After LASIK Surgery LASIK Recovery Time
The vast majority of patients see very well after LASIK and are happy with their vision. LASIK recovery is often minimal and very little time passes between surgery and when patients achieve very clear vision.
In fact, according to a recent review of international research, more than 95 percent of patients are satisfied with the outcome of their LASIK eye surgery, and most are able to see clearly without glasses or contact lenses after the procedure. Recovery periods for PRK vs LASIK or LASEK Vs LASIK are longer because no flap is created during these procedures.
Immediately After LASIK
You will see noticeably better without glasses immediately following your LASIK procedure. But, while your eyes are healing, it is normal for your vision to fluctuate and be less than perfect during your LASIK recovery.
The post-LASIK healing process typically takes several weeks, and during this time it is not unusual to experience sensitivity to light, blurred and/or fluctuating vision, glare, halos around lights and poor night vision.
Also, most people experience some degree of dry eyes immediately after LASIK and this common side effect can last several weeks or even months after vision correction surgery.
Everyone's eyes heal differently. Your recovery from LASIK surgery may be quick and uneventful, or you may experience LASIK side effects and slower healing than the average patient.
Your LASIK surgeon or general eye doctor will conduct a number of follow-up exams after your procedure to monitor your progress and evaluate your vision and eye health.
It is important to follow your doctor's recommendations during this follow-up period to increase your odds of a successful LASIK outcome.
General guidelines immediately after LASIK include:
- Do not rub your eyes.
- Do not wear eye makeup or apply skin lotions near your eyes.
- Do not swim or use a hot tub.
- Avoid strenuous activity or contact sports.
- Do not drive at night until you are told it is safe to do so.
- Contact your eye doctor immediately if you develop new, unusual or worsening symptoms.
- Use all prescription medicines and artificial tears as directed.
Your refractive surgeon or general eye doctor will discuss with you how long you should follow these and other precautions while your eyes are healing.
Some fluctuation of vision and other visual symptoms are normal during your LASIK recovery period. A final evaluation of your LASIK surgery results cannot occur until healing is complete.
LASIK Enhancement Surgery
If you feel your vision is unsatisfactory after your eyes have fully recovered from LASIK, your eye doctor or surgeon may recommend a LASIK re-treatment (commonly called an enhancement) to improve your vision.
Though only a small percentage of patients need a LASIK enhancement (5 to 15 percent, according to several sources), surgical re-treatment can significantly improve vision when the original LASIK procedure produces less-than-optimum results.
Unsatisfactory outcomes from a primary LASIK procedure can be caused by a number of factors, but in many cases the exact cause is unknown and may be associated with atypical corneal healing.
Your eye doctor will perform a second comprehensive pre-operative exam prior to the enhancement procedure and steps will be taken to make sure your eye has healed completely and your vision has stabilized before the enhancement is performed. Typically, most surgeons advise waiting a minimum of three months after the primary LASIK procedure before undergoing an enhancement.
A LASIK enhancement differs from a primary LASIK surgery in the first step of the procedure. Instead of creating a new corneal flap, the surgeon uses a tool to "score" the margin of the original flap and then manually lifts the flap. This procedure is used whether the flap originally was created with a microkeratome or a femtosecond laser, such as used during All LASER LASIK.
The laser treatment during a LASIK enhancement typically takes only a few seconds. The flap is then repositioned, and post-operative instructions and recovery are similar to those after a primary LASIK procedure.
Contact Lenses After LASIK
When an improved LASIK outcome is desired, sometimes a LASIK enhancement is not possible (due to insufficient corneal thickness for a second procedure) or the patient simply does not want to undergo a second surgical procedure. In these cases, contact lenses are a viable alternative to improve vision after LASIK.
Typically, rigid gas permeable (GP) or hybrid contact lenses (lenses with a GP center surrounded by a "skirt" of soft lens material) produce better visual outcomes after LASIK than soft contact lenses. This especially is true if the cause of poor vision is irregular astigmatism or higher-order aberrations induced by the LASIK procedure.
