After LASIK Eye Surgery: 10 Things to Expect During LASIK Recovery

LASIK eye surgery is an extremely safe procedure that provides suitable candidates with clearer vision without glasses and contacts resulting in an improved quality of life. The most common questions patients have are how long is the LASIK eye surgery recovery time, does LASIK recovery hurt and what can I expect during my LASIK recovery time? Providence Eye & Laser Specialists takes a few minutes to discuss the 10 most common things LASIK patients may experience during their LASIK eye surgery recovery, and a timeline and some tips to help you get through the recovery time.

1. Mild Pain & General Discomfort

Almost everyone experiences some level of burning, tearing and light sensitivity during the first 4 hours of LASIK eye surgery recovery. This can range from barely noticeable or quite bothersome, depending on the type of technology used and how your eyes react, however it should only last 2-4 hours. After your LASIK eye surgery:

  • You will need someone to drive you home.
  • Take a long nap as soon as you get home. It is the first 4 hours after LASIK eye surgery that are the most uncomfortable, but this discomfort typically stops almost like switching a switch at 4 hours.
  • Patients typically wake up without much discomfort at all and have some improved vision already.
  • Be prepared to feel like there is something in your eye and your vision will continue to improve. It is important to remember during your LASIK recovery time, do NOT rub your eyes as this could dislodge your corneal flap.

2. Redness

Some people will have some redness during theirLASIK eye surgery recovery. It is completely normal to have dark red spots on the whites of your eyes for several days. Similar to bruising, it may take several days or even a few weeks before these spots disappear completely.

3. Use of Prescription Eye Drops & Artificial Tears

Prior to your LASIK eye surgery, you will be instructed to take prescription eye drops. You should always follow your surgeon’s instructions. During your LASIK eye surgery recovery, you will continue to take prescriptions drops for several days to prevent inflammation and infection and you will add preservative free lubricating drops to your regimen. Using the lubricating drops as instructed is important to combat temporary oculars dryness; they are also necessary to help your cornea heal. You will use the lubricating drops for several weeks but they will taper down every week.

4. Follow-Up Appointments

One day after your surgery, you will visit your LASIK specialist for your first LASIK post-op appointment to have your vision checked and to verify that your corneas are healing properly. At this time, you can also discuss with your LASIK surgeon any post-op symptoms you are experiencing. Your LASIK surgeon should see you a couple of times over the next 12 months. Even though you may feel your vision is great, it is important to have your corneas examined by the LASIK surgeon who can easily detect any issues even before they arise. At Providence Eye, Dr. Mozayeni makes it a priority to meet with every LASIK patient to ensure the eye surgery has provided them with clearer, higher-quality vision.

5. What to Avoid

Your vision will likely be great, and you will be anxious to get back to your normal routine.  However, it is important to remember that your corneas are healing, and they need to be cared for. For this reason, there are some things you need to avoid:

  • For the first week after LASIK surgery
    • Avoid dust, smoke, yard and garden work, and eye make-up.
    • Keep soap and water out of your eye, however you may bathe normally.
  • For the first two weeks after your LASIK eye surgery,             
    • You should not swim, use a hot tub, or submerse your head in water.
    • If you use a computer, take frequent breaks and stay diligent about your lubricating drops.

Anxious to start working out and exercising with your new vision? No problem! Dr. Mozayeni tells his patients after about two days you can begin your normal exercise routine, but you should wear special eye protection with racquet sports and be extra cautious with your eyes when playing contact sports or sports with a ball. Your LASIK specialist will provide you with post-LASIK instructions, so you will know exactly what you should and shouldn’t do.

6. How Long to Wear Eye Shields at Night

Protecting the corneal flap immediately after your eye surgery is extremely important. When your LASIK surgery is completed:

  • Clear plastic shields will be taped over your eyes to protect them and to prevent you from rubbing them.
  • Leave these shields on until the next morning, except to instill your eye drops.
  • Wear your eye shields for the first four to five nights (or anytime that you are sleeping) during your LASIK surgery recovery time.
  • If you allow pets or small children in your bed while you sleep, it is recommended that you sleep with your shields on for 10 nights.

7. No Eye Makeup or Eye Creams

As part of LASIK eye surgery preparation, patients should not apply eye makeup on the day of their LASIK and one week afterward. If applying lotion avoid the eye area and use light strokes. Putting on eye makeup or applying lotions around the eye increases the chances of getting those materials in the eye. This could increase inflammation and possibly cause pain, infection or post-op complications.

A good way to stay moisturized is to drink lots of water. While this is always a good practice, any time your body is in stress, like when you’re sick or after a surgery, you should boost the amount of water you drink by a few glasses per day. This should help the areas around your eyes stay nice and hydrated!

