LASIK can be one of the most transformative health decisions you make. Patients who have never been able to see without glasses or contacts often walk away with perfect or near-perfect vision, forever changing their lives. However, the idea of laser eye surgery can be scary for some people. Never fear, we’re here to help calm those nerves.
In our years of performing LASIK at the Dean McGee Eye Institute (DMEI), we’ve gathered some commonly asked questions and concerns patients have about the procedure, and we’re answering them with some help from DMEI LASIK specialist Dr. Alexander Davis.
Common LASIK Procedure Concerns
Q: How long does a LASIK procedure actually take?
A: The LASIK procedure takes less than ten minutes and is performed on an outpatient basis. However, you should plan to spend about three hours at the Stephenson Laser Center here at the Dean McGee Eye Institute on the day of your procedure.
“The actual procedure only takes several minutes per eye, but positioning, preparing the eye, and making sure you are comfortable adds time to the overall procedure,” Dr. Davis says. “Your comfort and outcome are important both during the procedure and after, and as such we’ll take as long as we need to in order to ensure good results.”
Q: Is there any anesthetic used before the procedure?
A: Yes, your eye(s) will be anesthetized with numbing drops at the start of the procedure to ensure a painless experience.
Q: Is the laser painful?
A: This is one of the most commonly asked questions because the experience of getting LASIK can sound frightening. However, you will receive anesthetic drops before your surgery, and there are no stitches. Most patients only report feeling some pressure to their eyes during the procedure. You may experience some itchy or dry eyes in the hours after your surgery, but you will be given eye drops to combat this.
“The laser itself is not painful,” Dr. Davis says. “The cornea, however, has the biggest collection of nerves, and the procedure itself will cut through these nerves which can leave you sore and with some pain for the first couple of weeks. This is usually not that bad and improves rapidly and with using eye drops.
Q: How do you keep still during the surgery? What if you sneeze during LASIK?
A: Thanks to great technological advances, this is actually rarely a problem, especially with the blade-free LASIK,” Dr. Davis says. “The new technology tracks your eye, and if there’s even minimal movement it will not fire the laser until it is safe. This includes sneezing!”
Q: Can you have both eyes done at the same time?
A: Yes, most surgeons will perform LASIK on both eyes at the same time. If you’re receiving photorefractive keratectomy, or PRK, your doctor may recommend you wait a week or two between treatments, because it takes longer to heal.
Q: What are the risks of surgery?
A: Every surgery has its risks, but according to the FDA, more than 95 percent of patients in the study achieved 20/20 vision or better after their procedure and were very satisfied with their results. Less than one percent of participants reported “a lot of difficulty” with or inability to do usual activities without corrective lenses because of any visual symptom after LASIK surgery.
Common LASIK Recovery Concerns
Q: Can I watch TV after Lasik eye surgery?
A: You should wait 24 hours after LASIK surgery to resume reading, working on a computer, or watching television, to give your eyes time to rest. Your eyes will be very sensitive to light during the first few hours post-surgery, so it’s recommended to rest with your eyes closed until the sensitivity subsides.
Q: How soon will I notice an improvement in my vision?
A: “Immediately. It may not be the full effect initially, as the cornea usually takes a little time to heal up, but often right after surgery patients can read things they couldn’t before,” Dr. Davis says.
Most patients experience a dramatic improvement in vision within 24 to 48 hours after the procedure, allowing them to resume most normal activities. Most people return to work within a day or two, and some professional athletes have competed within a few days after LASIK. However, it may take several weeks for vision to completely stabilize.
Q: How long do the results of LASIK last?
A: The results of LASIK are permanent. The surgery will reshape the cornea of your eye, which will not change unless you have further surgeries. Less than five percent of patients need to have touch-ups. It is very rare for LASIK-corrected eyes to need further enhancements, even years later.
Q: What are the side effects of LASIK?
A: When LASIK was first introduced in 1999, there were reports of dry eyes and issues with nighttime vision from early participants. However, with the introduction of bladeless LASIK and other technological advances, these problems have been drastically reduced. To mitigate dry eyes, we will provide specific eye drops after your surgery to use in the following days. Your doctor will speak to you about any specific concerns or symptoms you may have.
Q: Can I rub my eyes after surgery?
A: No. Unfortunately with LASIK, a small flap is created in the cornea, and it’ll take several weeks to be fully and safely healed, so it’s important to resist the urge to rub your eyes.
Q: How long do you need to wait before wearing eye makeup?
A: “I usually tell patients to wait at least until their second follow up appointment, but prefer people to not wear eye makeup for about a month if possible,” Dr. Davis says.
Avoid any powder-based makeups for several days after surgery, as you want to eliminate the risks of anything falling in your eyes. You should avoid applying eye creams and other products near the eye area for two weeks. If you wear eyelash extensions, these should be removed before the surgery and should not be reapplied for at least eight weeks.