Quick guide: Laser Eye Surgery recovery

the snellen test chart

Which part of the body heals the fastest?

How about the skin: the largest organ in the body and our outer barrier to the world that has to endure scratching, scrapes, cuts, abrasions, burns, and a whole heap of abuse every day.

Or what about something like the liver? Our largest internal organ that never stops filtering blood, supporting the digestive system, and detoxifying the barrage of chemicals and toxins we pound it with.

Well, although superficial scrapes on the skin can heal within a week, even minor cuts can take a while to repair. And even though the liver is the body’s only internal organ that can repair itself, again it isn’t going to win any awards for speed — taking around 30 days to heal a damaged area.

While there are a few areas of the body which have an amazing ability to recover, the rapid regenerator we are talking about is the cornea. The cornea is the transparent, outermost layer of the eye that protects it and plays a major role in vision. It’s a true master of self-defence and healing, equipped with its own adjustable shield to guard against light and debris, a layer of antibacterial fluid to fight off infections, and the amazing ability to repair itself within 48 hours.

With that being said, both SMILE and LASIK procedures cause minimal disturbance to the outer layer of the cornea and therefore we do not often have to rely on these repair mechanisms. The result is most patients notice improved vision immediately after surgery and are back to regular daily activities by the next morning.

In this brief guide, we’re going to take a closer look at this process, answering common questions, pointing out possible side effects you may experience, and providing you with all you need to know for a swift and successful recovery.

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Answered: The most common questions about recovering from Laser Eye Surgery

So just how quickly does the eye heal after Laser Eye Surgery? When can you get back to work and do things like get on a plane? In the section below we answer some of the questions we hear most about recovering from Laser Eye Surgery:

How long is the recovery process?

The exact length of your recovery depends on individual factors like your age and treatment type. But for most patients, they’re back enjoying their normal routine the day after surgery and their eyes have recovered to around 80 percent full health within the first week.

When can I get back to work?

The majority of patients are fully fit to return to work within 24-48 hours after the procedure. It’s recommended to take the day of the surgery and the day after off work, depending on factors like your expected recovery rate and if you have a morning, afternoon, or evening procedure. Also, be sure to manage your screen time and use the appropriate eyewear.

How soon can I fly after the procedure?

You’re able to fly as soon as the day after the procedure. However, as the air in the cabin is very dry, it’s recommended to use lots of drops to keep your eyes well lubricated and stop them from drying out.

Does each eye heal at the same rate?

Due to the natural healing process of the cornea, and the fact that each eye is a separate organ that’s treated independently from the other, the healing rate of each eye can marginally vary. But in most cases, there isn’t any noticeable difference.

Laser Eye Surgery side effects

In the video above, Mr Glenn Carp explains the night time side effects that everyone will experience following Laser Eye Surgery.

When corneal tissue is removed from the eye, it triggers the body’s natural healing processes and causes an inflammatory response. This is when we get swelling.

Swelling is an important part of the recovery process as it promotes healing, but it can also give rise to a handful of unwanted effects. It is important to note, the swelling is not visible to the naked eye.

These effects are mild and temporary and can occur during the days and weeks following surgery. They include dry eyes, light sensitivity, vision fluctuations, and glare like halos and starbursts at night.

Dry eyes

Of all the temporary effects of Laser Eye Surgery, dry eyes is the most common — which is why we provide eye drops. It’s advised to keep your eyes well lubricated with the drops and to use them when you feel any mild discomfort or irritation, for instance when in an air-conditioned room or using a screen for prolonged periods of time. Dry eye symptoms usually resolve within 3-6 months but can persist for a year in some cases.

Light sensitivity

Some light sensitivity is expected after Laser Eye Surgery, and it will normally reduce within the first 12-24 hours. During this time, patients are recommended to avoid overly bright, harsh lighting and wear sunglasses if it’s sunny out.

Fluctuating vision

You’re likely to experience some blurred vision immediately after the procedure, which will decrease as your vision stabilises. It’s also not uncommon to experience a slight dip in vision quality a few days after surgery — this is a normal part of the healing process and is nothing to worry about.

Halos and starbursts

Halos and starbursts are types of glare that can appear in low-light conditions and at night. Halos are the glowing rings you see around lights; starbursts are the star like glare. Each is a result of the swelling from the surgery and is therefore experienced by every patient and will begin to disappear at it settle downs over the first few weeks.

The Laser Eye Surgery recovery timeline

The recovery process after Laser Eye Surgery ends at around 2 weeks. But don’t be disheartened: this is only the time it takes until your eyes and vision reach 100 percent. In just the first few days following treatment, your vision will improve to near-optimal levels.

Below is our general recovery timeline for patients who undergo LASIK surgery. Use it to get an idea of when you can return to your normal routine and engage in certain activities. If you have a question about a particular activity or event, ask us in the comments below or contact us.

