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Does Laser Eye Surgery Hurt?

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A woman and her eye surgeon preparing for laser eye surgery

Laser eye surgery is a common procedure that uses a specialized laser to correct vision errors like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. It can reduce your need for corrective lenses.

While any surgery can be daunting, laser eye surgery is generally considered safe and relatively painless. Most patients report feeling only minor discomfort during surgery.

What Is Laser Eye Surgery?

Refractive errors are caused by an irregular eye shape, which affects how light rays are focused onto the retina. Laser eye surgery aims to correct these issues by reshaping the cornea, the clear outer layer of the eye. 

The procedure uses a specialized laser to remove or vaporize microscopically thin layers of tissue from the cornea, flattening or slightly steepening it. 

Laser eye surgery is performed without making large incisions or needing stitches, promoting faster healing and fewer opportunities for infection. It’s a versatile solution for those who wear glasses or contact lenses but don’t want to fully rely on these correction methods. 

However, it’s important to have realistic expectations of laser eye surgery. While most people don’t need corrective lenses afterwards, our eyes continue to change as we age, so you may require reading glasses or prescription lenses in your mid-forties. 

Types of Laser Eye Surgery

Several types of laser eye surgery are available, with LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis) and PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) being the most common. 

LASIK uses a laser to create a flap in the cornea to access the underlying tissue, which is then reshaped to correct vision. This flap is then replaced and acts as a natural bandage, promoting faster healing.

PRK removes the thin outer layer of the cornea and reshapes the underlying tissue. This method is recommended for those with thinner corneas or who may not be candidates for LASIK.

LASIK and PRK have unique benefits, recovery times, risks, and complications, which you can discuss with your eye doctor. 

Other laser eye surgery options include LASEK (laser-assisted subepithelial keratectomy) and SMILE (small incision lenticule extraction). These procedures may be suitable for individuals with specific eye conditions or those not eligible for LASIK or PRK.

What Can Laser Eye Surgery Correct?

Laser eye surgery can correct mild to moderate refractive errors, including:

  • Nearsightedness or myopia: When the eye grows too long, your distance vision will be blurry while your near vision is clear.
  • Farsightedness or hyperopia: When your eye is too short, your distance vision will be clear while your near vision is blurry.
  • Astigmatism: Your vision is distorted at all distances because of an irregularly shaped cornea. 

What Does Laser Eye Surgery Feel Like?

Pain feels different to different people. During the laser eye surgery procedure, you will be awake, but you will be given anesthetic drops to numb your eyes before the procedure, so the surgery itself should be painless.

You shouldn’t feel any pain with numbing, but you may feel pressure during the procedure. After the surgery, you may feel discomfort or mild pain when the numbing wears off.

Laser eye surgery is safe, but it’s important to be aware of some potential side effects. These can include temporary dry eyes, slight variations in night vision, or the possibility of infection. Dry eyes are usually temporary, and various treatment options can help to manage symptoms. 

How to Manage Discomfort from Prep to Recovery

Providing a comprehensive approach to comfort for laser eye surgery begins long before the procedure and continues after. 

Pre-Operative Measures

Part of a smooth laser eye surgery is to prepare before the procedure. This can involve avoiding certain eye products in the days leading up to the surgery as per your eye doctor’s recommendations. They may also recommend a list of medications to avoid. 

Post-Operative Care

After laser eye surgery, you can experience common symptoms such as burning, itchiness, or general discomfort similar to feeling like something is in the eye. Here are some best practices for after laser eye surgery:

  • Take your prescribed eye drops to reduce the risk of infection and to manage any discomfort. 
  • Schedule a follow-up appointment after your laser eye surgery to monitor recovery.
  • Wear a protective eye shield to stop yourself from rubbing your eyes.
  • Contact your eye doctor immediately if you experience pain or your vision worsens. 
An optometrist talking to her patient in an exam room

Vision Correction with Laser Eye Surgery

In most cases, for many who have undergone laser eye surgery, it’s a painless procedure with only mild discomfort and pain after the procedure when the numbing wears off. The benefit of laser eye surgery is the ability to see without the crutch of glasses or the daily routine of contacts. 

If you’re interested in laser eye surgery, book an appointment with our team at Mint Eyecare to talk about your eye health and vision goals and see if you’re a candidate for LASIK or PRK. 

Written by Mint Eyecare

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