Undertaking laser eye surgery, including LASIK surgery, can be a daunting experience as most patients are very sensitive around the eyes. One of the most common question is whether laser eye surgery hurts. However, tens of thousands of eyes have undergone successful laser eye surgery since it was introduced, yet there are few reports of patients experiencing severe pain or even being bothered by significant discomfort. So, does laser eye surgery hurt and what should you be expecting to experience during a refractive eye surgery procedure?


How Do the Laser Eye Surgery Procedures Work?

Laser vision correction is a type of refractive eye surgery that focuses on reshaping the corneal tissue. By modifying the shape of the cornea, your surgeon can adjust the way that light bends, or refracts, through this surface. The goal is to have light focus to a sharp point right on the retina, which is how we achieve clear vision. However, the cornea also contains the highest density of sensory nerve endings in the entire human body, making it particularly sensitive to touch. So, do procedures such as LASIK hurt?

All laser eye surgery is performed under topical numbing eye drops, which are instilled over the cornea before your procedure. These anaesthetic eye drops effectively eliminate any pain during your procedure, reducing it to a mild discomfort at most.

concerns pain surgery laser eye process melbourneThere are a few different types of laser eye surgery:

  • LASIK surgery (laser assisted in situ keratomileusis)
  • PRK surgery (photorefractive keratectomy)
  • SMILE surgery (small incision lenticule extraction)

Once the numbing drops have been administered and your surgeon ensures you’re comfortable in the operating chair, you can begin your laser treatment. Depending on which procedure you’re having, your specialist may use an excimer laser, femtosecond laser, or both, to reshape the cornea. The process involves using the laser to remove precise amounts of tissue. Although this sounds painful, the numbing drops are very effective, keeping you comfortable for the entire surgery.


More About LASIK Surgery: Does LASIK Hurt?

LASIK is one of the more well-known procedures, leading many to ask does LASIK hurt. LASIK involves creating a corneal flap, either using a laser or a handheld tool, and then applying the excimer laser to the deeper corneal tissues. The corneal flap is then replaced and you will be given a protective eye shield. Despite LASIK being such an invasive procedure, the anaesthetic eye drops are highly effective at keeping you comfortable.



What To Expect After Your Surgical Procedure

Certain techniques of laser refractive surgery are associated with more pain or discomfort compared to others. For example, PRK tends to have a longer healing process compared to the SMILE or LASIK procedure simply because the entire corneal epithelium needs to regrow.

However, immediately after any form of laser surgery, once the anaesthetic drops have worn off, it can be common and normal to experience:

  • Mild discomfort
  • A burning sensation in the eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Watery eyes

The duration and intensity of these post-operative symptoms can vary from person to person, and depends on which procedure of laser refractive surgery you had. You can expect any discomfort to improve over your recovery period, but if at any point you’re not sure if what you’re experiencing is normal, contact your surgeon. This can include experiencing severe pain, deterioration of your vision, or noticing flashing lights or floating spots in your vision. Any increase in redness of your eyes or the appearance of discharge should also be assessed immediately, rather than waiting for your scheduled follow up appointment.


Managing Pain and Discomfort During The Post-Op Period

After your laser surgery, your surgeon will provide you with a list of post operation guidelines. Always follow these instructions. In general, it is safe to take some form of pain relief medication to minimise discomfort, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.

lasik eye laser treatment melbourneIf you’re experiencing dry eyes following laser eye surgery, using artificial tears can also be useful to help lubricate and protect the cornea. Your surgeon may recommend a specific brand or type of artificial tears.

Typically, you will want to find a preservative-free version to minimise preservative chemicals in the eye while it’s vulnerable and healing.

If you’re experiencing increased light sensitivity, you may experience mild discomfort where glare is present. This can be outdoors even if it’s not particularly sunny, or, for some people, indoors under harsh lighting. You can consider wearing sunglasses or lightly tinted lenses, which have the added benefit of providing some protection against UV.


Potential Complications That May Cause Pain

Although uncommon, it is not impossible to experience complications after your laser eye surgery procedure, whether LASIK or another procedure. Some complications, such as under or over correcting your prescription, are not associated with pain (though can be associated with some disappointment and inconvenience). In rare cases, the effect of these complications can result in severe pain and threaten your vision.

After your surgical procedure, your surgeon will have provided you with a prescription for certain eye drops. These include an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory. The purpose of the antibiotic is to prevent opportunistic bacterial infections while the anti-inflammatory helps manages the inflammation that occurs naturally during the recovery process. Both infections and uncontrolled inflammation in the eye can cause pain, ranging from mild pain to severe pain.

You can further reduce your risk of these complications by:

  • Wearing your protective eye shield for as long as recommended
  • Avoiding sources of contamination, such as a swimming pool or hot tub, or using cosmetics around the eyes
  • Attending all your follow up appointments for your specialist to ensure your eye is healing as expected
  • Avoiding contact sports and other rough activities, especially after LASIK treatment

It is not uncommon to have concerns about whether LASIK eye surgery or any other laser eye procedure will hurt. After all, the cornea is exquisitely sensitive. If you’re worried about your upcoming LASIK laser eye surgery, discuss this with our specialist, Dr Van Heerden during your no obligation consultation. Wait no more and contact us now on (03) 9000 0389!



Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner. 





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