Temporary blurriness after LASIK is common, and most often, it resolves within a couple days to a week.
Some cases of eye blurriness may be attributed to dry eyes. Blurriness may also result from another condition, such as cataracts, a residual refractive error, diabetes, presbyopia, corneal damage, or macular degeneration.
When you’re recovering from LASIK, you may experience blurred vision temporarily. Blurriness can occur in both eyes, or it may only be present in one of the eyes.
If this occurs, it typically lasts about a week. For most people, any blurriness begins to clear within a couple days.
If blurriness does not clear within about a week, it could be a sign that it isn’t due to LASIK. Blurriness is a sign of various other eye conditions.
Chronic Dry Eye
This type of blurriness usually improves when you blink. To combat the problem, your eye doctor may recommend artificial tears and resting your eyes. If you work on the computer a good amount, you may need to rest your eyes more often or dim the brightness on your screen to alleviate eye strain.
Sometimes, LASIK can lead to eye dryness. If someone has chronic dry eye, they generally are not a good candidate for LASIK or refractive eye surgery.
In fact, most patient dissatisfaction from refractive eye surgery is attributed to chronic dry eye, as it is well known that the procedure disrupts the tear film. One study showed that 20 percent of people who had the surgery experienced dry eye for at least six months or more following the procedure.
Other Reasons for Blurriness
If the blurriness you’re experiencing is not a side effect of LASIK, it may be due to cataract, a residual refractive error, presbyopia, diabetes, or a problem with your cornea.
LASIK may correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism, but it does not slow down the aging process. A cataract usually develops due to the natural aging process, and it presents as a clouding on the natural lens of the eye.
While LASIK will reshape the cornea so you can see better, it does not correct any problems with the lens. Therefore, if a cataract is present, you won’t be able to see clearly.
A Residual Refractive Error
In some cases, LASIK doesn’t fully correct the refractive error in eyes. If you have blurred vision in one or both eyes after LASIK, you may have some residual refractive error that is causing the distortion. Your vision may have been undercorrected or overcorrected.
If you were farsighted or hyperopic before surgery and were overcorrected, you may become myopic, which would cause your distance vision to be blurry. Overcorrection or undercorrection is rare, and most cases of undercorrection can be treated with another LASIK procedure, often called an enhancement.
If you’re older and find that your vision is blurry after LASIK, you may have developed presbyopia. This happens when you cannot see objects up close, so the condition affects you when you read. Presbyopia causes the eye’s crystalline lens to lose its flexibility.
If LASIK is used to see more clearly at a distance and you have presbyopia, you’ll still need reading glasses for up-close work. While LASIK corrects existing vision issues, it doesn’t prevent future age-related vision deterioration.
If your blood glucose levels fluctuate, it can also affect your eyesight. After LASIK, you may be able to see fine one day but experience blurriness the next.
If you’re diabetic and your vision is blurred, you need to regularly check and maintain your sugar levels. You should be under the supervision of a doctor who is helping you monitor your condition.
If you don’t monitor your sugar closely, you could end up with diabetic eye disease. This can progress to diabetic retinopathy.
Keratoconus represents a vision problem that affects the cornea, or the thin outer layer of the eye. The eye bulges out and gradually becomes cone-shaped. This can worsen or cause astigmatism over time. If you have this condition, you can correct it with a corneal transplant.
In rare cases, LASIK may induce a keratoconus-related condition called corneal ectasia. This happens when the surgeon removes too much tissue from the cornea.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease that causes the macula to deteriorate. The macula is part of the retina that is essential to central vision.
AMD, which affects people over the age of 60, allows people to retain their peripheral vision while otherwise having problems with blurriness.
How to Reduce Blurriness as a Side Effect
In many of the cases described above, blurriness after LASIK has little or nothing to do with the surgery. This blurriness due to other conditions would occur regardless of whether you got LASIK.
You can reduce the likelihood of experiencing blurriness after LASIK, or worsening it, by following guidelines from your doctor. These tips will help you to heal more quickly and reduce any problems with blurred vision.
What You Should Do
To prevent blurriness as a side effect, follow these steps:
- Wear eye guards, such as shields that attach to eyeglasses. You can ask your eye doctor about this type of eye protection. This will protect your eyes from scratches or rubbing during the early healing phase.
- Rest your eyes for a couple days after surgery. Don’t sit in front of a computer for hours at a time. Your eyes will be extra sensitive during this period.
- Wear sunglasses when you’re outside. This can protect your eyes from the sun’s rays when they are most vulnerable.
What You Don’t Want to Do
Following LASIK, follow these steps:
- Don’t rub your eyes. Wear eye protection while you sleep to avoid rubbing them subconsciously.
- Don’t exercise for about two to three days after surgery. Avoid swimming for at least a couple weeks. When you do swim, wear goggles.
- Don’t wear eye makeup, take part in a contact sport, or wash your eyes with soap and water for several days after the procedure.
Call Your Doctor
If you experience any form of blurriness after LASIK, contact your eye doctor immediately. They will assess whether you are experiencing a normal degree of temporary blurriness that will likely clear or if another issue is present.
20/20 and Unhappy After Refractive Surgery. (November 2007). Review of Ophthalmology.
Presbyopia. (September 2020). National Eye Institute.
Diabetic Eye Disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Keratoconus. American Optometric Association.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). (June 2021). National Eye Institute.
Laser Surgery Recovery. (January 2017). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Last Updated February 2, 2023
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