Several years ago I had LASIK eye surgery. It was something I wanted to do for a very long time but had put off. After four weeks post-recovery I wrote this article to share all the details on the process. I’m sharing everything you need to know pre and post op about this eye corrective surgery for ideal LASIK recovery. I have included my own personal story experience so you’ll have an insider’s idea on what you might expect. Read the before and after checklist of LASIK tips that will help make your laser eye surgery recovery smoother.
I received a discounted rate from Clearview Eye and Laser Medical Centerin San Diego to facilitate this post series about laser eye surgery. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Medical procedures vary between patients; please seek a personal consultation with Clearview to see if you are a candidate for LASIK.
Considering LASIK But Wondering About Laser Eye Surgery Recovery?
In this article I’m sharing a pre-surgery and post-surgery checklist. I’ve also included a bit of what you might expect based on my personal experience with LASIK and laser eye surgery recovery. Be sure to read the first post in this series, Considering LASIK Eye Surgery? 6 Things You Need to Know.
Pre-Surgery Checklist for LASIK Vision Correction
For optimal laser eye surgery recovery, there are some things to do in the days leading up to the procedure. These are a few of the things you’ll need to arrange:
- Scheduling Your Appointment – Book the latest appointment time at the end of the day and there’s a good reason for this. After the surgery you’ll go home, take your medication, maybe eat something and go straight to bed. Your eyes will heal best with long periods of keeping them closed. Plus you aren’t able to use your phone or watch TV anyway so sleep is the best thing for you!
- Have a Driver – You must bring a driver with you as you’ll be unable to drive yourself home. You could have Uber or Lyft pick up but you’ll need to have someone else schedule the pick up because you won’t be able to see your phone! Your driver doesn’t have to wait with you the entire time. We live about 30 minutes from the Clearview office so my husband sat in the waiting room. When my surgery time was up, the staff brought him back to watch the procedure. There were other patients having the surgery whose rides didn’t come until after. The Clearview staff personally called the drivers to let them know the patient was ready for pick up.
More Pre Laser Surgery Checklist Items
- Arrange Babysitting – The Clearview office is not a place for kids. Schedule a babysitter and do not bring the kids with you for any appointments or for the procedure. In fact, I recommend getting someone to watch the kids overnight (more on that later).
- Pick Up Prescriptions & Medications – When you schedule your surgery, you’ll receive a list of post-surgery must-haves. This includes two eye drop medications (Prednisolone and Ciprofloxacin), preservative-free eye drops and a bag of frozen peas to minimize swelling. Be sure to have them ready at home because you’ll need them first thing the following morning.
- Place your eye drops in the fridge; chilled drops feel good on dry eyes! And spring for the big box of Systane Ultra Lubricant Eye Drops. You’ll be administering daily eye drops for months for optimal laser eye surgery recovery.
Every Surgery Is Different
Keep in mind that medical procedures and actual results vary between patients. This is my personal story about the LASIK surgery process and your actual experience will vary. I highly recommend talking to the doctors at Clearview Eye and Laser Center with any questions about the consultation and vetting process for prospective patients.
LASIK Surgery – My Personal Experience
I arrived for my appointment at 5 pm and was told the process would take at least 2 hours. There were quite a few people in queue so it actually took about 2 1/2 hours. After check-in, I was brought back and given one Xanax to start the relaxation process. About an hour before the surgery, the staff put my hair in a cap and put booties on my shoes. My eyes and surrounding skin were cleaned. They place cotton pads over your ears to soak up any liquid from the drops the surgeon applies during surgery. The pads keep the fluid from running into your ears.
The waiting room and especially the surgical room are kept very cold. This is for the protection of the equipment. Dress in warm, comfortable layers as you’ll likely go straight home and flop into bed. Consider a shirt with a wide neckline that will be easy to remove without rubbing across your eyes. I wore leggings, a tee and a loose sweatshirt. I still needed a blanket over me during the actual surgery because I was shivering. Each patient was given a Clearview teddy bear to hug during the surgery.
Laser Eye Surgery – Does It Hurt?
I had remained blissfully ignorant on the actual LASIK procedure. I’m sure if you REALLY want to know all the details of every step, you could find it online somewhere. But the less I knew about the surgery, the better!
I’ll give you the basics: The surgeon places a lid retractor on the eye to retract the lids and hold your eye still when the laser cuts the flap. After the cuts are made, the surgeon tapes your eyelashes open and another laser reshapes. The corneal flap is replaced and that’s it, you’re done. The entire process takes most patients about 10-15 minutes.
Does LASIK eye surgery hurt? Not at all in my case. I was given eye numbing drops and could feel a bit of pressure, but that’s all. I have very small deep set eyes so there was a bit of issue getting the lid retractor on my eye. That was the most uncomfortable part of the entire process. However it’s likely something that a majority of people would not have an issue with.
My Personal LASIK Surgery Post-Op Story
Immediately after the surgery I was led out to the sitting area where my husband was waiting. He’d watched the entire procedure on a live television screen. It showed him the magnified view that the surgeon Sandy T. Feldman had during the procedure.
A lot of people asked me, “Can you see immediately after LASIK surgery?” My immediate vision was watery and cloudy. I still needed help getting around because vision was not yet clear.
We were given instructions for what to do that night and process for the following day. The staff placed a pair of plastic goggles on my face and over that, plastic blackout glasses (like the elderly wear after cataract surgery). This was funny to me, wearing sunglasses since it was now dark outside!
Once we stepped into the night, I truly couldn’t see anything. Streetlights were dim but had enormous halos and everything else was black. My husband helped me into the car and I kept my eyes closed for the ride home. My eyes felt very tired and heavy. I could hardly open them even when I wanted to.
