Tips to Optimize Your LASIK Recovery

Tips to Optimize Your LASIK Recovery

When it comes to laser eye surgery, two things are true: being able to see clearly without eyeglasses or contacts is convenient; having to take time out to recover from surgery is not. Fortunately, the post-operative recovery period after LASIK eye surgery is typically smooth and uneventful. Even more fortunately, there are steps you can take to optimize your healing and minimize the complications.

What is LASIK?

LASIK is an acronym for laser assisted in situ keratomileusis. Alongside PRK (photorefractive keratectomy), SMILE (small incision lenticular extraction), and RLE (refractive lens exchange), LASIK is one technique of refractive surgery.

Refractive operations are procedures that correct the eye’s prescription, whether it be far-sightedness, near-sightedness, or astigmatism. In essence, the aim of a refractive procedure is to reduce your dependency on spectacles or contact lenses.

Laser-based refractive surgeries, such as LASIK, PRK, and SMILE, use a laser tool to alter the curvature of the cornea, which is the front surface of the eye. By modifying the shape of the cornea, the way that light bends through this surface can be fine-tuned to focus sharply onto the retina. This is what makes your vision nice and clear.

Simplified, the LASIK procedure looks like this:

  • Your eye area is numbed using topical anesthetic
  • A hinged flap of the topmost corneal layers is formed, using either a manual instrument or a femtosecond laser
  • This flap is opened to the side of the cornea, exposing the deeper layers
  • An excimer laser is used to remove precise amounts of corneal tissue, altering its shape
  • The flap is closed back over
  • You’re sent home with protective shields over your eyes and a list of post-op instructions

The List of Post-Op Instructions

The specifics of your recovery to-do and to-don’t list may vary slightly depending on your surgeon. Different types of laser eye surgery procedures may also involve slightly different instructions.

These are the general guidelines for optimizing your recovery after LASIK laser eye surgery.

1. Use your eyedrops as prescribed.

After your operation, your eye surgeon will provide you with a script for two to three bottles of eye drop medication, including an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory. The point of these medications is to support your eye as it heals, protecting it from bacterial infection and an overzealous inflammatory reaction.

It’s likely that your eye will feel pretty normal before your course of eyedrops has been completed. However, it’s important to keep using the drops all the way to the end as instructed, whether your surgeon said to use them for four weeks or until the bottle is empty. Stopping the medications too early can result in bacteria sneaking their way in or in rebound inflammation.

2. Protect your eyes

It’s always a good idea to keep your eyes clean, but immediately after surgery, this is even more crucial. Avoid any cosmetics or skincare products around your eyes, and also be wary of aerosols such as perfumes or deodorants that may waft into your face.

A commonly overlooked source of contaminants is water. Non-sterile bodies of water, such as the pool, spas, and beach, are home to millions (dare we even say gazillions) of pathogens, including some that would be very happy moving house into your eyes. For this reason, while showering is fine (and important, for the sake of everyone who comes within smelling radius of your underarms), steer clear of the pool, sea, and sauna for at least a month or two.

Being mindful of protecting your eyes also includes avoiding dirty or dusty environments, whether it be the park on a blustery day or the basement you haven’t cleaned for approximately a decade.

3. Take a break.

After any surgical procedure, doctors tend to recommend getting adequate rest. Though LASIK isn’t performed under general anesthesia, you’re not going to be in any shape for vigorous exercise, working, or driving immediately after your operation.

For many people, their vision is clear enough to return to work the day after having LASIK. However, this depends on your occupation (desk worker, yes. professional wrestler, no). Driving is best left to your family or friends until your surgeon has confirmed that your new vision meets the driving requirements.

4. Avoid high-risk activities.

You may consider returning to non-contact sports such as golf a few days after your operation. However, activities with a risk of eye or face trauma should be avoided for at least a month or until your surgeon advises you’re good to go.

Inherent to the LASIK procedure is the risk of flap-related complications. This can include the corneal flap dislocating, dislodging completely, or catching debris beneath it. Surgeons don’t typically use stitches to close the flap after LASIK; the flap is cut in such a way that it self-seals during the recovery period. However, a well-placed punch to the face could dislodge the flap, as could rubbing your eye or squeezing your eyelids. Playing with young children or enthusiastic puppies can also have the unfortunate consequence of facial trauma and corneal flap dislocation.

5. Take action when something doesn’t seem right.

On the day of your LASIK operation, you can expect:

  • A burning, irritated, itchy sensation in your eyes
  • Increased glare sensitivity
  • Slightly hazy or blurry vision
  • Watery eyes

For the following few weeks, don’t be alarmed if you notice:

  • Dry eyes
  • Your vision fluctuating
  • Glare sensitivity
  • Haloes around lights

Most people will complete their recovery post-LASIK within a few months, though it can take up to six months for full healing and stabilization of your vision.

During your recovery, some things are not normal. If you notice any of the following, you should contact your surgeon immediately:

  • Increasing redness of your eyes
  • Increasing pain or discomfort
  • Developing discharge from the eye
  • Deteriorating vision

Overall, LASIK is considered to be a very safe and effective method of getting rid of your spectacles or contact lenses. Though serious complications during the post-op healing period are not common, following your surgeon’s to-do and to-don’t list will give you the best chance of optimizing your recovery.