First 24 hours after surgery

  • You’ll notice immediate improvements in your vision after the procedure. For the first few hours, it can also be slightly foggy or blurry, so it’s recommended to rest and keep your eyes closed.
  • Avoid opening your eyes and get picked up from the clinic by a friend. It’s advised not to take the underground but taxis and overground trains are permissible.
  • You can return to light activity in the home, but be careful to avoid rubbing your eyes or doing any activity that could lead to something touching or poking your eyes.
  • To prevent eye strain, avoid all screens — TV’s, smartphones, tablets, computers — and any activities like reading that require intensive use of your eyes.
  • It’s advised to take a bath instead of a shower to prevent soap and water irritating the eyes.
  • As the cornea is in the early stages of recovery, expect a slight blur in your vision that usually settles down within 24 hours.
  • Use the time to get into a good drop routine and recognise things like air conditioning that can dry out your eyes.

The day after surgery

  • You can read and watch TV as long as you use the lubricating eye drops provided to stop your eyes from drying out.
  • Ask a friend or family member for a ride to the clinic for your first post-operative visit. Again, grabbing a taxi or taking the overground is okay but not the Tube.
  • The surgeon will sign you off to resume most day-to-day activities like taking public transport and driving.
  • You can return to work but be sure to use the proper safety eyewear and if using a screen keep your eyes well lubricated with the eye drops.
  • Flying is again acceptable, but keep the eye drops on hand as the air is very dry inside the cabin.

Day 3 after surgery

  • By this time the cornea has regained much of its strength and you can hit the gym and do light exercise like jogging, stationary cycling, and lifting light weights.
  • Things like showering and wearing make-up and perfume are once again allowed.
  • The cornea is still in recovery mode so it’s important to prevent anything like sweat or eye makeup getting into your eyes and avoid rubbing or touching them.
  • Most active and team sports are still off the cards.
  • As your eyes continue to heal over the next few weeks, some blurriness and fluctuation in vision may occur. Take extra care especially when driving in low light conditions.
  • Apart from vigorous exercise and taking extra care with your eyes, life is pretty much back to normal.

Week 2 after surgery

  • Effects like night glare gradually disappear over the next few weeks and will continue to be assessed at your aftercare check-ups.
  • The cornea will have healed further, making it safe for sports like swimming, football, tennis, squash, mountain biking, scuba diving, snorkelling, sailing, and skiing (with the appropriate eye-wear).
  • Avoid high-impact sports such as rugby, boxing, martial arts, water-skiing, and extreme sports until at least one month after the procedure.
  • Ask your surgeon if you are unsure whether it’s safe to resume certain activities.

3-6 months after surgery

  • Dry eye symptoms typically last for 3 to 6 months, but some patients (approximately 5%) require lubricants for 6 to 12 months for comfort. There is a small chance that dryness may persist longer than this due to the intrinsic health of the eyelids and tear film itself. It is important to note that particularly in the presbyopic age group (above 40) dry eye develops naturally as we get older and therefore about 1% of people will feel permanently drier after having had surgery; not actually as a direct result of surgery but rather a parallel process between the surgical dry eye of the first 6-12 months and the natural progression of dry eye that would have occurred anyway. We will do everything we can to help normalise your tear film and dryness with respect to the surgical recovery.
  • You will have aftercare appointments at the three-month and six-month mark, and a final check-up after twelve months. This is dependent on each appointment and the recommendation of your Surgeon and/or Optometrist.

When you think of getting back to health after surgery you think of chicken soup and lengthy periods in bed, but patients of Laser Eye Surgery are continually amazed by how quickly and smoothly the recovery process goes. With just a little bit of rest and extra care for your eyes, as quickly as it takes to perform the procedure you’ll be going about your life and enjoying the endless rewards of your new vision.

Have a question about recovering from Laser Eye Surgery? Ask us in the comments below! Or, if you’d like to book a consultation, contact one of our friendly Patient Care Coordinators. 


What is the Laser Eye Surgery recovery time?
Recovery after Laser Eye Surgery
How quickly do you recover from Laser Eye Surgery?
Should I expect both eyes to heal at the same rate?
How long will it take to get back to normal activity?
How long will I need to take off work?
What is the risk of a complication during Laser Eye Surgery?

Dr Tim Archer
Dr Tim Archer

Dr Timothy Archer graduated from Oxford and Cambridge Universities with an undergraduate degree in Mathematics and a postgraduate degree in Computer Science. He joined the clinic in 2003, where he established his career specialising in laser refractive surgery research alongside Professor Reinstein. Today, he manages the in-house research team, of which achievements include 124 peer-reviewed papers, 32 book chapters, over 100 scientific articles and a published textbook. He also oversees and edits the content on London Vision Clinic’s website.

Quick guide: Laser Eye Surgery recovery