The recovery time after laser eye surgery depends on the type of procedure and varies from person to person. The amount of rest and post-care determines the rate of the recovery process. Most patients recover and resume normal activities within a few days.
What Is Laser Eye Surgery?
Laser surgery is an eye procedure that uses a beam of light to correct refractive errors like short-sightedness, long-sightedness, and astigmatism using a beam of light. Laser eye treatment reshapes the cornea by removing unwanted eye tissue. Below are the four standard laser eye procedures:
1. Laser-Assisted in-Situ Keratomileusis (LASIK)
This procedure corrects refractive errors in people aged 23 to 55. A special cutting laser is used to reshape the cornea tissue to improve vision. LASIK surgery is not recommended if you:
- Are pregnant or nursing
- Have a weak immune system
- Experience persistent dry eyes, cataracts, or glaucoma
Cataracts are cloudy-like spots on the lens of the eye. They tend to affect individuals as they age and may cause partial or total blindness if left untreated. The surgeon uses a laser to make a small incision in the lens and break the cataract into minute pieces. An ultrasound machine removes those tiny pieces from the eye.
3. Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK)
PRK is an outpatient procedure that takes less than 10 minutes. Anesthetic drops are used to numb the eye before the surgery. The surgeon will use an eyelid holder to keep your eye open when removing the outer tissue of the cornea.
4. Implantable Collamer Lens (ICL)
Implantable Collamer Lens is an artificial lens implanted in the eye to treat short-sightedness, long-sightedness, and astigmatism. The lenses are placed between the eye's natural lens and colored iris to bend the light on the retina. This results in clearer vision.
How Is the Recovery Process of the Laser Eye Procedure?
After laser eye surgery, the eyes become more sensitive than usual. Rest and keep your eyes closed for the first few hours. The recovery process can be broken down into the following phases:
First 24 hours
Your vision can be blurry immediately after the laser eye procedure. Rest helps you recover and notice improvements in your vision. After feeling better, a loved one or friend should pick you up.
During the first 24 hours, the patient should:
- Avoid watching or using screens like television, computers, e-readers, or smartphones
- Avoid rubbing their eyes–use lubricant drops
- Avoid contact with air conditioners (they can dry your eyes)
- Take a bath instead of a shower to prevent irritation from soapy water
Day After Treatment
Visit the clinic the day after surgery for an aftercare appointment. The doctor will monitor your recovery and advise you on what day-to-day activities you can resume. At this stage, you can likely engage in the following activities:
- Return to work but remember to use safety eyewear
- Watch screens but apply eye drops to lubricate your eyes
- Take a shower but be cautious with the soapy water
It's normal to see halos and starbursts around lights at night. This decreases as the cornea swelling reduces.
First Months After the Procedure
The cornea regains much of its strength within the first few weeks. Use drops to manage dry eye symptoms during this period. Fulfill all aftercare appointments and avoid sunbeds for the first 3-6 months.
By this time, the patient can:
- Do light exercises like jogging and stationary cycling.
- Wear light makeup, perfume, or aftershave
- Use temporary glasses to help you cope with the refraction
- Participate in sports like swimming, football, tennis, and sailing (use appropriate eyewear).
What Are the Side Effects of Laser Eye Procedures?
Patients experience mild to temporary effects on their vision after laser eye procedures. Below are four potential side effects of the procedure:
1. Dry Eyes
Your doctor will provide you with lubricating eye drops. Use them for any irritation in the eye from screens, air conditioners, or accidental pokes.
2. Light Sensitivity
Avoid bright and harsh lighting a few days after the laser eye procedure. Wear sunglasses when outdoors in the sun.
3. Fluctuating Vision
Take enough rest after laser eye treatment and close your eyes. This helps stabilize fluctuating vision.
4. Halos and Starbursts
Starbursts and halos result from the cornea temporarily swelling after surgery. They appear in low-light conditions at night and disappear when your vision stabilizes.
Treatment for Refractive Errors
Laser eye surgery reshapes your cornea to improve your vision. The aftercare appointments and instructions guide patients during the recovery process.