Healthy Living

What to Expect After LASIK Eye Surgery

Possible outcomes that redefine your life after LASIK eye surgery

What to Expect After Lasik Eye Surgery

Key Takeaways

  • LASIK eye surgery is largely successful in removing underlying refractory errors that mar perfect vision.
  • Advancements in LASIK surgical techniques promise near-zero surgery-influenced errors.
  • Becoming completely independent of eyeglasses and contact lenses is unrealistic to expect from LASIK surgery.

LASIK eye surgery is a corrective procedure that aims to rectify vision distortions that are caused by the changing curvature of the cornea and shifting length of the eyeball. The cornea is a transparent coating that bulges on the outside of the eyeball, and allows light to penetrate its surface at an angle to help focus images correctly onto the retina, a light-sensitive membrane located at the back of the eyeball.

Due to aging, disease, and physical injury, the corneal surface may change its shape, causing the light to deviate abnormally. This distorts the final image decoded by optic cells in the retina. LASIK surgery corrects these refraction errors, restoring vision to the ideal standard of 20/20 or 20/40.

The LASIK surgical procedure is relatively simple and usually takes less than half an hour. The operated eye heals fast, with normal or near-normal vision restored within a couple of days. But as in most surgical procedures, LASIK surgery carries inherent risks, and the outcomes may vary depending on several factors that may or may not be within the control of the surgeon. The patient who is about to undergo LASIK surgery will be counseled in depth by the physician regarding the procedure’s attendant risks and expected benefits, the alternative noninvasive solutions that could correct vision problems, and the possible complications that may follow LASIK surgery.

Possible outcomes following LASIK surgery

  • Immediately after the surgery, the patient may experience a burning sensation, a feeling akin to pricking by needles, and watery eyes. These symptoms may progress from mildly bearable or moderately uncomfortable to a higher degree of severity. Doctors will prescribe a mild sedative, pain relievers, and antibiotics.
  • The initial 4- to 5-hour period in the recovery phase will be marked by blurred vision, which gradually improves and stabilizes.
  • It is normal for the patient to undergo fluctuations in visual acuity during the first two to three months, particularly when they are driving a car, reading a book, or using a personal computer, all three of which are activities that involve continuous eye adjustments. Almost 5 percent of patients fail to experience lasting vision improvements after the surgery.
  • Night vision may be marked by a pronounced glare and possibly a shadow or halo surrounding bright objects. This condition may take a couple of months to normalize. Around 46 percent of the patients who do not experience these issues prior to surgery may begin showing such symptoms after LASIK surgery.
  • The eyes may become extremely dry due to the malfunctioning of the tear glands, and eye drops or artificial tears may be needed to cope with the discomfort. It is estimated that around 28 percent of the patients who have no previous history of eye dryness may show this symptom after LASIK surgery.
  • Mild to extreme eye infection is a possibility, but this is normally rectified by applying a topical antibiotic cream and eye drops.
  • Reddish spots may appear in the whites of the eye, caused by breakage of blood capillaries when a suction ring is applied during surgery, but the problem gradually fades during the healing process.
  • A plastic shield will be placed over the eyes immediately after the surgery to bar other objects from physical contact with the eyes and to prevent infection from delaying the healing process.
  • The eye shield will be removed on Day Two to allow the doctor to test visual acuity and treat the eye for infection and possible inflammation.
  • If it is found that surgery has not fully corrected the underlying eye disorder (myopia, hyperopia, or astigmatism), a repeat operation may be scheduled 2 to 3 months after the first surgery. Alternatively, the doctor may recommend glasses or contact lenses with appropriately corrected refractive errors.
  • The patient will be advised to avoid, for 2 to 3 months following the surgery, swimming, saunas, Jacuzzis, and contact sports, which may irritate the healing eye.

Post-operative eye care following LASIK surgery

Patients will be advised to avoid makeup and to wear sunglasses for at least a week following surgery. A medication regimen, mainly of eye drops that promote corneal healing, will be recommended. The doctor will also advise on the dates for follow-up visits and vision tests to assess the progress of vision correction.

The general prognosis following LASIK surgery of the eye

  • The majority of people undergoing Lasik surgery report a marked improvement in vision and restoration of 20/20 vision. In some cases, vision may attain the 20/40 benchmark. No instances of blindness have been reported, though a minor loss of visual lines may occur, though this can be corrected with the help of glasses and contact lenses.
  • LASIK surgery does not guarantee a 100 percent vision correction and will probably not do away with the need for visual aids. Therefore, patients who are opting for eye surgery hoping that they can permanently dispense with eyeglasses and contact lenses may need to reconsider whether the surgery would justify the overall risk.
  • Shadowy objects, glare, and halos are common problems associated with LASIK surgery. These symptoms may or may not disappear within the first three months following surgery. These are risk factors that need to be considered, especially by people active in sports, industrial vocations, professional driving, and other occupations and avocations that require a high level of visual acuity and where even the slightest downtime could affect efficiency.
  • Regardless of the success of LASIK surgery, a gradual age-related decline of the elasticity of the eye lens (a condition called presbyopia) could compel people to wear glasses to enable comfortable reading. The condition may set in by the age of 45, and require refractive error-corrected glasses and contact lenses.
  • A relatively asymptomatic and smoother recovery is possible if the LASIK technique in use is more refined and advanced. Wavefront-LASIK (also referred to as Custom LASIK), a technology that renders a three-dimensional image of the eyeball, makes it possible to customize laser treatment to match the needs of the patient and remove corneal tissue with a near-zero margin of error.

No matter how much hype couches the benefits of Lasik surgery, you would be submitting yourself to a surgery involving one of the most sensitive organs in the human body. It is always possible that surgical errors could under-correct or over-correct the underlying problem. The pupil, the hole in the iris through which light is admitted, may become displaced from its central position. Too much of the corneal tissue may be removed, thereby altering the curvature of the cornea irreparably.  Eye infection and inflammation after surgery, though understated, may compromise your comfort and interfere with your daily routine. The odds of a repeat surgery can never be ruled out.

The last word

LASIK surgery, through its stupendous success as a high-tech tool for vision correction, has revolutionized the treatment of eye disorders. People who have undergone surgery claim restoration of near-perfect vision. But its success should not blind individuals to potential complications that may compromise the health of the eye. This form of surgery should not be resorted to as a matter of routine, and should be considered only after trying out alternative treatments such as glasses and contact lenses. Patients should carefully analyze the risks and weigh them against the purported benefits accruing from the surgery, before going under the laser beam. 

Night vision