Three Really Important Questions About Laser Eye Surgery Answered In-Depth

Laser eye surgery is becoming more popular than ever. It's fast, can correct a number of different eye conditions, and is considered by most patients to be a relatively low-pain procedure. If you've had questions about laser eye surgery, or you are considering it for yourself, it's likely that you have a number of questions. This short FAQ will help to answer several of the most common queries asked by Lasik eye surgery patients.

Is Laser Eye Surgery Painful?

This question is a bit subjective, because pain is a different experience for each and every individual who experiences it. However, the majority of patients who have laser eye surgery feel only mild discomfort. Severe pain is extremely uncommon unless side effects or complications occur, and these are fairly rare.

Pain caused by the surgery is usually short and over with quickly, although it can sometimes occur during the suctioning process. Recovery pain is usually mild enough to be handled by mild pain relievers and extra rest.

While most surgeons won't prescribe narcotics or heavy-duty painkillers, certain situations may predispose you to a higher level of pain. If you have concerns about post-surgical pain, bring them up before the surgery begins; your surgeon will help to address them, ensuring that you have the confidence to go forward.

How Long is the Recovery Process?

Much like pain after surgery, the recovery process can also differ greatly. Most patients can expect to spend three days to one week recovering; after this, you should regain enough of your sight and function to return to work, school, or play. The majority of this recovery period will require rest and/or assistance, as vision can remain blurry for some time as the eye heals. 

You should also take care not to engage in a number of activities post-operatively:

  • Avoid getting anything into the eye other than drops or saline prescribed by your surgeon
  • Take extra care to avoid getting water and/or shampoo and conditioner into your eyes when showering
  • If you have allergies, take care to avoid allergens or irritants for up to one month
  • Do not rub or press on your eyes, even if itching or irritation occurs, for up to one month
  • Avoid wearing contacts altogether; eyeglasses may be permissible depending on the level of sight restoration
  • Plan for short "flares" of blurriness and other vision issues for up to six months, as the eye completely heals

Your surgeon may alter these time frames or instructions to best suit your needs. The important thing is to pay close attention to any direction you are given, as this will help you to achieve the best results possible.

What is the Rate of Success for Laser Eye Surgery?

You'll be pleased to know that the majority of patients do have success with laser eye surgery. The incidence of total failure or worsening eyesight is quite low. However, depending on the level of correction you require, you may not achieve perfect 20/20 vision. This does not mean that laser eye surgery isn't a good choice to make when considering vision correction. 

Because several types of laser eye surgery exist, it is difficult to give exact statistics. However, this report written by Consumer Reports does an excellent job of giving an overview of successes and failures. It suggests that:

  • 80 percent of respondents to a Consumer Reports laser eye patient survey reported satisfaction post-operatively
  • Common, transient complications like dry eye and blurry vision occurred in 10 percent of patients, or less
  • More serious complications like impaired night vision and inflammation (also usually transient) affected only one percent of patients
  • Serious complications like optic nerve inflammation and disabling vision loss were reported by less than one percent of patients

Within the Consumer Reports survey, 800 people were tested. This is a reasonable cross-section of the population, but may not be representative of every patient.

Dissatisfactions did occur, but were often related to a misunderstanding about the potential of laser eye surgery itself. People who complained took issue with:

  • Having to wear glasses or contacts occasionally
  • Experiencing transient, occasional dry eye
  • Experiencing transient, occasional blurring
  • Experiencing a higher level of pain during surgery or post-operatively

You can help to ensure best results by speaking in-depth with your surgeon before going forward with your laser surgery. Ask questions, and prepare yourself with the understanding that–although laser eye surgery is relatively pain-free and low in complications–it is still a surgery with potential risks and potential benefits.

If you aren't sure whether laser eye surgery is right for you, it may be time for a consultation. To learn whether or not you are a good candidate for this type of procedure, make an appointment with a specialist today. He or she will be able to judge your current vision and define whether or not you are likely to have success over time.