How Long Is The LASIK Surgery Recovery Timeline?
After undergoing LASIK surgery, you’ll feel normal in no time, with any discomfort only typically lasting just a day or two. Most people experience improved vision immediately following the surgery. However, it’s important to understand that the full LASIK recovery timeline will last a full year as your corneal flaps need to completely heal. The good news is that this extended recovery timeline doesn’t mean you’ll be sidelined for months. Be prepared to be a little more gentle with your eyes to protect your healing corneas.
Let’s go through the full LASIK eye surgery recovery timeline so you know exactly what you can expect in terms of healing and recovery. This can help you make plans accordingly and mitigate any worries that may arise if you experience any common side effects along the way.
LASIK Recovery Timeline: The First 24 Hours
The first 24 hours are the most critical part of your LASIK surgery recovery timeline. Here’s what to expect in the first hour after surgery.
- 5 Minutes After Your Procedure: Looking around after your surgery, you’ll notice your vision has already improved! Your vision won’t achieve full correction yet, however, so if you don’t feel satisfied with what you see at this point, give it a little time.
At first, your vision may appear foggy or hazy, as if you were underwater. This will continue to improve as your eyes heal. Your eye care team will apply clear plastic eye shields over your eyes to protect them. You will have arranged for someone to drive you home, but wear sunglasses outdoors anyway to protect your eyes.
- 30 Minutes After Your Procedure: Your anesthesia will start to wear off, and you may feel some mild discomfort. Your eyes will begin to itch and/or burn, so it’s important to rest your eyes at this point. Try napping if possible, or lay down in a dim room and rest your eyes for 2-4 hours. Keep those eye shields on.
Your doctor will give you instructions about pain relievers if you need them. You should also avoid all screens, which means for a few hours you shouldn’t look at your phone, your computer, or the TV. That nap is sounding better now, isn’t it?
- 4 Hours After Your Procedure: After getting up from wherever you rested your eyes, you’ll notice the itching and/or burning has subsided. Your vision will likely have improved even more in this time.
Your eyes will still be sensitive to light and may feel dry or as though there’s something in them. Keep your eye shields on so you do not rub. Follow your doctor’s instructions regarding eye drops to help your eyes heal properly and keep them lubricated. Rest your eyes whenever they feel tired or start to feel extra itchy or sensitive.
- 24 Hours After Your Procedure: You may experience other mild symptoms, all of which will begin to resolve during your LASIK recovery timeline. You may have halos, glare, teary eyes, puffy eyelids, red eyes, or small red bruises on the whites of your eyes.
Your vision will continue to improve as your eyes heal, but you may have fluctuations in your vision during this time. This is perfectly normal. That said, it’s always a good idea to keep your eye surgeon updated about changes in your vision, particularly in the first day or two following your procedure. If you experience any discomfort beyond what is manageable by over-the-counter pain relievers, contact your doctor.
LASIK Recovery Timeline: The First Week
The first several days of your LASIK eye surgery recovery timeline will involve at least one checkup appointment. You’ll need to get your doctor’s approval before driving again after surgery, as well as following any other doctor’s instructions to ensure your healing. Continue to avoid activities that could put your healing corneal flaps at risk.
Here’s what to expect in the first week after your surgery.
- Day 1 or 2 After Your Procedure: You’ll see your doctor for a post-operative checkup appointment. Your doctor will check to see how your eyes are healing by conducting an eye exam. They may also ask you questions about your vision and how your eyes are feeling.At this appointment, your doctor will likely clear you to drive, but don’t drive until your doctor says it’s okay. Seeing and driving at night may take a little longer. You can shower, but keep soap, shampoo, and any other substances out of your eyes. You should be able to return to work and most regular activities the day after your procedure.
- Up to Day 5 After Your Procedure: Wear your eye shields anytime you sleep for 4-5 days following surgery, or as directed by your doctor. This ensures that you won’t rub your eyes in your sleep or get anything in them that could irritate your healing corneas.
- Up to 1 Week After Your Procedure: You’ll use prescription eye drops to help prevent infection and inflammation in the week following your surgery. Use them as frequently as directed to ensure proper healing. Continue to rest your eyes if you notice they feel tired, strained, or begin to itch or burn.
During your LASIK recovery timeline, it’s critical to avoid any damage to your corneal flap as it’s healing. This means being careful about anything touching or going into your eyes. As such, for the first week following surgery you should avoid:
- Wearing eye makeup or lotion around the eyes
- Dust, dirt, sand, or smoke getting in your eyes
- Yard or garden work
- Public gyms
LASIK Recovery Timeline: The First Month
After the first week of your LASIK surgery recovery timeline, you’ll begin to taper off of your prescription eye drops. You’ll also be allowed to stop wearing your eye shields at night. You can begin exercising again, though you should still be cautious about protecting your eyes. You will still need to avoid certain activities for the first month following your surgery, however, just to be safe. Here’s what to expect in the first month after your surgery.
- Up to 2 Weeks After Your Procedure: You can now exercise, including in the gym. Wear sports goggles and be extremely careful if you choose to participate in any contact sport or activity that may cause materials to fly around or hit your eye. At the two-week mark, you should be able to begin using eye makeup and lotions or creams around your eyes.
You still need to be extra careful about avoiding rubbing your eyes so that your corneal flaps can heal correctly. Use the eye drops recommended by your doctor to help keep your eyes lubricated if they get dry or itchy. Also, consider wearing sunglasses or eye protection of some kind if you’re struggling to remember not to rub your eyes.
- Up to 1 Month After Your Procedure: You may now swim in a pool, hot tub, lake, river, or ocean, though goggles are recommended to protect your eyes and help you remember not to rub them. In some cases, your doctor may ask you to wait until the two-month mark. Always follow your doctor’s instructions.
Up until the one month mark, be extra careful when:
- Carrying small children or pets
- Doing yard work or gardening
- Participating in contact sports or other activities risking physical contact with your eye
It’s also important to attend any appointments recommended by your surgeon and to follow all doctor’s instructions carefully. Even if your vision seems fully improved and you’re not experiencing any side effects, your corneas are still healing. Your surgeon’s instructions will help your eyes heal correctly, giving you the best vision results possible.
LASIK Recovery Timeline: The First Year
Up until the one-year mark, your eyes are still healing from your procedure, so use caution and stay in communication with your surgeon. Here’s what to expect in the final six months of your LASIK recovery timeline.
- Up to 6 Months After Your Procedure: Your eyes are not quite fully healed, so you should still use caution in certain situations. Driving at night may be difficult due to halos or glare, and your eyes may still be dry or light-sensitive.
You may also experience some continued fluctuations in your vision during this time. Keep your doctor updated about any vision changes or concerns you may have.
- Up to 1 Year After Your Procedure: You may still experience light sensitivity or dry eyes. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes outdoors, and keep lubricating eye drops handy. Attend all appointments recommended by your surgeon so they can track your healing progress.
Your LASIK eye surgery recovery timeline may vary depending on your original prescription and the unique aspects of your vision correction plan. Nearsighted patients, for example, often take a little longer to heal than others.
Remember that every eye is unique, so every patient will have a slightly different LASIK surgery recovery timeline. Your Dello Russo Laser Vision eye surgeon will be able to give you personalized information about your expected LASIK recovery timeline.