LASIK eye surgery is a popular form of refractive surgery, a category of eye procedures designed to surgically correct the prescription of the eye. If you’ve been considering the LASIK procedure but are hesitant to undergo eye surgery for fear of the unknown, this article is for you. 

What Happens in LASIK Eye Surgery: Pre-Operation

The LASIK procedure begins by undergoing a comprehensive eye and vision examination with either the ophthalmologist or an optometrist. This is primarily to ensure that you are a suitable candidate for LASIK eye surgery and are not at a heightened risk for any complications as a result of the procedure for any reason.

The eyecare professional conducting your initial assessment will most likely:

  • Measure your vision and prescription. For the LASIK procedure to be safe and effective, your prescription must fall within a certain range. The ophthalmologist will also want to be sure that your vision can actually be improved through refractive surgery, and measure what that final vision might be. For example, if your vision without glasses is already optimal, your surgeon will advise you that undergoing laser eye surgery will not be able to improve it any further.
  • Assess your overall eye health. In line with ensuring that your vision can be improved with LASIK eye surgery, your eyecare professional also needs to assess whether your vision may be limited by any other eye conditions. This may include diseases such as cataract, lazy eye, or age-related macular degeneration. Vision that is reduced as a result of an eye disease is not likely to be improved by refractive surgery.

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  • Measure your corneal thickness. The LASIK procedure involves vaporising select areas of the cornea to change the way light refracts through this surface. If there is insufficient tissue to begin with, this process can put the eye at risk with a dangerously thinned cornea.

Those with thin corneas may be counselled against LASIK and instead directed to an alternative refractive procedure, such as PRK.


  • Measure your pupil diameter. Because the LASIK procedure typically results in a faint circular scar towards the edges of the cornea, those with very large pupils may be advised against choosing LASIK as their refractive surgery method. This is because the light that is able to enter the eye from the periphery of the cornea through a wide pupil can induce glare and discomfort.
  • Discuss your expectations. There are some people who anticipate that their vision after LASIK eye surgery will be even better than what they can achieve with glasses or contact lenses. Unfortunately, this is not the case. During this conversation, it is also important to discuss your expectations around your reading vision. Typically, LASIK is used to correct only long-distance vision. This means when presbyopia occurs (the natural deterioration of near focus with age), you will still need reading glasses. In some cases, a person may be suitable for Presbyond, a modified version of LASIK that provides some degree of near vision.  
  • Discuss your lifestyle and visual demands. LASIK tends not to be suitable for people who engage in occupations or activities that put them at risk of physical trauma. This may include the armed forces, martial arts, or other contact sports. Those who are often exposed to dirty environments, such as construction sites, are also generally steered away from LASIK. This is a unique eligibility criterion for LASIK, as it poses a risk to the integrity of the corneal flap created as part of the procedure. 
  • Other topics you may also like to discuss at your initial appointment include the costs of your procedure and what happens in the LASIK eye surgery recovery process. 

The LASIK Procedure 

The LASIK eye surgery procedure itself is typically quick and painless. You’ll have your eye anaesthetised with topical eye drops to make the operation more comfortable. The ophthalmologist will instruct you to fixate on a target light overhead to keep your eye steady while the high-precision instruments do their work. 

The first step in a LASIK procedure is to create a flap of superficial corneal tissue. This flap remains attached to the eye rather than being removed entirely. The flap can be formed by using either a manual tool or a computer-guided femtosecond laser. After being gently lifted to the side, the excimer laser can then perform a process known as photoablation on the deeper corneal tissues. This is the process of vaporising calculated areas of the cornea in order to modify its shape. It’s the alteration in the curvature of the cornea that makes laser eye surgery successful, as it changes the way that light focuses through the eye. 

Once photoablation is complete, the corneal flap is then repositioned. Usually, stitches are unnecessary as the flap is designed to self-seal. You will then have a protective shield placed over your eyes and be given medicated eye drops to support their recovery and healing. 

Immediately after the procedure, many people are pleased to find their vision is already much improved without their glasses compared to prior to the operation. However, you should still expect your vision to stabilise and clear further over the following weeks. If at any point you feel increasing pain or decreasing vision, it’s important to contact your eye care professional immediately.

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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