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How Does LASIK Work?

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Laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) is a type of laser eye surgery for nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. LASIK works by permanently reshaping the eye. A corneal flap gives doctors access to deeper tissue. An excimer laser is used to remove microscopic amounts of tissue to reshape the cornea. It is replaced when the surgery is complete.

How LASIK Eye Surgery Works

LASIK is a form of refractive surgery that reshapes the cornea and offers permanent correction of common vision problems. 

LASIK involves the following three-step procedure:

  • Access. Doctors make a tiny flap in the cornea. More than 70 percent of doctors make flaps between 100 and 119 microns thick, about two human hairs thick, and most use a laser for this incision. The doctor folds this flap back to expose deeper tissues. 
  • Reshape and remove. Doctors use computer guided lasers to reshape the cornea by removing minute amounts of  tissue. This portion of the surgery is guided by fast laser trackers Replace. The flap is placed back over the cornea, and acts  as a sort of bandage for healing tissue.

LASIK stands for laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis. The procedure treats nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. LASIK provides permanent vision correction, and more than 99 percent of people emerge from surgery with no serious consequences. 

The LASIK Procedure: Step by Step

The entire LASIK procedure takes about 30 minutes, including your surgery preparation time. Your doctor and staff will be with you the entire time to ensure you feel safe, comfortable, and supported. The actual procedure takes less than 10 minutes

Here’s what you can expect at each step:

Preparing for the Procedure

LASIK is a surgery, and while it’s incredibly safe, you must do your part to ensure a good outcome. 

The following steps are important:

  • Get a consultation. A thorough and comprehensive eye exam is crucial to determine whether you are a candidate for LASIK or another procedure. These measurements are important to give your surgeon the highest predictability of giving you perfect vision after surgery.
  • Have your corneas mapped. These tests are important to determine your corneal thickness and the corneal thickness distribution, as well as the shape of your cornea. The measurements will help your surgeon design a treatment to give you excellent vision safely and to determine if you are a good candidate for surgery.
  • Schedule your surgery. If you’re approved for surgery, your doctor will find the right date and time for the procedure. Expect a wait, as you must take steps to prepare your eyes. 
  • Stop wearing contacts. Contact lenses may change the shape of your corneas. Typically, you must stop wearing them for one to two weeks before surgery.
  • Use medications. An antibiotic and a steroid drop are typically used one to three days before surgery. You will also be given relaxing medications 20 to 30 minutes before surgery to help you relax.

During LASIK Surgery

LASIK is one of the fastest vision correction procedures available. On average, it takes less than five minutes per eye.

A LASIK surgery involves the following steps:

  • Your doctor will put numbing drops in your eyes to prevent discomfort. 
  • You’ll walk into the surgery room and lie down on the laser bedYour doctor will use an eyelid speculum (lid holder) to keep you from blinking.. Your doctor will use a laser to create  a thin flap in your cornea. You won’t feel this. 
  • Your doctor will ask you to focus on a light aimed at your eye for about 5 to 20 seconds. The laser will reshape the cornea, and you may smell a peculiar smell during the laser application. The laser will stop if you move.
  • The Lasik flap is then restored to it’s original position.

Postoperative Recovery

LASIK is an outpatient procedure, so you’ll go home the same day. You’ll need someone to drive you home, and you might feel some discomfort within the first 4  hours. You will have no discomfort after surgery if you go to sleep for the first 4 hours after surgery with the help of the relaxing medications your doctor will give you. 

Caring for your eyes after surgery involves the following steps:

  • Rest. Don’t look at computer screens, read, or do close work on the day of surgery.. Let your tissues heal. 
  • Medicate. Use your eye drops as prescribed by your doctor. 
  • Protect. Avoid smoke, water, pollutants, and other contaminants.
  • Check in. Go back to your doctor for checkups as recommended and scheduled.

More than 98 percent of patients have 20/20 or better vision after LASIK. But your sight might be a little blurred or distorted for a while as your tissues heal. Most people are back to their normal routines within days.

