or injuries (cataracts, scratched corneas, uveitis, etc.)

If you’re worried about the potential side effects of your surgery, ask your eye doctor about the risks. They can tell you how likely it is that you will experience side effects and which ones to look out for. You can then make an informed decision about whether the surgery is right for you.

Technological Improvements Reduce Pain

As technology improves, there are different types of refractive surgery based on LASIK that can reduce pain and recovery time. One of these, epi-LASIK, has proved to be effective at reducing all post-operative pain.

Although people who underwent epi-LASIK and other types of refractive procedures reported the same levels of pain four hours after the procedure, those who underwent epi-LASIK reported less pain immediately after that and ongoing during the recovery process. The amount of time in surgery is reduced in the epi-LASIK procedure, which improves recovery time.

Not everyone is a good candidate for epi-LASIK, LASIK, or related refractive procedures. Consult with your optometrist or ophthalmologist to learn which one is the best fit for you. Your eye doctors can also recommend ways to reduce pain after your operation.

References

Medical Devices: What Is LASIK? (July 11, 2017). U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

LASIK eye surgery. (November 2019). Mayo Clinic.

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

Is Eye Pain Common Post LASIK Surgery? How Long Does the Cornea Take to Heal After LASIK? (January 19, 2012). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

Chronic Dry Eye Symptoms After LASIK: Parallels and Lessons to Be Learned From Other Persistent Post-Operative Pain Disorders. (April 21, 2015). Molecular Pain.

Is LASIK for me? (October 2008). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Is it possible at all to have LASIK surgery while under general anesthesia? (January 2017). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Postoperative Pain Following epi-LASIK, LASEK, and PRK for Myopia. (February 23, 2007). Journal of Refractive Surgery.

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