Because the cornea has an amazing ability to repair itself, most patients have a quick recovery period and are back to their regular routines within a short period of time after surgery. While many of our patients are completely overwhelmed with the clarity of vision almost immediately after the procedure— to facilitate a smooth healing process, it is important to be informed about what to expect during the recovery period after laser eye surgery. If you are considering getting laser eye surgery, but are worried about the recovery period or taking time off work, this article is for you:
Does recovery hurt?
While the procedure itself is completely painless, for SMILE and LASIK, once the numbing anaesthetic drops wear off, you may begin to feel a mild itching, burning sensation and possibly feel a bit uncomfortable for 3 to 4 hours after surgery. With PRK however, the recovery is slower, and your eyes will feel uncomfortable, sore, watery and scratchy for 3-4 days after the procedure. Regardless of the type of laser eye surgery, your surgeon will give you medicated drops and lubricants to ease the discomfort and help the corneal heal.
How long will I be on medication?
For both SMILE and LASIK, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eye drops are used 4 times a day for one week. Artificial tears can be required a month or so following the procedure. If you have had PRK, you will need to take antibiotic eye drops for one week and anti-inflammatory eye drops for up to three months. Artificial tears are usually required for a month or so following the procedure.
When can I return to work?
Although most of the time when we hear the word "surgery" one of the first things that come to mind is a long, tediously recovery, in bed and binge watching tv shows for weeks, this couldn't be further from reality. Swiftly getting back to normal work is generally not an issue, as most patients will be able to return to work on the second day after LASIK or SMILE surgery. However, with PRK, most patients' visions take about 7-8 days to settle to a level suitable for returning to work.
When can I drive?
Fortunately, there's no long period of relying on public transport or your spouse or relatives to cart you around after surgery, as most people will be able to legally drive the day after SMILE and LASIK. Though, in some cases, you may feel unsure about driving so soon after SMILE or LASIK due to possible glare or residual blurring. Also, sometimes night driving may be more difficult for a few weeks due to glare. On the other hand, if you have had PRK, your vision will likely take about 7-10 days to settle to a suitable level for driving.
How soon can I play sport after laser eye surgery?
You can usually return to all your normal sports just one week after SMILE. If you had PRK or LASIK, we recommend that you avoid swimming for two weeks and contact sport for a month following the surgery.
After Surgery Care
- To help prevent infection, you may need to wait for up to two weeks after surgery before using lotions, creams, or make-up around the eye.
- You should also avoid swimming and using hot tubs or whirlpools for 1-2 months.
- While you may feel the instinctive urge to rub your eyes within the first couple of days after surgery, it is important that you don't. If you have had LASIK, rubbing your eyes could dislodge the flap, requiring further treatment.
- Use eye drops as instructed by your doctor – antibiotic eye drops can help to prevent infections from occurring, as well as helping to counteract problems with dry eyes.
- The first couple of nights after LASIK, you may be asked by your doctor to wear protective shields over your eyes, to prevent bumping your eyes during your sleep. No shields are required at all after SMILE.
Making a full recovery after laser eye surgery
Your vision will improve rapidly in the first week after surgery, but depending on the type of laser eye surgery you had, it can take one to three months to fully stabilize and around 6 months for the cornea to fully heal. Your eyes may take longer to settle if you've had a large correction. To ensure everything is healing smoothly, as you get used to your new life of greater vision without glasses, you will have another few post-op check-up appointments at 2-4 weeks and 3 months.
If you'd like to book a consultation at Auckland Eye or find out more about recovery after SMILE, PRK or LASIK, give us a call us on 0800 63 93 93.