Page 24 - The UK Guide to Laser Eye Surgery
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24 How does laser eye surgery work?
With LASIK and SMILE laser eye surgery, the healing process is surprisingly short. In almost all patients, the flap (in LASIK) or the tiny tunnel (in SMILE) heals within a matter of hours after surgery. Anaesthetic drops are used to numb the eyes during surgery, so the procedure itself is totally painless. It is normal to experience a small amount of discomfort on the evening after surgery as the anaesthetic wears off, but this is rarely troublesome and painkillers are provided for use if necessary.
Most patients notice a significant vision improvement immediately after surgery, and vision continues to improve over
the next 24 - 48 hours. The rapid visual recovery time means that the vast majority of patients can return to work within 24 hours of surgery, although it will take about 3 months before the final visual outcome will be realised.
For the small minority of patients who are unsuitable for either LASIK or SMILE laser eye surgery, there are alternative ‘surface’ procedures known as PRK (photorefractive keratectomy), LASEK (laser sub-epithelial keratomileusis) and Epi-LASIK (epithelial laser in-situ keratomileusis). These procedures all involve removing the surface layer of the cornea (the epithelium), and then treating the exposed area underneath with a laser. To the patient, the main difference between LASIK or SMILE and these surface procedures is the healing time. After a surface procedure, it takes approximately 5 - 7 days for the eyes to heal, and for vision to stabilise.

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