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What do you think of when you hear ‘laser eye surgery’?  Do you think of scary laser beams and needles burning your eyes? Or does that horrendous scene from Clockwork Orange come to mind? Don’t worry, because we’d like to assure you that all of this couldn’t be further from the truth! In reality, the treatment itself is pain-free, and any discomfort you may experience after SMILE or LASIK is short-lived (3-6 hours). So there really is nothing to be concerned about. Furthermore, many of our patients are surprised to hear that corrective eye surgery doesn’t actually involve any needles and there is definitely no burning involved, as the laser beam is in fact cold.

If you are thinking about getting laser eye surgery to finally ditch those annoying glasses and contacts, but your fear of the procedure is stopping you, this ‘myth buster’ article is for you…

Is there any pain before, during or after the surgery?

Although when it comes to pain, we all have different ideas about how much we can tolerate, most of our patients report that laser eye surgery does not hurt at all.


Laser eye surgery is performed using a topical anaesthetic, which just involves us putting numbing eye drops in shortly before the procedure. The eye drops are used to keep your eyes from feeling any pain or discomfort during the procedure. To keep the eyes open during the procedure, your eyes will then be held open using a sterile speculum (prop). While some patients find the idea of a prop placed between their eyelids a bit scary, it is painless, although may feel a bit odd initially. However,  once you relax you’ll soon get used to how it feels.


The laser procedure is painless. After the eye drops have been applied, the anaesthetic will be in full effect, making the surface of the eye numb. During laser surgery patients report that they do not experience any pain, although it is often described as a “weird” experience. Depending on the type of laser eye surgery, the actual time the laser is treating the eyes is usually over before you know it (25 seconds for SMILE, 30-60 seconds per eye for Lasik, 30-60 seconds for PRK). Therefore, any feeling of discomfort will be minimal and very brief. To treat both eyes the entire procedure from putting the drops to leaving the laser suite is 15-25 minutes. SMILE is quicker than LASIK

Patients will notice a burning smell during the LASIK and PRK procedure, but not for SMILE. This odour is simply caused by the laser reacting with the carbon atoms in the air around it. The laser is so precise that is can split apart molecules of collagen, releasing carbon atoms in the air. Although this reaction creates a smoke-like smell there is no actual burning and it is certainly nothing to be concerned about.


Depending on which type of laser eye surgery you have opted for, it is normal to expect some degree of discomfort after the surgery. Discomfort and an itching sensation in your eyes may occur for a few hours after the surgery. People often describe it as similar to when a contact lens is left in too long. Shortly after the surgery, don’t be alarmed if you experience some haziness or blurry vision, as this is often a common occurrence with patients immediately after the surgery for a few hours.

Don't let fear stand in your way

Many people have this idea that laser eye surgery is a risky and painful process and consequently many people let this fear prevent them from getting the treatment they need. This fear stems from a lack of knowledge about what the surgery actually involves.

Many of our patients have told us how amazed they are about how easy, quick and painless the treatment is, which is why it is imperative that you know the facts and important details about the treatment before making the decision to get laser eye surgery or not.

Just remember that the best way to prepare yourself for your corrective eye surgery and eliminate this fear is to inform yourself as much as possible, including how it will feel and what risks and complications are associated with the treatment.

To gather more information to find out if laser eye surgery is the right solution for you, book your free initial consultation at Auckland Eye on 0800255393, where our knowledgeable specialists will be happy to answer your questions.

Laser Monday, 30 Apr 2018

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