LASIK is an outpatient surgical procedure that is usually done within 30 minutes to correct refractive vision errors. It is considered a safe procedure with a quick healing time. You will typically be able to return to your normal activities within a day or so after having LASIK surgery.
Your surgeon and surgical care team will develop a post-operative care plan for you to follow after surgery to enhance healing. Post-LASIK care is imperative to recovery and ensuring that the surgery has the desired results.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that over 95 percent of people who undergo a LASIK procedure are happy with the outcome. As it is a surgical procedure that permanently changes the shape of your cornea, there are some risks.
The rate of possible side effects is lowered when you take proper care of your eyes after surgery. Taking care of your eyes and following the post-LASIK care plan after surgery can expedite the healing timeline, improve your satisfaction with the procedure, and minimize potential complications.
What Is Post-LASIK Care?
Post-LASIK care involves several factors, such as follow-up appointments with your surgeon, a recovery plan for you to follow, and specific guidelines to keep in mind. In general, post-LASIK care is how you take care of your eyes after surgery, so you get the results you are looking for with the surgery.
LASIK involves using a specialized laser to create a small flap in the outer layer of the cornea in order to access and ablate the tissue underneath with a second laser, altering the shape of the cornea to correct refractive errors impacting vision. The flap will reseal itself in a matter of days without the need for stitches or additional medical intervention.
During the healing process, it is important to avoid rubbing your eyes or doing anything that might lead to infection in the wound or dislodging the flap. A post-LASIK care plan will often include eye drops to help with dry eye and keep your eyes moist. You may also be prescribed a painkiller to address discomfort that can occur for the first day or two.
You will need to see your doctor 24 to 48 hours after LASIK surgery, so they can check on your healing and vision. They will also assess if any alterations to the care plan are needed. Follow-up appointments should be continued for at least six months after surgery to ensure that recovery is going as expected.
Recovery Timeline and What to Expect After LASIK
The first 24 hours after LASIK surgery are crucial to a healthy recovery. During this time, you should avoid eye strain as much as possible. The American Refractive Surgery Council publishes that you will usually be able to resume more normal everyday activities within a day or two of undergoing a LASIK procedure.
The FDA reports that you may want to take a few days off work after LASIK to give yourself a chance for any discomfort and common post-LASIK visual disturbances, such as glares and halos around lights, to subside. When you first open your eyes after surgery, you will likely feel like your eyes are foggy, and you may also experience some itching and burning sensations after the local anesthesia wears off. This generally tapers off within a few hours. The U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) explains that you will likely experience blurry vision the day of your surgery, but this typically clears up the next day.
Again, it is important not to rub or bump your eyes for several days after LASIK to prevent the flap from being dislodged and to minimize the odds for infection. Your vision can stabilize as quickly as a few days after a LASIK procedure, but the healing process lasts about three to six months before vision stabilization is considered complete in most cases.
A general recovery timeline for LASIK and instructions for healing are outlined below.
- The first 6 hours post LASIK: Keep your eyes closed and avoid bright lights. It is likely that you will experience some discomfort for the first few hours after surgery. Your doctor may prescribe some medication for the pain and possibly eye drops to keep your eyes lubricated and clear from infection.
- The first 24 hours after LASIK: Continue to avoid straining your eyes as much as possible. Avoid reading, watching TV, and screen time, including smart phones, video games, and computers, as much as possible. You will likely be given a protective eye shield to wear at least at night to avoid bumping or rubbing your eyes. You can shower a day after LASIK surgery; be careful not to get soap or other chemical products in your eyes. As soon as your vision is clear enough, you will be safe to drive. You will need to attend a follow-up appointment with your surgeon to check on your healing.
- 1 to 2 weeks post LASIK: You can usually begin exercising within a week after LASIK surgery, but you should continue to avoid contact sports for at least a month. Wear sunglasses when out in the sun to protect your eyes from the ultraviolet light, and use the provided eye drops to minimize dry eyes. Avoid putting makeup, creams, or lotion around the eyes for at least a week or two after LASIK to keep these products from getting in your eyes and potentially causing an infection. Swimming in bodies of water that may be contaminated, such as swimming pools, hot tubs, oceans, lakes, and rivers, should also be avoided for at least two weeks following LASIK.
- 1 month after LASIK: At this point, you can typically return to strenuous activities including sports. You may want to consider sports goggles for a bit to allow your eyes to completely heal.