NVISION stands apart from other LASIK providers. Our doctors use state-of-the-art lasers and equipment. We offer exceptional patient care. And 99% of NVISION patients with mild to moderate nearsightedness and astigmatism will have 20/20 vision with both eyes open.

How to Know if LASIK Is Right for You

LASIK is an elective procedure, meaning you’re not required to have it if you don’t want to. But plenty of compelling reasons for LASIK exist. Understanding what they are, and finding out if you qualify, is important. 

Between 15 and 20 percent of people aren’t eligible for LASIK. Anyone interested in the surgery should get a consultation. If you’re turned down, get another opinion. One surgeon could feel comfortable performing a procedure others do not. 

Take our free LASIK quiz in just seconds and find out if you’re a good candidate.

LASIK Side Effects

A side effect is a medical symptom that appears after surgery and fades during the healing process. Like any surgery, LASIK can cause side effects.

Five common LASIK side effects include the following:

  1. Dry eye: Up to 30 percent of patients experience dry eyes in the 3 months following surgery, 
  2. Glare: Some people have trouble with bright lights (including while driving at night) for 6 to 12 months after surgery.
  3. Halos: Similar to glare, halos around lights can appear for 6 to 12 months after surgery.
  4. Ghost images: Some people see a ghost image overlapping something they’re looking at.
  5. Starbursts: Some people see a starburst around light in the 6 to 12 months following surgery.

These side effects do tend to fade as the eyes heal. People who experience them can visit their doctors for therapeutic treatments.

True complications associated with LASIK are rare. Less than 1 percent of procedures cause medical issues that don’t fade or get better as the eyes heal. Complications include infections and flap problems. Again, these are very rare.

Alternatives to LASIK Surgery

LASIK is a voluntary procedure people use to reduce their reliance on glasses and contacts. You’re not medically required to get LASIK, and sometimes, people don’t qualify or they aren’t interested in having surgery.

One of the most common alternatives to LASIK involves continued use of glasses and contacts. If you don’t want surgery and you can live with glasses or contacts, keep using these solutions.

If you’re interested in LASIK but don’t qualify, PRK is a different surgery that your doctor could use to fix your eye. During PRK surgery, doctors use the laser on the surface of the cornea, rather than creating a flap. This could be a good choice for people with thin corneas or dry eyes.

LASIK Specifics FAQs

We’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions about how LASIK works, along with answers from our experts.

How long does the LASIK procedure take?

The entire LASIK procedure from start to finish takes about 10 minutes.

Is LASIK surgery safe?

Yes. LASIK is one of the safest procedures performed in the United States today. Less than 1 percent of LASIK procedures cause long-lasting complications.

Does LASIK hurt?

LASIK procedures do not cause pain, but you might feel discomfort as your eyes heal. If you develop significant pain after LASIK, contact your doctor immediately. 

Are you awake during LASIK eye surgery?

You are awake during your LASIK procedure. Your eyes are numb, so you won’t feel pain. And your doctor uses tools (lid holder) to keep you from blinking. You’ll look at a fixed point of light for a few seconds as the laser reshapes your eye.

What is the average cost of LASIK?

The average cost of LASIK is $1,500 to $3,000 per eye. Some doctors offer financing or discounts to make the procedure more affordable for their patients. 


  1. LASIK: Thin Flaps, Thin Volumes. (February 2015). Review of Ophthalmology.
  2. LASIK Quality of Life Collaboration. (June 2021). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  3. What Should I Expect Before, During, and After Surgery? (July 2018). U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 
  4. LASIK Outcomes: How Are We Doing and Can We Do Better? (August 2016). Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery. 
  5. Are You a LASIK Candidate? 5 Guidelines You Should Know. (August 2022). Refractive Surgery Council.
  6. LASIK Complications and LASIK Eye Surgery Risks. (October 2022). Refractive Surgery Council.
  7. What Is LASIK Eye Surgery? (August 2020). JAMA.
  8. Laser In Situ Keratomileusis. (July 2022). StatPearls.
  9. Predictive Factors for Efficacy and Safety in Refractive Surgery for Myopia. (December 2018). PLOS ONE.

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