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Eyes wide open: “Do I really have to be awake during Laser Eye Surgery?”

targeting corneal tissue in laser eye surgery

If Laser Eye Surgery didn’t scare you enough thanks to its unfortunate name, then the fact that you have to be awake during the entire thing should do it.

In fact, surveys have shown that this is one of the most common reasons people decide against treatment, even before having an initial consultation.

The fact is most surgical procedures require anaesthetic, and other than a few numbing eye drops, Laser Eye Surgery is performed whilst patients are fully conscious. 

Just like its name, however, the reality of being awake during Laser Eye Surgery is nowhere near as scary as it sounds.

Whilst we can certainly appreciate that being awake during a surgical procedure doesn’t sound like much fun in any case, Laser Eye Surgery is far from your typical surgical procedure. Starting with the fact it takes just several minutes to perform.

But the real gamechanger is that Laser Eye Surgery in expert hands is painless and, moreover, being conscious during the procedure does not in any way put you at any risk or mean you can somehow mess the whole thing up — even if you try your best to.

Opening Your Eyes to The Reality of Safe & Pain-free Laser Eye Surgery

After having Laser Eye Surgery, the first thing many people say, apart from “wow”, is that they were pleasantly surprised by how easy and painless the whole thing was.

As well as being designed as a minimally-invasive procedure, to avoid any discomfort, anaesthetic eye drops are applied to your eyes prior to surgery. This means you’ll feel very little during the actual procedure. And in the effort to make you feel as comfortable as possible, your laser eye surgeon will also communicate with you throughout, explaining the process step-by-step (Our patients often report that our chocolate biscuits and complimentary massage also helped them to relax!)

Expectedly, one of the most common fears about being awake during Laser Eye Surgery is that you might somehow compromise the result by sneezing, coughing, or moving at precisely the wrong moment.

However, leading clinics only use the most up-to-date technology, including a system that tracks the movement of your eye at more than 4,000 times per second. This ensures meticulous accuracy and means that there is virtually nothing you could do to put yourself at risk during the procedure — even if you spontaneously started playing tennis.

Laser Eye Surgery may appear like any other date with the GP or at the hospital. But the treatment is so popular and revolutionary because it pushes the boundaries of modern science, not just in technology but experience too — it’s even been described as being more pleasant than going to the dentist!

That being said, undergoing any kind of surgery is a scary prospect, and Laser Eye Surgery is still a big decision.

Have a Laser Eye Surgery question you’d like to ask the experts? Contact our team by sending us an email or calling us on 020 7224 1005. 

For 2017, we have updated this article to ‘Quick guide: Laser Eye Surgery and anxiety’

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Eyes wide open: “Do I really have to be awake during Laser Eye Surgery?”

  1. Jamie Howard 10/02/2015 at 21:29

    I don’t like having my eyes touched but I want to have the surgery will you be able to do anything about that?

    • London Vision Clinic 12/02/2015 at 17:24

      Hi Jamie,

      Over the years we have treated several patients who have ‘eye-phobias’ or don’t like having their eyes touched. Obviously the nature of the procedure means that we can’t avoid touching the eyes, but anaesthetic drops are used to numb them, so that the patient doesn’t feel any pain or discomfort. We would encourage you to come in and see us for a consultation, as we are experts in managing all sorts of anxieties relating to laser eye surgery, and you may well find that the treatment doesn’t sound as bad as you are expecting!

      If you have further questions, or would like to discuss your options in more detail, please do give us a call on 020 7224 1005, or email

      Kind regards,

      London Vision Clinic

  2. Sumayyah 28/08/2015 at 16:50

    What happens if I blink? This is really scary for me because I’m only fourteen! Can you give me some more information or send it to my email?? Thanks.

    • Bethany Kingsley 18/05/2016 at 15:58

      Hi Sumayah,

      I am afraid we do not treat patients under 18. However, to answer your questions, if you blink then the laser would simply stop as it is tracking your eye at all times. Your eye is held open by an eye speculum so you can’t really blink.


      London Vision Clinic

  3. Joseph 01/07/2016 at 20:40

    I understand it’s possible to do while being awake. However, I am very sensitive and the nervous system of my family is a bit whacky. Normal sedatives don’t work with my family, and we have to be knocked out to not experience any pain.

    Is it possible to do the surgery while the patient is asleep, or do they have to be awake?

    • Bethany Kingsley 02/07/2016 at 09:51

      Hi Joseph,

      Thank you for your comment. You do need to be awake for the procedure and we would have to assess the effectiveness on the drops before proceeding with surgery to ensure that you were comfortable throughout. If you would like to go through this or have any other questions, please call one of our Patient Care Coordinators on 0207 224 1005.


      London Vision Clinic

  4. Cody Dirkson 29/08/2016 at 10:05

    What all happens during the procedure?

  5. Matt 10/10/2016 at 10:57

    It all looks good and I think that it can help me out a lot. But I am scared of the procedure. Is there any way that you can knock me out whilst you do it.
    Thanks Matt

    • Bethany Kingsley 10/10/2016 at 11:47

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, you do have to be awake for the procedure. We have treated a lot of patients who have been nervous and have previously never had someone touch their eyes as they are so nervous. Due to the expertise of the staff at the clinic they have sailed through the process and usually comment on how easy it was. My advice to you would be to have a consultation to determine your suitability first and then take it from there. Please call the clinic on 0207 224 1005 if you have any further questions.

      London Vision Clinic

  6. Chich 23/12/2016 at 20:37

    How comes you don’t blink in laser eye surgery. I understand that you hold it open but your eyes must get dry and you need to blink. Please answer I am very confused.

    • Bethany Kingsley 03/01/2017 at 10:48

      Hi Chich,

      Drops are put in to your eyes before, during and after the procedure. The procedure is over so quickly that your eyes do not get dry from being held open. Please call the clinic on 0207 224 1005 if you have any further questions.

      London Vision Clinic

  7. Shirley Mills 28/04/2019 at 13:11

    I’m considering this. However, I have fibromyalgia & I get body jerks, spasms, cramps & the shakes (however, some days the condition doesnt really effect me though). I know the eye is held open but I’ve read that you have to stare straight ahead or on the same spot the whole time. What happens if I’m unable to do this or my eye jerks?

    • Chloe Lay 15/05/2019 at 15:23

      Hi Shirley,
      Fibromyalgia is not a contraindicator but it can delay the healing process.
      We would need to know more about your eyes, such as whether you currently suffer from dry eyes, before suggesting whether you would be a suitable candidate, one of our Patient Care Coordinators would be able to go into further detail with you. There is an eye tracker built into the laser which cuts out should you look away.
      I would recommend you call to speak with us for more information on 020 7224 1005.

      Best wishes,
      London Vision Clinic