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.

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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.

The rapid regenerator we’re talking about is the cornea: the transparent, outermost layer of the eye that protects it and plays a major role in focusing your vision. It’s a true master of self-defense and self-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.

As we’re talking about the fastest healing parts of the body, we can’t not mention the tongue — or for that matter any other area inside in the mouth. Both the tongue and the cornea are incredibly rich in blood vessels and therefore allow loads of oxygen and nutrients to be carried swiftly to anywhere there’s damage.

This explains why after biting your cheek or burning your taste buds you’re okay and can taste just fine later that day. And it also explains how your eyes can take a battering from the elements day in day out and not suffer any permanent damage.

It’s the efficient healing powers of these tissues that make Laser Eye Surgery a quick recovery procedure. We can make adjustments to our vision, rid ourselves of debilitating refractive errors, and instantly see improvements — with the eye taking only hours and days to reach a recovery.

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.

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

In the short video above, Mr Glenn Carp answers the question: ‘How long will it take to get back to normal activity?’

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.

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 total recovery period after Laser Eye Surgery is around 3-6 months. 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. Of course, everyone

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 make-up 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.
  • You’ll 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. 

References:

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?

Quick guide: Laser Eye Surgery recovery

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