- 3 to 6 months post LASIK: During this time, your eyes will continue to heal and your vision can progressively improve. Significant refractive errors, such as severe myopia (nearsightedness), could potentially take longer to heal, as these surgeries can be more invasive than those correcting milder conditions. Continue to attend all follow-up appointments with your doctor and stick to the recovery plan outlined by your surgical care team.
Helping Your Eyes to Heal
Visual disturbances, such as poor night vision, glares and halos around lights, and double vision, can be side effects of LASIK. They may continue for a few days up to a few weeks. Excessive dry eyes can persist for as long as six months after LASIK.
Complications with healing of the flap, vision problems, or infections can occur if the eyes are not properly cared for post LASIK. It is essential to take care of your eyes during the healing process in order to minimize the potential risks and complications that can occur from LASIK.
LASIK Surgery Aftercare Tips
After this minimally invasive procedure, your doctor will recommend a recovery protocol, one that promotes fast healing and better vision results. These tips can help shield you from most LASIK surgery risks.
- Avoid activities that cause eye strain.
In the first 24 hours after getting LASIK, you should focus on resting your eyes and doing very little. Refrain from activities that need you to strain your eyes. These include:
- Using the computer or watching TV
- Playing video games
- Using your smartphone or tablet
- Reading small texts like books, magazines, and newspapers
- Avoid harsh lights and wear protective sunglasses and a hat.
For the first few days after surgery, your eyes will be extra sensitive to light. When you’re indoors, avoid intense light.
Avoid going outdoors during the prime sun hours during the day. If you do go outdoors during the daylight hours, wear a hat with a brim and sunglasses. You want protection from the sun’s powerful rays.
- Carry some liquid tears and use them.
Dry Eye Syndrome is one of the primary side effects from LASIK surgery, and it’s something that can happen to you for a few weeks or months following your procedure. One solution: keep liquid tears with you at all times—and use them frequently.
- Avoid dry, smokey and dusty rooms and venues.
Although this is short-term advice, it holds for the first few weeks and months after surgery. Smoke and dust are silent enemies of the eyes, and they trigger eye dryness, which leads to unnecessary eye irritation and discomfort.
- Keep your follow-up appointments.
Regular checkups will let your doctor monitor your progress and spot any complications from surgery. A trained professional will easily note any irregularity and curate an effective remedy.
Here are some additional tips of things to do — and things to avoid — after LASIK surgery:
- Wait to drive until you can see clearly enough to do so.
- Do not rub your eyes for at least a month.
- Wait at least a day to shower and wash your hair. When you do, keep the shampoo, shower water, and soap out of your eyes as best you can.
- Use the protective eye shield for as long as the doctor recommends — at least for a week at night while sleeping.
- Stay away from spas, whirlpools, hot tubs, saunas, and swimming pools for a few weeks.
- Take it easy, and do not participate in any strenuous activities like exercise for the first two to three days.
- Do not wear eye makeup or put lotion or creams near the eyes for a week or two. Be careful with things like shaving cream and hair spray.
- Wait a few weeks before returning to sports, and wear protective eye goggles for a few months when playing contact sports.
- Use eye drops regularly to keep your eyes from drying out.
Directly following LASIK surgery, you are likely to experience redness, soreness, a burning sensation, cloudy vision, and a feeling that there is a foreign object in your eyes. These side effects are short-lived and should mostly clear up in a matter of hours.
By the time of your follow-up appointment, the first day or two after surgery, you should be experiencing clearer vision and less discomfort. Talk to your doctor if things seem to be getting worse or not resolving.
Your vision should stabilize within a few months after LASIK, and 90 percent of people will experience at least 20/20 vision after the procedure, the American Refractive Surgery Council explains. Recovery from LASIK is relatively fast. If you follow the aftercare plan laid out by your doctor and surgical team, you will improve your rate of healing and visual success.
LASIK Quality of Life Collaboration Project. (September 2018). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Beyond Seeing Clearly: What to Expect With LASIK Recovery. (May 2016). American Refractive Surgery Council.
What Should I Expect Before, During, and After Surgery? (July 2018). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
LASIK Eye Surgery. (October 2018). U.S. National Library of Medicine.
LASIK Surgery: Is It Right for You? (March 2017). Mayo Clinic.
What Is the LASIK Success Rate? (October 2017). American Refractive Surgery Council.