Because the shape of the cornea has been altered, fitting contact lenses on an eye that has undergone LASIK surgery is more challenging than a regular contact lens fitting.
For this reason, your eye doctor may refer you to an eye care practitioner who specializes in post-surgical contact lens fitting should you choose this option.
If your vision is quite good after LASIK and you only experience problems during specific activities such as driving at night, part-time wear of eyeglasses usually is preferred to full-time wear of contact lenses.
Presbyopia After LASIK
LASIK is designed for the correction of nearsightedness and, to a lesser extent, farsightedness and astigmatism. Conventional LASIK surgery will not correct or prevent presbyopia the normal age-related loss of near vision that affects everyone some time after age 40.
If you have LASIK performed when you are a young adult, you still will experience vision changes from presbyopia when you get older. If you already have presbyopia when you choose to undergo LASIK to improve your distance vision, you will need reading glasses to see clearly up close.
You can reduce your need for reading glasses by choosing a modified version of LASIK designed for presbyopia treatment. Options include monovision LASIK or multifocal LASIK.
In monovision LASIK, your surgeon fully corrects the refractive errors of one eye and intentionally makes (or leaves) the other eye mildly nearsighted. The procedure is designed to enable you to see clearly at all distances, though you will be relying more on one eye for distance vision and the other eye for near vision.
In multifocal LASIK (or Presby-LASIK), the excimer laser is programmed to deliver a multifocal ablation to the corneal surface, much like the multifocal surface of a bifocal or multifocal contact lens. Multifocal LASIK can be performed on both eyes or on just one eye for a modified monovision approach to vision correction.
Monovision LASIK and multifocal LASIK both involve some compromise of distance vision and therefore typically are not recommended for young, pre-presbyopic adults.
Also, many people with presbyopia who choose these special LASIK procedures still need reading glasses for certain near vision tasks and when their presbyopia continues to progress with aging.
Most LASIK patients choose to have their distance vision optimized with LASIK surgery and, when the time comes, wear reading glasses to deal with vision changes caused by presbyopia.
Cataracts After LASIK
Cataracts typically are caused by aging, and LASIK surgery has no influence on your risk for cataracts.
Be aware that LASIK surgery can make it more challenging for your cataract surgeon to select the proper intraocular lens (IOL) power to enable you to be glasses-free after cataract surgery.
You can assist your cataract surgeon by obtaining a copy of the measurements of your cornea that were taken prior to your LASIK procedure. To facilitate this, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) has developed a special form called the "K Card" that you can give to your LASIK surgeon to record these measurements in case you need cataract surgery in the future.
You can download a copy of the K Card at AAO's GetEyeSmart.org website.
Having access to both your pre-LASIK and post-LASIK corneal curvature measurements will help your cataract surgeon choose the IOL that will give you the best possible vision after refractive cataract surgery.
Glaucoma and IOP Measurement After LASIK
A common screening test for glaucoma is the measurement of intraocular pressure or IOP. Corneal thickness influences the measurement of IOP.
Because LASIK reduces corneal thickness, be sure to tell your general eye doctor if you have had LASIK. He or she may want to measure your corneal thickness to see if your IOP measurements need to be adjusted to more accurately reflect your true IOP There is no evidence that suggests LASIK or other laser refractive surgery procedures increase your risk for glaucoma.
Work Closely With Your Surgeon
Key factors in LASIK satisfaction include whether or not you have realistic expectations for the procedure and are well-informed about what to expect after surgery.
It is important that you work closely with your refractive surgeon prior to surgery to determine if LASIK surgery is right for you. Patients who suffer from certain vision conditions, including keratoconus, may not be able to undergo LASIK surgery. Despite the very high patient satisfaction rate associated with LASIK, there are no guarantees of a perfect outcome, and to be a good candidate for the procedure, you must be willing to accept certain risks.
Note: This information is for general education purposes only. It is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice from your eye doctor or refractive surgeon.