At Home Laser Eye Surgery Recovery
Once home, my husband helped me to bed and gave me the first dose of Halcion. This was a pain-relief medication given to me by the doctors at Clearview. I was instructed to wear the plastic goggles every night for one week. This was to ensure that I didn’t rub or bump my eyes in my sleep.
That night, I woke once. My eyes seemed to be glued shut, they were so heavy. After opening them, a flood of tears poured down my face. My husband brought me the second Halcion and I went back to sleep.
I was very glad that I didn’t have to worry about my four kids. We’d arranged for them to stay with Grandma overnight. I highly recommend having your kids taken care of elsewhere because the combination of sleep-inducing medication and the limited vision would have made it very hard for me to care for a child.
Following Day after My LASIK Vision Correction
I woke up the day after the surgery with my eyes sealed shut. Dried tears had glued my eye lashes together. I was carefully able to open them but the light made them very sensitive. I put on sunglasses and let my eyes slowly adjust. It felt best to just keep my eyes closed.
My vision on the first day was still very watery and cloudy. I had my first follow-up appointment scheduled and discussed this with the doctor after the exam. She explained that I had some fluid under the flap and that this would dissipate in time over the course of the next few days. Each day I would see more clearly.
LASIK Recovery Must-Know Tips
The first few weeks after the surgery you may want to use these tips for ultimate healing and comfort. Following this checklist post-procedure will help you get the most optimal vision after your laser eye surgery.
- Hands-Off- The plastic goggles should be worn each night for the first week to prevent you from rubbing or bumping your eyes. During the day, there should be absolutely no eye rubbing. You’ll also be instructed not to wear eye make-up for the first week.
- Get a Very Dark Pair of Sunglasses-Your eyes will be extremely sensitive to light. For the first week, I wore my sunglasses everywhere, even indoors because any light was too bright. Though I always wear sunglasses outdoors, even at four week post-op I still find that my eyes are watering when in bright sun.
- Minimize Screen Time – You may find that watching television, being on a computer or looking at your phone screen may irritate your eyes. It’s recommended to limit screen usage and to remember to continue using eye drops at least four times a day.
More Post Laser Eye Surgery Recovery Tips
- Be Diligent About the Eye Drop Medications – You’ll be instructed to apply your medicated eye drops four times a day, at breakfast, lunch, dinner and bedtime. This does make it easier to remember to take them. The eye drop medications must be taken five minutes apart (or else you’ll rinse one medication out with the application of the other). To remember to take both eye medications, I would take the drops out of the fridge and apply one (doesn’t matter which one you put in first), then put it back in the fridge. I’d return five minutes later to apply the second medication and put it back into the fridge.
- Avoid Dry Eye with Drops In-Between- In between the medications, you’ll need to apply preservative-free moisturizing eye drops. This will greatly minimize any irritation, as dry eye is a major complaint after LASIK. I would apply Systane Ultra Lubricant Eye Drops twice in between the medicated drops, a total of six times a day. This means you’re putting in eye drops 14 times a day! However I never suffered any dry eye side effects so I recommend using the drops as much as possible.
- Drink Up! – Have a bottle of water with you at all times. The drops will drain down the back of your throat, so having the water to drink frequently will keep the bitter taste at bay.
LASIK Recovery – Better Each Day!
As the doctor had mentioned at my one-day follow up, the fluid under the flap dissipated and the watery vision started to clear. In the first week I was still experiencing vision that would get sharp and then cloudy again. I was told this was completely normal and to be expected. I had some red spots on the white of my eyes that went completely away after about a week.
Each day I was able to see more clearly and sharply. It was a gradual process and something that everyone should understand about LASIK surgery. Not every person is going to heal at the same pace. Some may have very clear vision within a few days and for others it may be longer. Every patient is different and you can’t really compare.
My Three-Week Post LASIK Recovery Follow-Up
At my three-week follow-up at Clearview, Dr. Sandy T. Feldman was delighted with my vision progress. She tested my eyes and said that healing was going wonderfully. She then showed me what my vision looked like before the surgery and I was blown away. I’m thrilled with my new vision, you can’t even believe it!
Every night when I go to bed I still have the strange feeling that I’m forgetting to do something. 30 years of washing contact lenses before bed has been ingrained into my routine; it’s so weird that I don’t have to do it anymore! I wake in the morning seeing the alarm clock clearly.
I’m able to jump right out of bed and not stumble around, looking for my glasses. After a four hour drive to Pasadena for the Mom 2.0 Summit, I experienced no vision fatigue (like I always did in the past) while driving for an extended period. In the 2 years since my LASIK recovery, I’ve never had any eye fatigue while driving.
Laser Eye Surgery Recovery – 2 Years Later
A few months after my surgery, I was looking forward to a summer vacation with my family at Disney World. For the first time in my life, I was able to enjoy swimming and water parks without concern that I’d lose a contact lens. I was able to pack my luggage without lugging a giant bottle of solution!
Vacations have been amazing without having to worry about glasses or contacts. But of course it’s the daily life that’s been such a blessing for me. To wake up every day, able to see my alarm clock without squinting. I’m exercising without the sweat steaming up my glasses. And my vision is as great as the first few months after I had the LASIK surgery.
Checklist for LASIK Recovery
To follow this post series, read the first post, Considering LASIK Eye Surgery? 6 Things You Need to Know.
I highly recommend Clearview Eye and Laser Center, they’ve really exceeded my expectations. Don’t take my word for it, schedule your own complimentary consultation and see how LASIK vision correction will change your life. It’s been over 2 years since my laser eye surgery and I couldn’t be more happy with the results I’ve experienced!
This post was originally published on May 17, 2018 and has been updated and republished.