With the procedure lasting seconds, LASIK eye surgery causes little to no discomfort. The eyes are treated with drops containing local anesthetic to numb the ocular tissues before LASIK begins.
While patients may experience mild to moderate pressure during the surgery, most report no pain. Research suggests the perception of pain could be psychological for some patients and also depends on the type of eye drops, gel or other anesthetic used during and after LASIK.
Laser Eye Center™ offers all-laser, bladeless LASIK, and our practice is a trusted name in the Los Angeles area. Our ophthalmologists have performed more than 500,000 successful procedures and trained other renowned doctors in the region. We have a 30-year history of safe and effective refractive and cataract surgery and are seen as pioneers in Modern LASIK. Our specialists can answer your LASIK questions during your consultation, including questions about pain perception during and after laser vision correction.
How Patients Perceive Pain During LASIK Eye Surgery
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery investigated how 154 patients perceived pain during LASIK. The LASIK procedure was performed sequentially for both eyes in each patient. Eye surgeons started on the right eye in 106 patients and the left eye in 48 patients. Researchers asked patients to grade their pain and compared the results for each eye.
These participants said they experienced some discomfort during the suction portion of the procedure, which happens after numbing eye drops are administered and involves placing a vacuum ring on the ocular globe (eye). When it came time for vision correction on the second eye, 74% of patients reported more pain, with just 2% saying the surgery on the first eye was more painful and 24% saying the discomfort was equal. This perception of pain was higher during the second LASIK procedure regardless of which eye was operated on first, and blood pressure was also higher.
This study suggests pain perception during LASIK may have a psychological explanation because there’s no apparent reason patients should report more pain during LASIK on the second eye.
Patients who are anxious or nervous about their LASIK eye surgery may request anti-anxiety medications to ease their nerves.
Does the Type of Anesthetic Matter?
Another 2012 study published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology compared pain scores in patients who received 2% lidocaine gel in one eye, and 0.5% proparacaine eye drops (local anesthetic) in the other during LASIK. Researchers recruited 51 patients and recorded pain scores during flap creation with a microkeratome (oscillating blade), laser ablation (reshaping the cornea with a laser) and again 15, 30 and 45 minutes after the procedure.
Patients reported significantly less pain in the eye treated with 2% lidocaine gel during LASIK and 30 and 45 minutes after the eye surgery. The lidocaine-treated eye also required less additional local anesthesia and was more cooperative with treatment than the control eye. Lidocaine gel may lower discomfort during and after LASIK, but it’s important to note that no complications were observed between both groups.
A previous study in 2009 published in the Journal of Refractive Surgery evaluated the impact of ketorolac tromethamine 0.4% eye drops (brand name Acular LS manufactured by Allergan) in managing pain before and during LASIK. Patients used two unmarked bottles before surgery: one with Acular LS and the other with Refresh Tears as a control. They used each bottle in a specified eye four times a day starting two days before their LASIK surgery, then again just before the procedure and after laser vision correction. The eyes that received the ketorolac drops experienced significantly lower pain levels than the tears group, demonstrating that Acular LS may dramatically reduce discomfort associated with the LASIK procedure and postoperative period.
Lidocaine gel during LASIK or the use of Acular LS eye drops before and after LASIK may further reduce discomfort experienced by patients during laser vision correction. Our eye surgeons will discuss your anesthetic options during your LASIK consultation and answer any questions you may have about the sensations experienced during the procedure.
Postoperative Pain: Does LASIK Hurt Afterward?
Most patients experience little to no discomfort after laser vision correction, but minor burning or stinging sensations may occur once the anesthetic wears off. Some patients may have mild pain or discomfort while their vision stabilizes and the eyes heal, but overall, LASIK and LASIK recovery is considered a relatively pain-free process with most patients resuming their normal routine and activities after a short nap, and with the benefit of perfect vision!
Any aftereffects and discomfort are usually gone by the follow-up appointment, which tends to happen 24 to 48 hours after LASIK. Rarely, patients may have side effects that linger for a few more days; they are encouraged to reach out to us if the pain worsens or drags on longer than one week after LASIK.
A 2015 study published in Clinical Ophthalmology investigated ocular pain after laser vision correction. Aside from discomfort, patients often experience temporary light sensitivity, burning sensation, tearing and a sense of a foreign object in the eye after LASIK. This study used a structured questionnaire given to 73 LASIK patients and found:
- 97% reported postoperative pain ranging from 2 to 10 on the pain scale
- 85% experienced photophobia (light sensitivity)
- 62% burning sensation
- 59% tearing
- 48% foreign body sensation
- 44% reported some discomfort during the procedure
Essentially, these symptoms and some perceptions of pain may happen after LASIK surgery, but the duration is short-lived. The vast majority of patients are satisfied with their LASIK results and would choose the procedure again to enjoy visual freedom from contact lenses and prescription glasses. Most of these side effects are gone within a few hours or days of LASIK eye surgery, and patients enjoy excellent vision for years to come.
Schedule Your LASIK Consultation at Laser Eye Center™
If you’re interested in LASIK, contact our experienced eye surgeons in Los Angeles, California, to schedule a consultation. Laser Eye Center™ can help you achieve perfect, independent vision free from corrective eyewear. Call (800) 805-2737 to start your journey to visual freedom today.
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