Does Laser Eye Surgery Hurt?

Does Laser Eye Surgery Hurt?

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If you wear contact lenses or glasses, chances are you’d be a suitable candidate for laser eye surgery.

But if you’ve been considering eye surgery, it’s likely you’ve also considered one of the most common questions we get asked by potential patients:

Is laser eye surgery painful?

Let’s take a closer look at the laser eye surgery procedure and recovery process so you know exactly what to expect.

Does Laser Eye Surgery Hurt?

The short answer is no – laser eye surgery is not painful as you will have some anaesthetic eye drops applied to numb your eyes before the procedure begins.

While there are certain points you might feel pressure or discomfort, the laser treatment itself is not painful.

These anaesthetic drops work very quickly, in less than 5 seconds, and so there is no need to wait to be sure they have taken effect.

They work on everyone, every time, which is very reassuring and means that no injections or other kinds of anaesthetic are required during laser eye surgery.

Want To Find Out If You’re Suitable?

If you’re wondering whether laser eye treatment is the right choice for you, there are some key things to consider…

What Happens During Laser Eye Surgery?

After the final consultation, you’ll be taken through to the laser suite for your laser eye surgery procedure.

Most patients are mildly anxious on the day of the procedure, and this is completely normal.

At Focus, our surgeons have performed more than 30,000 laser eye surgery treatments, so we are very experienced at relaxing patients and reassuring you as the treatment progresses, which only takes eight or nine minutes for both eyes.

If you do feel nervous, we can provide a mild sedative in order to help you to relax, but most of our patients are able to undergo treatment without needing it.

Once in the laser eye surgery suite, we’ll clean the skin on your face and around your eyes, and we’ll provide you with a paper hat to keep your hair out of the way during the surgery.

You’ll then lie down on the laser bed and be positioned so that you can see a small blinking green light.

A small device called a speculum is used to keep your eyelids open. You’ll be unable to feel it when it’s in place, and you’ll be free to blink as normal – you won’t actually be blinking, but it will feel exactly as if you are – so there is no need to try and keep your eyes open.

Once you’re comfortable, the LASIK procedure will begin with your surgeon using a femtosecond laser to create a thin, circular corneal flap. While this happens, you’ll feel a sense of pressure for around 25 seconds.

Your prescription will have already been programmed into the excimer laser, and once the flap has been folded gently to the side, the laser will correct your vision in just 5 to 10 seconds, completely painlessly.

Your vision during the laser eye surgery is blurred, so you will not have any clear view of what is happening, you’ll just see shapes and movement.

All you’ll need to do is look at the green light – there is also an auto-tracker to keep the laser in exactly the right place, so even if you were to move it would not affect the result.

LASIK surgery is performed on each eye separately, so once the first is completed your surgeon will then repeat the procedure on your second eye.

Laser eye surgery takes approximately 4 minutes per eye, so the whole process is complete in eight or nine minutes.

The Healing Process

After the laser has reshaped the cornea, the flap is folded back into position and the healing process starts almost immediately.

The surface skin cells will have sealed the edge of the corneal flap in just 4 hours.

After the treatment is completed, we’ll take you to our recovery room where you can lie down and relax, enjoy some tea, coffee and snacks, and take a rest before you can be escorted home.

There will be some slight discomfort in the hours immediately after your laser eye surgery, with your eyes feeling watery, gritty and/or heavy for around 3 or 4 hours after the procedure.

However, you will be provided with anaesthetic eye drops in your take-home pack, which will help to relieve some of the discomfort.

It’s also important to avoid rubbing your eyes or putting pressure on your eye before it has properly healed.

Most people will notice a significant improvement in their vision in the first few hours, and treatments for short-sighted prescriptions and astigmatism will typically settle very quickly, but long-sighted treatments can take several weeks or months to fully stabilise.

Many of our patients are able to go back to work the next day, after their first follow-up examination. At this appointment, we’ll measure your vision and ensure the healing is progressing as planned, and most of our patients have better than 20/20 vision by this time.

We’ll also be able to sign you off for being able to drive again.

During the first week, you’ll need to wear eye shields to prevent you from rubbing your eyes while you’re asleep, and you’ll need to avoid things like swimming for a month to prevent any potential problems from developing.

In the unlikely event that you do experience severe pain in your eyes following your laser eye surgery, it’s important to contact your surgeon immediately.

What About LASEK Surgery?

While LASIK laser eye surgery is generally painless, both PRK and LASEK can be more uncomfortable during the recovery phase.

In LASIK surgery, a flap is created on the surface of the cornea and the excimer laser is used to reshape the tissue underneath the flap.

PRK surgery is similar to LASIK surgery in that it uses an excimer laser to reshape the cornea. During PRK, the surgeon instead removes the surface layer of the cornea (the epithelium) before performing the laser vision correction.

In LASEK surgery, the surgeon uses an alcohol solution to loosen and detach the surface layer of the corneal epithelium. The excimer laser is then used to reshape the cornea. After the laser vision correction is complete, the epithelium is replaced and will heal on its own.

Many PRK or LASEK patients say they experience an uncomfortable or gritty feeling in there eyes for up to a week after their eye surgery, whereas LASIK patients will typically be free of any discomfort within 24 to 48 hours.

However, it’s important to remember that you will be provided with eye drops that will help to ease your discomfort during your recovery from LASEK and PRK, as well as having regular checkups after the treatment itself, and the chances of experiencing severe pain are very small.

The Bottom Line

The idea of lasers reshaping the lens of your eye might seem like it could cause moderate pain, but don’t let this myth stop you from undergoing this life-changing eye surgery.

Laser eye surgery is not painful.

We use anaesthetic eye drops during the laser eye surgery procedure to numb your eyes, so all you’ll feel is some slight pressure as the lasers create the flap and reshape your corneas.

Recovery is generally pain-free, but a slight burning sensation or some mild discomfort is common in the first few hours and days after the procedure.

Your doctor will confirm whether or not there are any complications, such as developing dry eyes, during your first follow-up appointment and will ensure your eyes heal as expected.

If you’ve been wondering whether or not laser eye surgery is painful, then you can see there’s absolutely nothing to worry about, and a couple of days of discomfort feels like a small price to pay for such life changing surgery!

About the Author

Mr David Allamby is the founder and medical director of Focus Clinic - the leading provider of laser eye surgery in London. Focus’ commitment is to be the #1 clinic for vision outcome results with 100% of patients achieving 20/20 vision or even better. He is one of a limited number of UK surgeons who work in laser refractive surgery full-time.


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