The first 24 hours after LASIK are important for the healing process. During this time, you should take it easy and not strain your eyes. Try to stay away from watching TV, looking at your phone or tablet, playing video games, or reading for at least the first day.
You will likely be able to resume most normal activities 24 hours after a LASIK surgery, although the FDA explains that you may want to take a few days off of work to allow the temporary visual disturbances and discomfort to subside.
You may need to minimize screen time for a bit after a LASIK procedure. There are several factors that can influence how long it will take for your eyes to heal enough for TV. Your eyes can become strained and dry if you resume screen time too soon and different procedures may require a longer healing time.
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Can I Watch TV After LASIK?
In short, yes, but wait at least 24 hours before doing so. In the first 24 hours after LASIK, your eyes are going to be tired and a little sore. They may be foggy, making it difficult to see clearly. It is best to let them rest for at least a day, or even two, before watching TV.
The same is true of other screens. Smartphones, tablets, and computers may need to be avoided a little longer than 24 hours — maybe closer to 48 hours — as they can cause more intense eyestrain. Your eyes will need some time to heal after LASIK surgery.
TVs, computers, tablets, and smartphones all use some forms of light wavelengths, such as blue wavelengths and LED (light-emitting diode) white light wavelengths, that can be harmful to the eyes. The more time spent looking at these types of wavelengths, the more damaging they can be.
After a surgery like LASIK, your eyes are going to be particularly sensitive and will need even more protection than normal. One of the recommendations after surgery is to stay out of the sun and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV (ultraviolet) radiation for a few days. The sun is not the only form of light that you should protect your eyes from however, as screens also emit quite a bit of potentially damaging light.
Other Screens Post LASIK
When using a computer, tablet, smartphone, or playing video games, you may experience more eyestrain than normal, as you do not blink as much when focusing on the screen as you normally would. This can cause your eyes to dry out.
For the first week or two after LASIK, keep your eye drops handy and apply liberally when in front of the computer. Try to use the 20-20-20 rule as well. Every 20 minutes you spend looking at a computer, take a 20-second break to focus on something at least 20 feet away. Apply eye drops at this point too. This can give your eyes a chance to rest a bit before returning to the screen.
In general, the American Refractive Surgery Council explains that you can mostly return to normal activity about 24 hours after a LASIK procedure, but you may want to minimize screen time for a bit longer.
Risks of Screen Time Too Soon
If you watch TV, get on your phone, or work on your computer too soon after LASIK, it is likely that you are going to dry your eyes out even more. Mayo Clinic publishes that LASIK surgery causes your eyes to stop producing as many tears as they normally do, and decreased tear production leads to dry eyes. This can persist for up to six months or so after a LASIK procedure. As a result, it is important to use eye drops regularly to keep the eyes moist to prevent irritation.
Another potential complication of screen time too soon after LASIK is the risk for eye strain. Your eyes are going to be sensitive for the first 24 hours after LASIK. Straining them too soon by watching TV or looking at screens can negatively influence the healing timeline, meaning it will take longer for you to heal.
Sensitivity to light after LASIK is common, as are visual disturbances such as halos or starbursts around lights for a few days after surgery. These visual effects may cause feelings of dizziness, nausea, or headaches. These side effects typically diminish in a couple of days, but if you continue to expose yourself to potentially harmful lights in the form of screens, they may persist for longer.
Your eyes will need time to adjust to their new normal after LASIK. Again, it is best to wait at least one to two days after the procedure before spending time in front of a screen again.
Factors That Can Influence the Healing Timeline
There are several things that can impact the timeline for how long you should wait to resume screen time after LASIK.
- What type of refractive eye correction procedure was done
- How invasive the surgery needed to be
- Personal health and recovery
- The condition being treated
There are several types of procedures used to correct vision. LASIK, or laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis, is a surgical modification that reshapes the cornea, often by cutting a flap in the outer layer of tissue to get underneath it, shaving down and reshaping the underlying tissue, and then replacing it. This is an outpatient procedure. It is used to treat myopia (nearsightedness), astigmatism (football-shaped cornea), and hyperopia (farsightedness).
If the myopia is particularly significant, the cuts may need to be deeper, and more tissue may need to be removed from the cornea. When this happens, the healing time may be slightly longer, and it may be best to wait a few days before returning to looking at screens like a TV, computer, or smartphone.
There are other alternatives to LASIK surgery, such as PRK (photorefractive keratectomy), that are considered even less invasive than LASIK. They may therefore have a quicker healing time, allowing you to return to screens sooner.
Caring for Your Eyes Post LASIK
It is important to talk with your surgeon and ophthalmologist to come up with a detailed recovery plan that is specific to you and your circumstances. LASIK is a safe and minimally invasive surgical procedure that has a quick healing time, but it is important to follow all aftercare plans and take care of your eyes for the best results.
Be sure to follow the plan laid out for you. Use eye drops when needed, try not to rub your eyes, stay out of pools and hot tubs, keep lotions and makeup off your face, and avoid contact sports and intense exercise for at least several days after a LASIK procedure. The same is true for being in the sun and watching TV or looking at your phone, tablet, computer, or playing video games. Allow time for your eyes to fully heal for best results.
What Should I Expect Before, During, and After Surgery. (July 2018). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Beyond Seeing Clearly: What to Expect With LASIK Recovery. (May 2016). American Refractive Surgery Council.
LASIK Surgery: Is It Right for You? (March 2017). Mayo Clinic.
The Eyes Versus the Computer, TV, and the Smart Phone. Total Health Magazine.