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Does LASIK Eye Surgery Hurt?

March 15, 2022

Laser eye surgery reshapes the front surface of the eye, the cornea, to correct nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), and astigmatism. Laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) is one of the most common types of refractive eye surgeries performed today. The decreased dependence on glasses and contact lenses entices hundreds of thousands of Americans to get LASIK every year. The thought of having surgery on your eyes is never comforting, though. Does LASIK hurt? Is there a painful price one must pay for clear vision?

Why Do People Think That LASIK Hurts?

Why Do People Think That LASIK Hurts

You may have heard horror stories about laser eye surgery, which leads people to think that LASIK is painful. That’s an urban legend! How did the idea ever come about then? Well, while corneal refractive surgery may have been painful at one point in time, it is no longer. Refractive surgical techniques have been evolving since the 1960s. LASIK wasn’t even approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) until 1999, so it’s been a long time coming. Procedures that were used prior to the advent of LASIK did, in fact, involve some degree of discomfort, so it’s no wonder people ask, does laser eye surgery hurt?

What Can Cause Pain During Surgery?

In general, pain during surgery is caused by a lack of anesthetic. Does eye surgery hurt? It depends on the type of surgery performed and how well the patient is anesthetized. Some eye surgeries require anesthesia of the whole body, while LASIK only requires anesthesia of the eyes. Because very little tissue is manipulated during surgery, the anesthetic can be applied topically and provide excellent pain control. In addition, a sedative is often given by mouth for relaxation throughout the procedure. That means you’ll be awake for the entire surgery, which is important, as you’ll be asked to look at a target in the process, but the procedure itself is relatively comfortable.

So, is LASIK painful? How much does LASIK hurt? You’ll be comforted to hear that pain is not usually an issue with LASIK. Very little tissue is being operated on, and although the cornea is sensitive, medications are used to optimize patient comfort.

If It Doesn’t Hurt, Then How Uncomfortable is LASIK?

How Uncomfortable is LASIK

So, just how painful is LASIK? With the use of topical numbing drops and oral sedation it shouldn’t be. However, there will still be some awareness and sensation of the procedure being performed. A device is used to gently hold the eyelids open and prevent blinking during surgery, which may cause a pressure sensation. The eye is kept lubricated throughout the process to prevent dryness and discomfort. You will feel pressure while the flap is being created on the cornea, but this shouldn’t cause any discomfort due to the numbing drops. The laser treatment itself is not painful either. Some people find the sounds to be anxiety-provoking, but the sedative helps to take the edge off.

Does LASIK Hurt After Surgery?

If there is no pain during LASIK, does laser eye surgery hurt after it’s been performed? It is normal to have some discomfort the first couple of hours immediately following your treatment. Patient’s will be given oral pain medication to help minimize discomfort. With the oral sedative still in your system, most patients can go home and sleep through those first couple of hours. Eye pain after LASIK is often due to postoperative inflammation. You will be using eye drops such as steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) to minimize inflammation during the healing process. How long do eyes hurt after LASIK? The good news is, if you do have some discomfort, it should subside within a couple of hours. It wouldn’t be normal for you to have severe pain after LASIK, so be sure to contact your doctor if you do.

Post-LASIK Eye Care Tips

Post-LASIK Eye Care Tips

What To Do?

  • Keep your eyes closed, and try to sleep, for the first several hours immediately following your surgery
  • Get plenty of rest to allow the eyes to heal
  • Wear dark sunglasses to protect against light sensitivity
  • Avoid dusty and smoky environments or wear goggles in these settings
  • Wear your protective eye shield while sleeping for the first 5 nights to avoid any irritation
  • Use preservative-free artificial tears frequently to keep the eyes lubricated
  • Take your medications exactly as prescribed
  • Keep your follow-up appointments, regardless of how you’re feeling

What Not to Do?

  • Rub your eyes
  • Skip your medications or use them more than prescribed
  • Wear makeup or lotion around the eyes until your doctor says it’s ok
  • Do contact sports until you’re cleared to do so
  • Get in a pool, hot tub, or sauna until you’ve been advised that it’s safe
  • Drive, especially at night, until you feel comfortable
  • Skip your appointments

Side Effects of LASIK Surgery

Common side effects of LASIK while healing include:

  • Light sensitivity
  • Burning
  • Stinging
  • Dryness
  • Halos/glare

Unexpected complications of LASIK include:

  • Under-correction or over-correction
  • Worsening vision
  • Infection
  • Corneal flap issues
  • Corneal ectasia

Severe pain after LASIK could signal that there is a complication, so be sure to call your doctor if you experience this.

Side Effects of LASIK Surgery


Does LASIK eye surgery hurt? Hopefully, you realize by now that the answer is no. LASIK is a quick and painless outpatient procedure that takes about 10 minutes per eye. LASIK is one the most commonly performed refractive surgeries today. It treats myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism to decrease or entirely eliminate the need for glasses. Hundreds of thousands of people get LASIK every year in the US and don’t look back.

If you’re still wondering, is laser eye surgery painful, come in for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. During your visit we will perform all the necessary measurements to ensure that surgery is a safe option for you. To schedule a consultation please call our office at 312-444-1111.

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Dr. Colman R. Kraff

Committed to advancing new technologies in the field of ophthalmology, Dr. Colman Kraff helped to pioneer laser vision correction. In February of 1991, as part of a five-site, U.S., FDA clinical trial team, Dr. Kraff successfully performed the first excimer laser procedures in the Chicagoland area using the VISX Excimer Laser.

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