LASIK Recovery Timeline: What To Expect After Eye Surgery
LASIK corrective eye surgery is often thought of as a very quick procedure with an equally fast recovery time. While it is true that the surgery itself only takes a matter of minutes, and you will likely see some immediate improvement in your vision, it’s essential to understand that full recovery from LASIK can take several weeks or even months.
Though LASIK is a safe surgery with a low complication rate, keep in mind that recovery time and experience vary from person to person. Some people may only take a couple of days to recover, while others may take longer. There are also different types of technology used for LASIK surgery, so be sure to discuss your specific case with your doctor and take a LASIK candidacy quiz before making any decisions. Likewise, tell your doctor if you are pregnant or nursing, as this can change your surgery and recovery timeline.
That said, there are general, typical stages of recovery that can help you understand what to expect after your surgery.
24 to 48 Hours After Surgery
Your doctor will likely schedule a follow-up appointment for 24 to 48 hours after your procedure so they can check your eyes and test your vision. At this point, you should still expect your vision to be blurry, and it is crucial not to rub your eyes. Your doctor will also give you specific instructions on how to care for your eyes in the days following surgery, including using prescription eye drops and avoiding water around the eyes.
As with any surgery, you can expect some discomfort and side effects immediately after LASIK, including:
- Blurry vision;
- Light sensitivity;
- Watery eyes;
- Burning or grittiness.
These side effects are typical and should improve within the first day or two. Rest as much as possible during this time and avoid reading, watching television, or using electronic devices.
One Week After Surgery
By the one-week mark, most people report significant improvement in their vision. However, it is still not uncommon to experience some side effects, such as:
- Glare or halo effects around lights;
- Burning or stinging sensations;
- Sensitivity to light;
- Dry eyes;
- Itchy eyes.
At this point, you can usually return to most of your normal activities, including driving, working, and exercising lightly. However, avoid strenuous activities for at least a week and refrain from swimming or using a hot tub for at least four weeks. Avoid makeup, lotions, and perfumes around your eyes for at least a week.
You may have another follow-up appointment with your doctor sometime during this first week so they can check on your progress.
Two Weeks After Surgery
By two weeks after surgery, most people have fully recovered from the procedure. However, some people may experience side effects, such as dry eyes, light sensitivity, and difficulty driving at night. These side effects should improve with time and can be managed with artificial tears or other eye drops.
One Month After Surgery
By one month after surgery, you should be fully recovered and able to see clearly. Sometimes, your doctor may want to see you for one final follow-up appointment to confirm that everything is healing correctly.
By now, you can swim in a pool, ocean, lake, or whatever your heart chooses. However, you still need to wear goggles to protect your eyes from chemicals and debris. In certain situations, your doctor may advise you to wait until the two-month mark.
For the first month, take extra care when:
- Carrying children or pets;
- Doing yard work or gardening;
- Participating in contact sports or other activities with physical contact.
Even if your eyesight appears to be completely restored, your corneas are still healing during this time and are more susceptible to injury.
Three Months After Surgery
By three months after your surgery, you should be fully recovered. Most people do not need to see their doctor again after this point unless they experience any problems or concerns.
If you experience any vision changes or other problems after surgery, be sure to contact your doctor immediately.
Six Months After Surgery
Although the vast majority of people do not experience any problems, it is recommended that you have a follow-up appointment with your doctor six months after surgery. This is just a precautionary measure to ensure that everything is healing properly and that there are no long-term complications.
At your six-month appointment, you’ll discuss how your vision has changed since surgery and whether you have any remaining concerns. You’ll also have your eyes examined to check the health of your corneas and overall eye health. At this point, check-ups are usually only necessary on an annual basis.
During this appointment, you may even decide if LASIK enhancement is right for you. Not every patient needs an enhancement, but if you find that your vision has changed or worsened since your original surgery, an enhancement can improve your vision.
One Year After Surgery
After one year, you won’t need to see your doctor again unless you experience any problems or concerns.
If you experience any vision changes or other problems after surgery, be sure to contact your doctor immediately. If you are experiencing one or more of the following issues, it’s time to book an appointment:
- Glare or halos around lights;
- Difficulty seeing at night;
- Fluctuations in vision;
- Poor distance vision;
- Poor near vision;
- Sensitivity to light.
Remember, everyone’s eyes are different; you may experience a different recovery timeline than someone else. While it may seem cause for concern if your vision doesn’t improve as quickly as you’d like, it’s essential to give your eyes time to heal properly. In most cases, any side effects or complications will resolve within a few months.
How Long Does LASIK Last?
LASIK can last a lifetime, but that doesn’t mean your vision will stay the same forever. Like anyone else, people with LASIK will experience vision changes as they age. People often think their LASIK has “worn off” when they enter their 40s and notice a gradual decline in their ability to read and see up close, but this actually occurs due to a change in the lens of the eye from a common condition called presbyopia. Presbyopia is an age-related condition that happens to everyone, but is not associated with a past LASIK procedure.
You may still be a candidate for LASIK in your 40s, 50s, and 60s, but due to common changes that naturally happen as we age, there may be better vision correction solutions to treat your visual impairments.
Can You Get LASIK More Than Once?
LASIK is designed to provide long-lasting results, but for some patients, a secondary LASIK enhancement procedure may be helpful to achieve goal visual outcomes. People that would qualify for a second LASIK treatment would need to have sufficient corneal tissue.
If it’s been years since the original LASIK procedure, there could be other changes in the eye that cannot be addressed with LASIK. The only way to determine the best solution for vision improvement would be to consult with an eye doctor during a dilated eye examination.
Ultimately, the LASIK recovery timeline is different for everyone, and you may experience a different recovery than someone else. Give your body and eyes time to heal, and be sure to contact your doctor if you experience any problems or concerns. With proper care, you can enjoy clear vision for years to come.