Although LASIK is a fast and safe surgical procedure to correct refractive errors, it is still an operation that may involve taking some medications before or after the surgery. It is important to work with your eye surgeon to get evaluated for LASIK and understand which medications you may be taking.(Learn more)
Some medications may be taken one or two days before LASIK, some might be taken a few hours or minutes before going into surgery, and some may be taken up to two days after the operation. Over-the-counter medications, mild prescription sedatives, and nerve pain inhibitors are all potential drugs your eye surgeon may prescribe, and you should take them as recommended.(Learn more)
You should also be clear with your eye surgeon about the medications you take, as this will influence what they recommend for you. You might need to adjust or stop some prescription medications before undergoing LASIK, so you should also work with your prescribing physician.(Learn more)
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Preparing for LASIK: Understanding Medications You May Take
LASIK stands for laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis, which is a procedure that uses a guided laser to reshape the cornea, so light refracts clearly onto the retina. It is one of the most successful and popular procedures to correct refractive errors like nearsightedness, astigmatism, and farsightedness. It is also a fast operation, taking only about 10 minutes per eye and only about two weeks to fully heal from it.
Since it is a surgical procedure, you must be assessed to determine whether you are a good candidate for LASIK. People with thin corneas or very high refractive errors may not be good candidates for LASIK, for example. Most people who undergo LASIK have their vision corrected to at least 20/40, if not better.
Your optometrist or eye surgeon will conduct a thorough eye exam before you undergo LASIK to make sure there are no underlying health complications that will complicate the procedure. Before LASIK, you will need to take some steps to ensure your eyes are ready. For example, you will need to stop wearing contact lenses about two weeks before the surgery, so your corneas are completely in their natural shape.
You will also need to talk to your eye doctor about medications you take, so they can understand what medications you can safely be given on the day of the operation. While many eye surgeons prescribe different medications to help you stay calm during LASIK, it is important for them to know what you can safely tolerate.
Which Medications Will Your Eye Surgeon Recommend or Prescribe?
During LASIK, your doctor will put numbing eye drops in your eyes. However, you may also be asked to take some medications just before or just after the procedure, including:
- 1,000 mg of acetaminophen, an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).
- 400 mg of ibuprofen, an alternative OTC painkilling NSAID.
- 200 mg of naproxen, an OTC NSAID painkiller available outside the United States.
- 75 mg of pregabalin, which treats muscle or nerve pain, prescribed to be taken after the operation.
- 5 mg of diazepam (Valium), a mild sedation that will not put you to sleep.
- 10 mg of diazepam or a related sedative for larger people.
- 100 mg of gabapentin one day before surgery and two days after surgery. This is also used to ease nerve pain.
You should be conscious during LASIK, so you will not receive general anesthesia. If you are concerned about pressure or pain in your eyes during the operation, your surgeon may give you more of a sedative like diazepam.
If you historically respond well to NSAIDs, you may be able to lean on these after the procedure to manage pain. If not, you can ask about gabapentin, pregabalin, or a similar nerve pain medication. You are unlikely to receive a prescription for an opioid painkiller, as these are strong sedatives that could delay healing.
Work With Your Physician & Eye Doctor to Manage Your Medications During & After LASIK
It is possible to undergo LASIK with nothing more than the numbing eye drops. However, working with your surgeon to reduce potential pain during the operation is very helpful. Taking OTC painkillers or nerve pain management for a day or two after the procedure can help your healing process as you return to work or school.
When you talk to your doctor about prescription medications and dietary supplements you already take, they will have a better understanding of how these might impact your ability to heal after the operation and how you may react to pain, so they can manage prescriptions for you. You may have to temporarily stop taking some medications, so you should coordinate with your prescribing physician to manage any side effects from that process. Confirm it is safe for you to stop taking the medication while you undergo LASIK.
You may also consider taking some time off work to focus on healing. Even though many people return to work the next day, it can be wise to give your body a little more time to rest. During this time, you can restart prescription medications you may have stopped taking, with your doctor’s approval. Always consult your physician before you stop or start taking any medications.
The Basics of LASIK Eye Surgery. (August 2012). Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Consumer Information.
Methods of Sedation for LASIK. (April 2012). Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today.
Preoperative Evaluation for LASIK Surgery. (October 2019). EyeWiki, American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).