Does The Procedure Hurt?
One of the most common worries or causes of trepidation for patients undergoing laser eye surgery is whether or not it will be painful.
After all, having surgery on your eyes can make you feel quite vulnerable, and it can be easy to assume there will be a degree of pain involved when a laser is being used. However, the good news is that most patients do not report experiencing any pain during laser eye surgery itself. While there may be an element of slight discomfort prior to and after the procedure, the surgery itself is not painful.
So what should you expect? Here, we take a look at the procedure preparations, the surgery itself along with the recovery period – if you have any questions about any of the information provided, discussing this with your surgeon prior to your treatment will help you adequately prepare.
Preparing For Your Laser Eye Surgery
As your surgeon prepares your eyes and the area around them for the treatment, you may experience some discomfort, but not pain.
This is because the surgeon will have administered anaesthetic drops to numb the eye. Some patients report that the application of these drops can sting slightly, but this sensation will past in a matter of seconds. Your eyes will be held open by an instrument during the procedure, and although this may feel a bit unnatural or unpleasant, it won’t be painful. If you have anxiety about this, a visit to your surgeon ahead of time can help you feel at ease as you are talked through the procedure. If found to be required, your surgeon could offer you a mild sedative to help you relax and feel comfortable as the instrument is fitted. The surgeon will then apply a suction ring, which will protect the eye in the event that you do move during surgery. As the laser light begins to penetrate the eye, you may experience some pressure with each blast. The procedure should take roughly five minutes per eye, with laser beams only being used for 30-40 seconds per eye, so you will not be in an uncomfortable position for long.
Recovering From Corrective Laser Eye Surgery
Once the procedure is over, you will be taken through to recovery.
While pre-operative treatments and the surgery itself may be painless, you may however experience some discomfort following the treatment. During the recovery period, you could experience symptoms including itching, stinging and dry eyes, all of which should subside with the first 24 to 48 hours after your procedure. This is completely normal, and can be managed with over-the-counter painkillers as needed. If you experience ongoing pain or itchiness however, you should report this to your ophthalmologist as this could be a sign of infection. It’s important to note that if you do feel pain or itching, you should refrain from touching your eyes as this can make it worse.
It’s important to note that the levels of pain and discomfort you may experience will depend on the type of treatment you have; patients who undergo LASEK, a more invasive form of laser eye corrective surgery, pain levels can be higher than those who have undergone something like PRK for example.
Your ophthalmologist will be able to provide you with more detail about managing pain and the recovery period, and provide you with any painkillers as needed. Once your eyes are fully healed, you can enjoy 20/20 vision without the need for glasses or contacts, and you should experience no pain or discomfort whatsoever.
What Are The Different Types Of Laser Eye Surgery?
Today, there are a number of different types of laser surgery that can be used for vision correction. Which is used to treat your condition will depend on a number of factors, and a consultation with your optometrist should make clear the best course of treatment.
Perhaps the most common type of laser eye surgery, LASIK (laser in situ keratomileusis) rose to prominence in the mid 1990s, and is used to treat both near-sightedness and long-sightedness. During the procedure, an excimer laser reshapes the cornea through a raised flap of tissue. PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) has been around prior to LASIK, but as this and other pioneering procedures have perfected the treatment, it is not as common. With PRK, the same results are achieved, only with this procedure, there is no flap of tissue created. During LASEK (laser epithelial keratomileusis), the surface layer of the cornea is retained as a flap in order to aid faster healing and lessen the risk of infection and complications. A more advanced type of LASIK known as Wavefront-guided LASIK is also available; this treatment is essentially a custom form of LASIK that, while treating the cornea and correcting your eyesight, also corrects the irregularities that can naturally occur in the eye.
What To Expect Before Surgery
Ahead of your laser eye procedure, your surgeon will provide you with some pre-operative instructions, especially if you currently wear contact lenses.
If you wear soft contacts, you will be advised to stop wearing them seven days in advance of your operation, while those wearing gas permeable rigid lenses will be told to refrain from doing so a month ahead of the surgery date. This is because contact lenses alter the shape of the cornea, the part of the eye on which you will receive treatment. This means wearing contacts can potentially impact the outcome and effectiveness of laser eye surgery.
Closer to the procedure date, you’ll be advised to eat and drink as normal, and you should make sure you have a ride home from the clinic organised as well. On the day itself, make sure to skip the eye makeup, deodorant and perfume, and wear comfortable clothing so you can sit still throughout the procedure.
What To Expect After Surgery
Following the surgery, you will be issued some post-operative care instructions to reduce the risk of infection and better the healing process.
Immediately after your surgery, you should avoid getting your eyes wet, and so you should refrain from showering or washing your hair for 24 hours after your procedure. As you do wash your hair, take care not to get soap or shampoo anywhere near your eyes. You should avoid rubbing and touching your eyes, and one way to do this is to wear any goggles or glasses you may have been given in your post-operative kit. You should avoid eye makeup and swimming for at least 10 days following surgery, and if you colour your hair, you should also refrain from doing this in the same period.
As you do begin resuming activities like exercise, you should make sure you wear eye protection the first month, and if you are outdoors, wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays that can cause scarring.