Does Laser Eye Surgery Hurt?

Does Laser Eye Surgery Hurt?

After fielding question after question from patients on whether laser eye surgery hurts or not we decided to ask a patient about their own experience. Djalenga (a LASEK laser eye surgery patient) talks to Clinic Compare about her laser eye surgery experience 3 weeks after undergoing surgery to correct her vision. Djalenga talks us through the sensations she experienced in surgery and answers the big question of whether it hurt or not.


Video Transcript

No the procedure didn’t hurt at all. I couldn’t feel anything because of the drops, they numbed my eyes and I didn’t feel it at all. After the surgery for about 24 hours it was quite sore, it was a little bit like when you’ve been cooking with onions or chili or something and maybe get a bit in your eye so it’s a bit stingy. Not a huge amount of pain just more that kind of uncomfortableness.


Is Laser Eye Surgery Painful?

For many of the 100,000 adults who undergo laser eye surgery in the UK every year, one of their primary concerns (along with the procedure's associated risks and costs) is "will it hurt?" The fear of the unknown can be a very powerful stimulus and questions such as "will the surgeon be using a needle to administer anaesthetic to my eye?" and "will I feel a burning sensation when the laser is used?" can, if left unanswered, create untold anxiety in the mind of the most determined patient.

The vast majority of those who have undergone the procedure have reported little or no pain during the actual operation, with the most widely experienced sensation being only that of slight pressure to the eye when the actual laser correction is being applied.

Patients will, however, experience some discomfort during the recovery period. For 90% of laser eye patients this will be following the administration of the more popular LASIK procedure. Ophthalmologists caution that they should expect to experience a mild itching, stinging sensation and dry eyes which will gradually subside allowing the patient to return to normal activities within 24-48 hours.

For those who have the more invasive LASEK operation, pain levels can be of moderate severity and may be alleviated with the use of painkillers which will be specifically prescribed by the surgeon. Patients may expect the pain to dissipate over 24-48 hours, although most will be aware of some discomfort for anything up to 7 days following the procedure.

Is The Procedure Painful?

All reputable laser eye surgery providers will provide prospective patients with an in depth consultation and examination to ensure that they are appropriate candidates for a correction procedure. Following a flurry of negative media attention, the industry is now even more aware of offering the very best in safe, effective laser eye technology to their clients with high quality services and clinical provision.

The actual procedure will begin with the surgeon administering eye numbing anaesthetic drops. Patients can expect to feel a mild stinging sensation which will pass in an average of 20 seconds. The surgeon will then use an instrument to ensure that the eyelid remains open during the operation, allowing access to the cornea and ensuring that the patient cannot blink and disrupt the surgery. Some can find this unpleasant and uncomfortable and may prefer to visit their GP prior to the procedure in order to be prescribed a mild sedative which will help them to remain more relaxed and less anxious.

Advice from the professionals is that the more calm the patient can remain and the less they resist the device, the less discomfort they will experience. If in any doubt about your ability to 'tough it out', then visit your GP beforehand

A suction ring will be applied to the eye to protect against any movement which may impair the quality of the incision. A computer will be used to adjust the Excimer laser to meet the patient's specific ocular prescription.

laser eye surgery explained part 1

The patient will be asked to focus on a target light while the surgeon examines the eye under a microscope as the laser emits light pulses to make the correction to the cornea. Many find that this is the point at which they experience the feelings of pressure. Each eye is corrected separately with each taking an average of 5 minutes to treat.

laser eye surgery explained part 2

Applying the laser to the eye should last an average of 30-40 seconds which will be determined on the severity of your prescription. Treatment time is calculated by applying 10 seconds of laser per 1x dioptre of prescription. For example, for a prescription of -4.00 dioptres, the application of the laser to the corneal correction will be 40 seconds. Patients may be reassured that the technique involves using a cold Excimer laser and requires no application of heat.

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The Expert Opinion

Mr Alexander Ionides, Consultant Ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, outlines the relative pain/discomfort of various eye surgery procedures:


Video Transcript

"The recovery of Lasek is like peeling onions and it stings and bright lights are uncomfortable, so from that point of view, that’s discomfort. For the Lasik having the rubber ring press on the eye to create the flap in the cornea is uncomfortable, but there’s nothing, there’s no knives, there’s no needles, no blades, so in that sense there’s nothing sharp and nasty."

Mr Alexander Ionides, Consultant Ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital


Preparing For Laser Eye Surgery

The only patients who will need to make any long term preparation for their laser eye correction procedure will be those who wear contact lenses.

For soft contact wearers the advice is to stop wearing them 7 days before the operation, while for those using gas permeable rigid lenses the cut off point for ceasing use is 1 month. Wearing any type of contact lens will alter the shape of the cornea which will affect the outcome of the laser eye correction. Ceasing wear will allow the cornea to recover its normal curvature prior to the procedure date.

On the actual day of the operation the patient can eat and drink as normal as they will be given only a local anaesthetic. It is advisable to wear loose fitting, comfortable clothing and refrain from applying any eye make-up (mascara, eye shadow or liner), face creams, deodorant or perfume. This is a standard requirement when undergoing any form of surgery and is intended for the comfort and safety of the patient and the convenience of the surgeon.

Patients should allow a full half day for their visit to the clinic as the surgeon or optometrist will want to complete some final measurements to your eyes and have a last minute consultation to ensure you are completely happy to go ahead with the procedure.

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