Dr. Matthew Sharpe- Founder of SharpeVision

By Dr. Matthew R. Sharpe

September 16, 2021

Does LASIK hurt? This is a perfectly valid question, but the answer is a simple: “NO!”

Many people ask me, “Is LASIK painful” or “Is laser eye surgery painful?” Once the procedure is performed, our patients are astonished that the answer to the question, “Is LASIK surgery painful?“ is a resounding “No!“ LASIK pain is simply not even an issue.

What does LASIK eye surgery feel like?

During the LASIK procedure, our patients feel a slight pressure that is equivalent to a light thumb pressure on the eye. The procedure takes about 5-7 minutes per eye, and our patients feel no pain whatsoever. I discuss the procedure before, during, and afterwards so you know exactly what to expect. I find that nearly everyone is pleased that I talk them through the procedure, so they know what is coming. I let them know that the two parts they might not like are the brightness of the microscope light, and the feeling of the numbing medicine as it goes in the eye. The light can be very intense at first but most people get used to it within a minute or so. The second part, the numbing medicine going in the eye, feels very similar to the numbing drops on the outside of the eye. Most people feel it for about 10 seconds. For the remaining five or so minutes of the procedure, they feel nothing. The recovery is even easier, which is why we recommend LASIK to our patients who are candidates for laser eye surgery. After LASIK, the numbing drops wear off in approximately 15 minutes.

At SharpeVision, we give a small bottle of numbing drops to take home to use when needed for the first four hours. We recommend going straight home and plan on a long nap. If you can sleep you will likely miss most of the irritation. To help you get to sleep we recommend placing cool compresses on your eyes, taking ibuprofen and/or acetaminophen (Tylenol), and using the comfort drops as much as you need to help get you comfortable. Typically after four hours our patients report good comfort and already notice that their vision is improving. Immediately following LASIK eye surgery, vision is foggy but noticeably better than not wearing glasses.

What does PRK eye surgery feel like?

During the PRK procedure, there is absolutely no feeling whatsoever. During the laser, our patients typically smell something similar to burning hair. In reality there is no burning, because the laser is a “cool“ laser that does not heat the surface of the eye at all. The laser itself takes about 6 seconds per diopter. That is if your prescription is -3, the laser will take about 18 seconds. Following the PRK procedure, there is discomfort for about two days that feels like swimming pool water in the eye. Sometimes patients will describe it as a burning or gritty sensation. This typically lasts 48 hours and then improves. We recommend that our patients go straight home, place cool compresses on their eyes, use the comfort drops, take ibuprofen and/or acetaminophen (Tylenol), take the gabapentin we prescribe, sleep, hydrate well, and plan on no significant activity for 2-3 days afterwards. It’s fine to do whatever you want or can do, but typically you can’t see well enough to do much except hang out at your home. This is only for PRK.

Vision after LASIK and PRK

Immediately after LASIK or PRK, the vision is similar to wearing a dirty contact lens or smudged glasses. That smudging or fogginess improves dramatically in the first 24 to 48 hours after LASIK. Most of our patients say the fogginess goes away about 80% in the first 24 hours, 10% in the next 24 hours, and the remaining 10% fogginess improves over days to weeks. This is typical, but everyone has a slightly different perception of the recovery. After PRK, vision gets slightly worse about day two postoperatively, as the new tissue begins to cover the lasered surface and starts to improve on day 3-5 postop.

The most common issue after LASIK or PRK eye surgery is not the discomfort, which is brief, but dryness that takes several weeks or several months to resolve. Typically the best therapy for dryness after LASIK is frequent use of artificial tears that you can buy at any pharmacy. I recommend keeping a bottle of artificial tears in your pocket or purse after LASIK eye surgery and using them frequently throughout the day for one or more months. If the artificial tears make you feel better or see better, you can use them as much as you like. Often our patients say they don’t feel any dryness or have any fogginess. In this case, it’s OK to not use them at all. Regardless, you will not harm your eyes by not using artificial tears.

Does LASIK Hurt?

Our cataract and ICL patients also ask, “Is eye surgery painful?“ or “Does eye surgery hurt?” For all eye procedures, we liberally use numbing drops that completely numb the eye, so that you feel no pain. At SharpeVision MODERN LASIK, we perform the implantable contact lens (ICL) procedure in our office surgery suite.

LASIK pain is an oxymoron. That is, the two words do not go together and contradict one another. LASIK is comfortable during the procedure and amazing afterward. In fact, “LASIK pain” is brief and negligible, and the relief of the inconvenience of contact lenses and glasses is astounding. LASIK is beautiful, makes our lives better, and reduces the pain and suffering associated with contact lenses and glasses. Did you know that the risk of infection with contact lenses is approximately 10 times that of LASIK? Both have very low risk of infection, but infections are much more frequent with contact lenses versus LASIK.

I hope this blog post helps answer the question: “Does LASIK Eye surgery hurt?”

Ask anyone who has had LASIK eye surgery and they will resoundingly say, “No, LASIK eye surgery does not hurt!“ They will most likely recommend that you do it right away. Most of my patients say, “If I had known it was this easy I would have done this a long time ago.“ Come to SharpeVision MODERN Lasik to get your free comprehensive exam and begin to see the world clearly without the burden of glasses or contact lenses.

Dr. Matthew Sharpe- Founder of SharpeVision

Dr. Matthew R. Sharpe

Dr. Matthew Sharpe is an Ophthalmologist specializing in refractive surgery and the owner SharpeVision MODERN LASIK & LENS, with offices in Seattle, Austin, and Chicago. Dr. Sharpe is a world traveler, pianist, marathon runner, motorcyclist, and fluent French speaker. He enjoys every second of life, but finds he is happiest at home cheering on The Ohio State Buckeyes with his wife, three children, and four dogs.
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