8. No Swimming or Hot Tubbing

As difficult as it may be, fight the urge to jump in the pool or unwind in the hot tub. Dr. Mozayeni recommends waiting two weeks before swimming after LASIK eye surgery. Chlorinated water irritates the eyes and has the potential to cause post-op issues. This is true for all bodies of water: pools, hot tubs, ocean, lakes or ponds. Protecting your corneas and preventing infection is the reason for these instructions.

9. Blurred, Hazy, or Cloudy Vision, and Visual Fluctuations

Although you should see well the day after your procedure, it is possible and normal for your vision to be a bit blurry or hazy for one to two weeks. The higher your original prescription, the longer it will take for your vision to clear during your LASIK surgery recovery time.

Do not be surprised or worried if your vision fluctuates after LASIK eye surgery. Your LASIK surgeon should tell you what to expect for your specific situation. It is important to understand your reshaped corneas must stabilize completely before your new, clear vision is stabilized. This means symptoms such as glare, haloes and difficulty driving after sunset may occur for the first days, week or sometimes a couple of months after LASIK eye surgery. Always communicate clearly to your LASIK surgeon what you are experiencing, even if you think it is minor. There are no dumb questions when it comes to your recovery.

10. How Long is the LASIK Surgery Recovery Time?

We saved this one for last, because there is no exact recovery time. The vast majority of people are cleared to drive 24 hours after their LASIK surgery. Although, as we’ve hinted at above, it all depends on a variety of factors like your original prescription, the technology that was used for your LASIK surgery and how your body reacts to the surgery. Taking everything else into account, your eyes should start to heal immediately, and with our post-op schedule, you should be on your way to feeling better in no time! For more information, see our blog post about the average LASIK recovery time.

In learning what you may experience during your LASIK eye surgery recovery time, take your newfound knowledge to your eye care specialist’s office, so you can better discuss everything related to laser correction during your initial consultation.

LASIK Recovery Timeline

Check out this graphic to better understand your recovery timeline after your LASIK surgery:

What to Expect After LASIK Eye Surgery

Day of and After Surgery

  • Clear plastic shields will be taped over your eyes after the surgery. Expect to administer your prescribed eye drops multiple times a day. Leave these shields on until the next morning.
  • After you remove the shields in the morning, replace them with post-operative sunglasses that will be provided to you at surgery. You may also use your own sunglasses.
    • Most people experience some level of burning, tearing, and/or light sensitivity after the surgery. These effects last around 2-4 hours after the surgery. Take over-the-counter pain relievers if necessary for discomfort. You will want to sleep 3-4 hours after your surgery. Don’t worry - we will offer you medication to help you sleep.
  • The day after your LASIK eye surgery, you will need to come in for a post-op examination. Do not drive until your eye doctor has examined you the day after surgery.
  • You may begin exercising two days after your surgery, but make sure to use eye protection if playing sports. We prefer you avoid public gyms for hygiene purposes for one week during LASIK recovery.

For the First Week After LASIK

  • Wear the eye shields when you are sleeping for the first 4 or 5 days/nights. Ensure they are secure on your eyes. If you allow pets and children in your bed, take extra care in taping on the shields.
  • Administer antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eye drops as directed buy your LASIK eye surgeon. You will also be using preservative-free lubricating drops frequently for the first 6-8 weeks after surgery. However, the number of times tapers with every week.
  • Avoid dust, smoke, yard and garden work.
  • Do not wear eye makeup for one week after your LASIK surgery.

For the First Two Weeks After LASIK

  • Occasionally, the white part of your eyes has red spots for about a week or two. This is perfectly normal. Similar to bruising, the spots will fade over time.
  • Do NOT rub your eyes for two weeks after the surgery. This is imperative for your corneas to heal appropriately.
  • No swimming in the pool, hot tub, lake or ocean for the first 2 weeks.
  • If using a computer, take frequent breaks and lubricate your eyes with artificial tears.
  • Keep soap and water out of the eyes. You may bathe or shower normally the day after your surgery.
  • Every person will heal at a different rate during LASIK recovery. Your LASIK surgeon should be able to provide you with a good indication as to how your vision should be 24 hours, 48 hours, 1 week, and 1 month after your surgery. Of course, if you have any concerns about your vision and the healing process, contact your LASIK Surgeon.

For the First Month After LASIK

  • Use extreme caution during contact sports, carrying small children, handling pets and doing yard work. Proper LASIK recovery requires increased attention when completing tasks that risk physical impact to the eye.
  • Use only brand name lubricating drops for at least one month after surgery, as your tear production will be temporarily reduced. Try Systane, Refresh, Optive, GenTeal or TheraTears.

In learning what you may experience during your LASIK eye surgery recovery time, take your newfound knowledge to your laser vision correction surgeon’s office, so you can better discuss everything related to laser correction during your initial consultation.

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