A person’s eye usually takes 2–3 months to heal after laser-assisted in situ keratomileuses (LASIK) surgery. Their vision is usually clear the day after the procedure, but doctors will look for signs of inflammation during healing.

A black and white image of a person with their eyes closed, and light reflecting over their eyesShare on Pinterest
Yana Iskayeva/Getty Images

LASIK is a surgical procedure that uses lasers to correct certain vision problems. LASIK surgery is a common treatment for people with vision problems due to refractive errors.

During the procedure, a surgeon uses a laser to change the shape of the cornea. This can help make a person’s vision clearer. For most people, vision is clear and stable around 6 months after surgery.

In this article, we outline what a person can expect in the period after LASIK surgery. We also outline possible side effects and steps a person can take to manage their recovery.

A person can expect to experience different effects at various points after the procedure.

Immediately after

In the period immediately after LASIK surgery, a person may experience the following:

The eyes may also tear or water during this period, and vision may be hazy or blurry. People’s eyes may be sensitive to light for the first few days.

A medical professional may give a person eye drops to help ease pain after surgery.

They may also ask the person to wear a clear shield over their affected eye for several nights to help protect the eye while they sleep.

24–48 hours after

A person will often see their eye doctor within the first 24–48 hours after surgery.

During this first visit, the doctor may test the person’s vision and examine their eye. They may also give the person more eye drops, which can help prevent infection or inflammation.

A doctor may recommend using artificial tears to help lubricate the eye and ease discomfort after surgery.

People should avoid wearing contact lenses in the eye that received the surgery.

In most cases, a person can return to work the day after the procedure.

People must wait up 1–3 days before playing any noncontact sports. This will depend on the amount of activity required, how a person feels, and a doctor’s guidance.

13 weeks after

For the first several weeks after surgery, it is common for a person to experience the following:

Up to 6 months after

It generally takes 2–3 months for the eye to heal after LASIK, and a person’s vision will get clearer as the healing occurs. In most cases, a person’s vision is stable and clear around 6 months after surgery.

A person will often have regular follow-up visits with their eye doctor for up to 6 months. Sometimes, these visits will continue for longer, depending on a person’s recovery.

During these visits, a specialist will check the following:

  • whether a person’s vision has improved
  • how the eyes are healing
  • whether the person is experiencing any side effects from the treatment

If a person has experienced side effects such as dry eyes or visual disturbances, these will usually disappear within the first few months after surgery.

Beyond 6 months after surgery, if a person is still experiencing vision issues, their eye doctor may recommend they undergo another laser surgery procedure, called an enhancement. This is a similar procedure to LASIK that aims to fine-tune the person’s eyesight.

Several possible LASIK surgery complications may affect a person’s recovery.

Flap dislocation

During LASIK surgery, the surgeon will make a small flap on the surface of a person’s eye. They then lift the flap temporarily so they can treat the tissue beneath it with the lasers.

The flap begins to heal immediately after the surgery.

In rare cases, a person may experience a flap dislocation during recovery. This is where the flap moves from its intended place.

Flap dislocation occurs in approximately 1–2% of people who have LASIK surgery. The highest risk of flap dislocation is on the first day after the operation. However, it can happen at any time, with some cases occurring 14 years after the operation.

Flap dislocation may cause a person to experience the following:

Medical professionals often consider flap dislocation an emergency. Immediate treatment is important to help prevent possible complications. A doctor usually performs a surgical procedure to reposition the flap.

This complication may affect a person’s recovery time as they will have to wait for the flap to heal again.

Dry eye

Dry eye is the most common complication of LASIK surgery.

Symptoms of dry eye include:

  • decreased time for the eyes to become dry after each blink
  • reduced sensitivity of the cornea
  • decreased sharpness of vision

These symptoms often last for around 1 month after LASIK surgery. However, a small number of people can experience these symptoms for a year or longer.

Infections

LASIK surgery is generally safe. However, in some very rare cases, a person may develop an infection in their eye after the procedure. Less than 0.1% of people develop infections after LASIK.

To lower their risk of developing an eye infection, a person should follow medical advice on postoperative care.

A doctor may ask a person to follow several steps to help them aid their recovery after LASIK surgery.

These steps may include the following:

  • avoiding the use of lotions, creams, or makeup around the eye for 2 weeks
  • continuing to scrub eyelashes for some time after surgery
  • avoiding swimming and hot tub use for 1–2 months
  • avoiding strenuous activities, such as boxing, football, and karate, for at least 4 weeks after surgery
  • ensuring nothing gets in the eyes in the first few weeks
  • protecting the eyes from being hit or bumped

A person will also instinctively want to rub their eye in the first few days after surgery. However, they should not do this, as it may dislodge the flap.

Not following the steps above may lengthen a person’s recovery time.

There are several types of laser eye surgery, including:

LASIK

During LASIK surgery, a surgeon makes a very small flap in the tissue of the cornea. They lift this flap back and hold it in place.

The surgeon then reshapes the cornea using a laser. Once complete, the surgeon folds the flap back down and smoothes it into position, where it will heal in place.

Photorefractive keratectomy

Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) is an outpatient procedure that usually takes around 15 minutes.

During this procedure, the doctor removes the outer layer of cells on the cornea. They can do this with the following:

  • a brush
  • a blade
  • an alcohol solution

The doctor will then ask the person to stare at a target light, so their eyes do not move while the doctor reshapes the cornea using a laser.

Read more about the differences between LASIK and PRK.

Small incision lenticule extraction

Small incision lenticule extraction is a slightly newer type of laser surgery for refractive errors.

During this procedure, a doctor will use a suction ring to lift and flatten the cornea before sculpting a disc-shaped piece of the cornea below the surface of the eye using a laser.

The laser makes a small incision in the cornea, giving the surgeon access to the disc the laser formed.

The surgeon will then remove the disc-shaped piece of the cornea through the incision. This process reshapes the cornea.

During LASIK surgery, a doctor makes a small flap in the eye to reveal the tissues underneath. They can then use a laser to reshape a person’s cornea to adjust a refractive error.

The eye usually takes 2–3 months to heal afterward, and a person’s vision is often fully stable and clear around 6 months later. However, they may experience some effects in the first few weeks and months after the surgery, such as blurred vision, changes to vision, and visual glares.

Certain factors may affect a person’s recovery time, such as flap dislocation, dry eye, and infections.