If you’re tired of prescription sunglasses, glasses, or contacts, you may have looked into surgical options for correcting your vision. LASIK has earned a reputation for being quite effective, and many seek it out to be rid of corrective eyewear. It might not be for everyone, but if you’re reading this, you might already have a referral for the procedure.
If you’ve been approved for LASIK surgery but you’re wondering about the road to recovery, you’re not alone. There’s a lot you can do to maximize your chances. Those critical few weeks and months after the surgery are your chance to seize the benefits of LASIK while avoiding the side effects.
What is LASIK?
LASIK is a procedure belonging to a group of surgeries called refractive surgeries. These surgeries involve correcting an error in visual acuity to clear up blurry vision. Some refractive surgeries involve lasers, collectively known as laser eye surgeries. LASIK uses lasers to correct a refractive error in your cornea, so it’s a refractive laser eye surgery. But LASIK has evolved to include some of the more successful techniques and specialized equipment to maximize recovery success.
How LASIK Can Help
Some myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism diagnoses we make for our patients depend on a misshapen cornea. LASIK can solve the issue with shape, possibly allowing for 20/20 vision or better. If your refractive error owes in part to an elongated eyeball or warped ocular lens, however, LASIK might not help enough to be worth it.
What’s the Difference between Laser Eye Surgery & LASIK?
All LASIK is laser eye surgery, but not all laser eye surgery is LASIK. Laser eye surgeries cropped up as early as 1978 with a procedure called radial keratotomy (RK), involving laser incisions and sutures to repair the incisions.
With a few technological advancements, including automated microkeratome for computer-assisted corneal targeting, photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) replaced RK. The process gained the US’ FDA approval in 1995, making it safe for American and Canadian outpatient surgery centres.
LASIK combines the most successful parts of older procedures like RK and PRK, and hinging a corneal flap — and it uses automated microkeratome and excimer laser technology to accomplish it. Other laser eye surgeries like LASEK and Epi-LASIK have branched off from LASIK to serve different patient needs.
LASIK Surgery & Complications
While LASIK has proven safe for a great many people, sometimes complications can arise. When your eye surgeon operates on such a sensitive area, you might experience problems during or after the process — which involves vapourizing carefully targeted areas on your corneal tissue.
In a small percentage of patients, permanent damage can result from the surgery. One serious problem for some is corneal ectasia, a weakening, and protrusion of the cornea. Severe cases of corneal ectasia may require a corneal transplant or implant. The thinner your corneas, the worse your chances become.
Is LASIK Safe?
Your laser-eye surgery consultation determines how well you can benefit from LASIK and what your chances at full recovery might be. A lot of work goes into identifying risk factors and how well you might respond to the surgery and postoperative plan.
The good news is that for an average of 95% of LASIK patients, full recovery remains the end-result. Procedures and materials have been improving so that full recovery becomes much more likely than not. Temporary side effects remain quite common, though.
Temporary Side Effects
These side effects can vary from patient to patient, even if your laser eye surgery co-management plan remains the same. But your postoperative recovery plan always takes shape between your surgeon and your referring eye doctor, just for you. There are a few reactions your body might endure, and sometimes they can last from days or weeks to months after surgery:
- Hazy or blurry vision
- Difficulty with night vision or driving at night
- Scratchiness, dryness and other symptoms of dry eye
- Glare, halos or starbursts around lights
- Light sensitivity
- Discomfort or pain
- Small pink or red patches on the white of the eye
What to Expect Days After Surgery
- Your eye surgeon will have you wear a protective shield over your eyes to be worn while they heal.
- It’s better just to relax or sleep on the day of the surgery.
- You may get the sensation that there’s some kind of foreign object lodged within your eye for 3 or 4 days after surgery. Rubbing your eye is bad for your recovery, so you’ll have to avoid that habit for a long time, but especially in the first few days.
- You might experience a burning sensation in your eyes.
- Many patients benefit from prescription eye drops to reduce dryness and encourage healing. As in any prescription situation, you should take medication as directed by your doctor.
- LASIK is famous for its quick recovery times. And some patients can see clearly almost immediately. Your return to work or daily life should take about 1 to 3 days, as advised by your postoperative doctor.
If your recovery hasn’t completed in just 3 days, it’s best to aim for more long-term recovery. Good postoperative care makes all the difference in your recovery. Advising your eye doctor of any changes grants you a better chance at recovery beyond the first few days.
What to Expect Weeks & Months After Surgery
In most patients, there are a few surgical side-effects that can last between 3 and 6 months after LASIK. But for some, they can be permanent.
Small patches of red or pink on the whites of your eyes can persist sometimes. LASIK surgery can lead to small blood vessels popping in your eye, even weeks later.
When Complications Become Permanent
Pre-existing eye conditions like dry eye affect some patients acutely, and LASIK can worsen its effects. Your LASIK consultation is an excellent opportunity to assess how pre-existing conditions and the treatment of them might be affected by the LASIK procedure.
How to Manage Long-Term Recovery
Ask your doctor when it is okay to drive. Not everyone can drive right after the surgery, and some take up to 1 year after the procedure. Some long-term rules of thumb can keep your recovery chances high:
- Wear an eye shield for sleeping up to 2 weeks after.
- Shower or wash the day after surgery if you feel comfortable. But only water near your eyes is safe.
- The advice to keep from rubbing your eyes stands well over 3 days. Try not to touch your eyelids for the rest of the 1st week.
- For 1 week, avoid eye makeup. Any cream or lotion near your eye is not recommended.
- Wait 10 days after your surgery, before getting your hair coloured or permed,
- You can exercise, but sweat in your eyes can be a problem. You’ll have to avoid all contact sports for 2 to 4 weeks after surgery. If you plan to re return to contact sports, you might need goggles or other eye protection even years later.
- 1 to 2 weeks after surgery, avoid swimming, gardening, hot tubs, and dusting.
- Wear sunglasses in open daylight as often as possible for at least 1 year after surgery.
- Always keep your preoperative prescription handy; you or your eye doctor may need it.
Trust in Consultation & Postoperative Care
LASIK can undoubtedly change your vision for the better, but it’s not for everyone. If you’ve been approved by a trustworthy optometrist for LASIK, then you’re well on your way to maximizing your chances for a full recovery.
Trustworthiness is critical because not all LASIK surgeons have the ideal approval and postoperative criteria before putting you under the knife (or laser). And part of it depends on how well you follow best practices yourself. Book or rebook an appointment in Regina or Grenfell Saskatchewan for postoperative care today, and find out how we can make LASIK recovery as safe as possible for you.