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Does LASIK Hurt?

LASIK is a laser eye surgery that is typically considered to be a painless procedure. 

Some people experience minor discomfort following the surgery, such as eye dryness or itchiness, but LASIK generally doesn’t hurt.

Steps to Ensure That LASIK Eye Surgery Is Not Painful

With LASIK eye surgery, your doctor and health care team will take steps to ensure that you are comfortable and pain-free. You will receive numbing drops in the eye as well as oral sedatives. 

Numbing Eye Drops

With LASIK, the tissue of the cornea is the only part of the body that requires an anesthetic. As this is a very small area, the anesthetic is applied topically via numbing eye drops in most cases. 

Oral Sedative

To make sure you are relaxed and comfortable, you may be given an oral sedative.

If you are feeling worried or fearful about eye surgery, talk with your health care provider. Knowing what to expect can help reduce feelings of anxiety, and they may recommend certain medications that can help.

What Will I Feel During LASIK? 

During the procedure, numbing eye drops and oral sedatives will help keep you free of pain. However, you will be awake and may notice some sensations of slight pressure as the procedure is performed. 

During the LASIK procedure, a device is used to keep the eyelids open, so you don’t blink. You may feel the pressure of the device, but you shouldn’t feel any pain. 

The eye is lubricated to create a moist environment. As the flap is created on the cornea, you may also feel pressure. 

The laser treatment is not painful, although some individuals find the sound mildly irritating. Others might sense a slight smell during the operation, similar to the smell of burning hair. Again, an oral sedative can help to reduce anxiety and irritation related to these sensations.

What to Expect After Surgery

After the surgery, it is normal to feel some discomfort. This may come in the form of burning, itching, or feeling like something is in your eyes. 

For most patients, the sedative and numbing drops minimize post-surgical discomfort. Typically, mild discomfort diminishes after a few hours. 

Although extremely rare, some patients experience pain if the corneal flap tears or becomes dislodged after the surgery. If this happens, contact your doctor immediately. 

If you feel extreme or severe pain, this is not normal. Be sure to contact your doctor if you experience intense pain or notice new symptoms.

You may be sensitive to light, or you may see glares, starbursts, or halos when you look at lights. Some people notice that the whites of their eyes look bloodshot.

After the operation, you will be instructed to use anti-inflammatory eye drops (NSAIDs) to speed the healing process and reduce any postsurgical inflammation. 

Recovery From LASIK

Recovery from LASIK tends to be very quick, with many people returning to normal activities as soon as the day after the surgery. 

According to the Flaum Eye Institute, most people manage the mild discomfort of recovery by resting and taking Tylenol or Advil.

LASIK Aftercare to Reduce Complications

While you’ll want to talk with your doctor about specific tips for aftercare, here are some general guidelines:

In the hours after surgery:

  • Have someone drive you home following the procedure.
  • Rest, sleep as much as possible, and try to keep your eyes closed.
  • Take your medications as prescribed.

In the days and weeks after surgery:

  • Wear an eye shield at night to protect your eyes for the first five nights.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.
  • Avoid smoky, dusty, and windy conditions.
  • Avoid getting water in your eyes.
  • Avoid wearing eye makeup for at least the first week after surgery.
  • Keep eyes lubricated with artificial tears.

Avoid these things:

  • Rubbing and touching your eyes
  • Wearing eye makeup (to avoid infections)
  • Swimming or using a hot tub, whirlpool, or sauna
  • Playing contact sports
  • Driving at night
  • Skipping or overusing medications
  • Skipping appointments

When to Call Your Doctor

You shouldn’t experience pain following LASIK. Recovery should be only slightly uncomfortable, so call your doctor if you experience moderate or extreme pain or if you notice any new or unusual symptoms.

LASIK Pain FAQs

Is LASIK painful?

No, you shouldn’t feel pain during or after the procedure. You may feel pressure during the surgery, and your eyes may feel a bit uncomfortable after, but you shouldn’t feel pain.

Can I be put under for LASIK?

General anesthesia for LASIK eye surgery is generally not done. The American Society of Anesthesiologists notes that general anesthesia may increase the cost of surgery and increase risks. Talk with your doctor and care team to discuss your options if you are worried about the surgery.

References

  1. LASIK Eye Surgery: Procedure Details, Risks & Recovery. Cleveland Clinic.

  2. LASIK. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

  3. Pros and Cons of LASIK: Are the Risks Worth the Cost? (December 2017). University of Michigan Health.

  4. Laser Surgery Overview. Johns Hopkins Medicine.

  5. Refractive Surgery Step by Step. Kellogg Eye Center.

  6. LASIK. University of California.

  7. LASIK Procedures. Flaum Eye Institute, University of Rochester Medical Center.

  8. 6 Common Questions About LASIK Eye Surgery. (March 2019). Penn Medicine.

  9. Frequently Asked Questions About Refractive Surgery. Kellogg Eye Center, University of Michigan Health.

  10. Anesthesia Risks and Assessments. American Society of Anesthesiologists.

  11. Chronic Dry Eye Symptoms After LASIK: Parallels and Lessons to Be Learned From Other Persistent Post-Operative Pain Disorders. (April 2015). Molecular Pain.

  12. Neuropathic Corneal Pain Following LASIK Surgery: A Retrospective Case Series. (June 2021). Ophthalmology and Therapy.

  13. An Unusual Approach to Reduce Pain Following LASIK Surgery. (January 2021). Turkiye Klinikleri Journal of Ophthalmology.

  14. Getting to the Root of Post-LASIK Pain. (January 2020). Review of Ophthalmology.

  15. Getting to the Root of Post-LASIK Pain. (January 2020). Review of Ophthalmology.

Last Updated September 7, 2022

Note: This page should not serve as a substitute for professional medical advice from a doctor or specialist. Please review our about page for more information.