A man getting eye surgery done.

Does Laser Eye Surgery Hurt?

Posted on December 4, 2017

LASIK eye surgery is performed while you are awake, using eye drops for local anesthesia. These eye drops numb your eyes within a few moments, and you do not feel the surgery being performed. In case you are especially anxious, your doctor might recommend a mild sedative. The surgery is considered “painless”, even though you might feel a little discomfort or pressure on the eye.

What to Expect: Preoperative work-up

The preoperative work up for LASIK is pain free, and involves a few tests in addition to a comprehensive eye evaluation. It does involve dilating your pupils with eye drops, which makes your vision blurred for a few hours, and makes your eyes sensitive to bright lights for that duration. Your doctor will recommend you do not drive to your preoperative check-up, and also carry a pair of sunglasses to shield your eyes from bright sunlight. There is no pain or discomfort associated with the evaluation.

What to Expect: LASIK Procedure

Before LASIK surgery is performed, the technician or nurse will administer eye drops. These feel like any other eye drops, and contain a local anaesthetic agent that numbs your eyes. Because of this, there will be no pain felt during LASIK.

Just before the procedure, in the laser suite, the anaesthetic eye drop will be repeated to ensure your comfort. Since these drops only numb the eyes, you will feel a gentle pressure on your eyelids, as the surgeon puts a retaining instrument. The doctor will also ask you to not blink for a while.

After this, your doctor will start the surgical procedure, which involves creating the flap. This can be done manually using a keratome or a laser, as in the case of bladefree LASIK. The doctor will use a suction device, to create the flap.

Most patients feel this suction as an “awkward feeling”, “pressure on the eye”, or “discomfort”, but not pain. This is known to be the most uncomfortable part of the procedure.

Reshaping of the cornea (the part of the surgery that actually uses the excimer laser in LASIK) is not felt by the patient at all. During this segment of the procedure, the doctor will ask you to focus on a white light, and try not to blink.

The entire procedure of LASIK surgery takes less than ten minutes, and has not been described as painful, even by patients who have a low threshold for pain. Since you are awake, the doctor will continue to talk to you to reassure you. You will also hear the communication between the doctor and the staff in the operating room. If you are not overly anxious, the LASIK surgery experience will be far more pleasant than your imagination.

What to Expect: After LASIK

After LASIK, your doctor will ask you to rest your eyes as much as possible. You would have been asked to not drive on the day of surgery, and will be asked to go home, accompanied by a friend, along with instructions on how to use your eye drops. Most doctors prefer to see you an hour after surgery, but this varies from practice to practice.

After a few hours of surgery, a little discomfort is often reported. Most patients complain of burning, tearing or discomfort, which is normal during the healing process, and is transient. In case of excessive irritation or pain, or copious discharge, you must contact your eye doctor. You will also be asked to not rub your eyes, avoid heavy exercise, and refrain from swimming for some time.

You will be asked to come for a follow up visit the day after surgery, and then routinely after a week and one month of surgery. You doctor will advise you on how to taper and stop your eye drops over time. A few patients have persistent dryness, for which your doctor will recommend lubricating eye drops for a longer duration.

In case you are still anxious about the pain during LASIK, talk to your doctor it. He or she will be happy to put you in touch with patients who have undergone the procedure, who will reassure of how the procedure is pain free, and how they feel after having perfect vision without glasses.

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