Laser eye surgery, whether it be LASIK, SMILE or ASLA (PRK), does not have instantaneous full recovery no matter what you may have heard. My patients often ask me what to expect in terms of vision and comfort and of course, when they can go back to work. I usually begin by saying that the longer you rest your eyes after laser eye surgery, the better your recovery will be. In an ideal world, you would take 3 months off after laser eye surgery and go on holiday to some South-Eastern Asian tropical island where there are no computers to look at and no air-conditioning blowing at you all day. Of course, sadly, taking 3 months off is not an option for nearly all of us, so more practically I advise at least 3 days off work and a half day for the first day back. If you work in dusty environment such as a warehouse, then at least 1 week is advisable.
Typically the first 4-6 hours after laser eye surgery, your eyes will water, be sore and gritty and be light sensitive. You will find it hard to keep your eyes open. When you think about it, your eyes are reacting in very sensible way. Keeping your eyes closed helps the eye surface heal as does the watering which acts as nature's own lubricant. Your vision will be enough for you to navigate around the room but not be 100%. LASIK has the quickest recovery rate of the 3 procedures with SMILE laser eye surgery a close second. ASLA (PRK) has the longest visual recovery, so most people take 5 days off instead of 3.
By the next day, your eyes should be comfortable enough to go out with sunglasses on and do most things. You will notice some things visually which are due to your eyes still being swollen- haloes around lights especially at night, you may have to hold your phone further away to read it and you will be more light sensitive. As your eyes settle over 1-2 weeks, then these temporary visual changes will go away. It is normal to need to use drops for dry eye for 3 months after surgery and again, working at a computer and exposure to air-conditioning may slow your recovery.
At 2 weeks after laser eye surgery, you will have a pretty good idea of how successful the surgery has been. A minority of patients do find there are still significant changes in vision over the next 4 weeks or even over 3 months. This is more common if you have had ASLA.
A common comment also is that the eyes are more sensitive to touch than normal and chopping onions causes even more crying than usual! This is because the corneal nerves are still healing and this can take up to even 6 months.
So it's important to understand that while most people will be back at work 3 days after laser eye surgery, not to expect too much from your eyes. Your eyes already heal remarkably quickly as is and I always advise taking more time off if possible to give them an extra helping hand :)
* Information on this blog is general in nature and should not be taken as professional medical advice or as a substitute for a consultation with a medical professional.