Recovering after LASIK is a fairly straightforward and speedy process. The majority of people return to most normal activities within a day or two of surgery.

Most people see clearly within 48 hours of LASIK, but it takes about three to six months for your vision to fully stabilize. You will likely continue to see improvements in the weeks following surgery.

As long as you follow your doctor’s recommendations and make sure to keep your eye protected, recovery is usually a fairly easy process.

How Long Does LASIK Recovery Take?

Happy couple with their dogThe initial recovery period from LASIK is brief as most people can return to day-to-day activities within a couple of days. Within about one month, most people can resume all activities, including vigorous physical exercise and contact sports.

Since it takes three to six months for a person to reach their new, stable level of visual acuity, the full recovery process takes this long.

LASIK Recovery Timeline

The FDA outlines a fairly straightforward timeline of what one can expect after LASIK surgery.

  • 24-48 Hours

    After your surgery, you may experience some itchiness and eye discomfort as the numbing drops used during your LASIK procedure wear off. This is a normal part of the healing process, but it is important that you avoid rubbing your eyes as much as possible. Sensitivity to light is common during this early stage of recovery.

    Your doctor may have you wear an eye shield while you sleep during this initial healing period. This shield guards the eye in the early stages of the healing process and prevents you from rubbing your eyes while asleep.

    You may be prescribed medicated eye drops to control your risk of infection and inflammation. You’ll usually use these drops for the first week of your recovery.

    Within the initial two days of healing, your doctor will want to see you for a follow-up appointment to check on your recovery and make sure your eye is healing as intended. Before this appointment, avoid unnecessary physical activity, especially sports.

  • 1-3 Days

    Once you meet with your doctor, you can work with them to develop a timeline for when you can resume your normal routine. They will also likely have you stop wearing your eye shield at night.

    During the first few days of recovery, you still want to limit physical activities to avoid dislodging the flap that was cut into your eye during surgery. Non-contact sports may be possible during this period, depending on your doctor’s opinions of your recovery and how you feel.

  • 2 Weeks

    Over the first two weeks of your recovery, your routine can largely return to normal with some exceptions.

    You won’t be able to use lotions, creams, and similar cosmetic products around your eyes, as this can increase your risk of complications. You will still need to avoid contact sports and water-related activities, such as swimming.

    By the end of your first week, your doctor will probably have you stop taking any medicated eye drops, assuming they didn’t notice any signs of inflammation or infection. If you’re experiencing dry eye, a common symptom during recovery from LASIK, you can still use artificial tears to help control your discomfort.

  • 1 Month

    By one month, most of your remaining limitations will end. While you should wait for permission from your doctor, most people can begin participating in contact sports and water-related activities at this time.

  • 3-6 Months

    It takes about three to six months for a person’s vision to fully stabilize after LASIK. This is when you reach your final level of visual acuity, and your doctor can help you decide if further corrective measures might be needed.

    This is also the period when almost all eye and visual symptoms should begin to fade. If they don’t, they may be the result of long-term complications that you will need to discuss with your doctor.

  • 12 Months

    Some eye health symptoms may persist for up to twelve months, although experiencing temporary symptoms for this length of time is incredibly rare.

LASIK Aftercare Advice

For a post-LASIK recovery that is speedy and complete, protect your eyes. Treat them with care while they are healing.

It is important that the eyes heal correctly, with the flap that is cut during surgery fully sealing back into place. This is why you cannot rub your eye and need to avoid anything coming into contact with your eye. This flap can become dislodged, which could require further surgery and possibly result in permanent complications.

Similarly, this flap can allow microbes and particulate into sensitive areas of the eye that are not normally exposed to these threats. That’s why it is even more important to keep the eyes safe for the first few days of recovery when the eyes have not had a significant amount of time to heal.

When playing contact...

When playing contact sports you run the risk of a blow to the eye, and a blow like that could disrupt the flap healing process. Even special goggles may not offer enough protection. Choosing other sports could help you to protect your eyes effectively.

When to Call a Doctor

The eye is a sensitive organ. It is important you call your doctor right away if you suspect there is a problem.

During your recovery, some temporary symptoms are common, including these:

  • Mild itchiness
  • Mild burning
  • Dry eye
  • Visual artifacts, such as halos, around light
  • Mild light sensitivity

Serious pain or discomfort is not a normal symptom of LASIK recovery. Additionally, major visual symptoms that make seeing very difficult are also not normal.

If you experience symptoms that seem to dramatically impact your quality of life and ability to function, contact a doctor right away.

LASIK Recovery FAQs

  • Is LASIK recovery painful?

    Significant pain is not a normal part of LASIK recovery, but mild discomfort is possible, especially during the first few days of recovery. Most people can resume their normal routine within a couple of days of their surgery, as long as they follow some basic guidelines outlined by their doctor.

  • What can’t you do after getting LASIK surgery?

    For the first few weeks of recovery after getting LASIK, you cannot play contact sports or engage in other intense physical activities. You also cannot swim, use hot tubs, or participate in similar water-based activities.

    Within about a month of getting LASIK, most people can return to all normal activities, including swimming and vigorous physical exercise.

    LASIK doesn’t permanently bar you from almost anything, although it may make you ineligible for certain eye procedures if your doctor worries your surgery has thinned your cornea too much or otherwise affected the structural integrity of your eye.

  • Is recovery from LASIK painful?

    Most people don’t experience any pain in their recovery process. Some people may experience mild discomfort, such as eye dryness or itchiness.

  • Will I see clearly immediately following LASIK?

    While your vision will be better immediately following LASIK, some blurriness is expected. This will likely continue to clear in the coming weeks.

    Overall, it takes about three to six months for your vision to fully stabilize after the surgery. At that point, your visual acuity will be at its final level.

References

LASIK — Laser Eye Surgery. (October 2020). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

LASIK Complication Rate: The Latest Facts and Stats You Should Know. (October 2021). American Refractive Surgery Council.

What Are the Risks And How Can I Find the Right Doctor for Me? (August 2018). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

New Drugs Best Weapons Against Changing Pattern of Post-LASIK Infections. (September 2002). Ocular Surgery News.

Post-LASIK Dry Eye. (October 2011). Expert Review of Ophthalmology.

LASIK vs. PRK: Which Laser Eye Surgery Is Right For You? (April 2022). Forbes.

What Should I Expect Before, During, and After Surgery? (July 2018). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Complications of Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis. (July 2021). Indian Journal of Ophthalmology.

Facts About LASIK Complications. (December 2018). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

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