Discomfort After LASIK
The first LASIK surgery or laser assisted in-situ keratomileusis took place in 1991. Since that time, more than
12 million people have undergone the procedure. While LASIK can improve vision dramatically, often eliminating the
need to wear glasses or contacts completely, it is not without its risks.
LASIK, as its name implies, involves the use of a laser to permanently change the shape of the cornea. Often,
post surgery discomfort after LASIK is much less than with other eye surgeries. For example, PRK actually treats
the cornea itself, but LASIK is able to fold the corneal flap back, thereby being much less invasive and generally
leading to a faster healing process. Still, it is important to understand the potential sources of discomfort after
the operation and how to alleviate these side effects. It is also critical to understand what is not normal after
LASIK, a red flag that something might be wrong.
The majority of people experience little or minimal pain after the procedure. However, every patient responds
differently. The most common source of discomfort immediately after the operation is a feeling of irritation in the
eye or that some sort of dust or grit is in the eye. This is often accompanied by watering and redness of the eye,
coupled with increased sensitivity to light.
Patients can combat discomfort through a variety of methods. It is
extremely important that the patient not rub their eyes following the procedure; rubbing the eye can actually
shift the corneal flap, requiring another procedure. Rubbing will be very tempting, but the urge to rub can be
lessened with artificial tears. The best way to alleviate mild pain and dryness of the eyes is simply rest.
Staying in a darken room and old-fashioned napping are highly effective. The doctor will provide patients with
anti-inflammatory and antibiotic drops that are taken the same day as the procedure and then for several days
or weeks afterwards. Over the counter pain killers such as ibuprofen are safe to take after the surgery and
can alleviate most of the mild discomfort that is experienced by patients.
Other normal symptoms that patients report immediately following the operation are hazy vision, seeing halos
around lights, and bloodshot eyes. All of these symptoms should lessen within the first few days. If patients
experience any kind of severe pain or their eyesight is getting worse, not better, following the surgery, it is
imperative that they contact their doctor immediately. Most patients have a check-up 24 hours following the initial
surgery. If they are experiencing unusual symptoms, however, they should not wait for the 24 hours to pass, but
call their doctor's office right away. If serious symptoms are not treated right away, they can result in a loss of
One of the most common complications of LASIK is the sliding or wrinkling of the corneal flap. It occurs rarely,
in less than 1% of patients, but is something to be aware of. Generally, it takes place within the first day after
the operation. The sliding is corrected by lifting the corneal flap and repositioning it, which usually can be done
fairly easily. Still, it needs to be recognized right away. Complications of LASIK have generally decreased as the
procedure has improved over the last two decades.
Other areas to be cautious about are contact sports, bodies of water, and skin products. Most doctors advise
avoiding contact sports for the first few days or weeks to avoid bumping the eye. Low impact sports, such as
jogging or biking, can usually be resumed within one to three days after the surgery. Also, doctors suggest caution
in lakes, ponds, and other bodies of water to avoid the chance of infection to the eye. Additionally, perfumes and
lotions can increase the risk of infection and are often avoided for the first few days or weeks following the
The vast majority of patients report that their discomfort and irritation in their eyes disappears between the
first 12 hours to the first few days following the operation. Patients' vision, however, will continue to change
and adjust over the first few weeks and even over the first three months. Vision often peaks about six months after
the surgery, with many patients seeing twenty-twenty.
Before considering LASIK, it is important to understand not just what the surgery involves, but also the types
of common post surgery discomfort after LASIK, how the discomfort should be treated, and the rare side effects that
can occur. Does your research, find a reputable surgeon, and know what to expect.