Does Laser Eye Surgery Hurt?

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What do you think of when you hear ‘laser eye surgery’? Do you think of needles poking through your eye and laser beams burning holes through it? Don’t worry, because this couldn’t be further from the truth. Laser eye surgery doesn’t involve any needles and there will definitely be no burning involved, as the laser beam is actually cold.

Many people have this idea that laser eye surgery is a risky, painful process—a perception that comes from a lack of knowledge about how the surgery is actually done.

The Laser Eye Surgery Process

Does laser eye surgery hurt

Let’s take a look at what happens during a normal laser eye surgery procedure:

Before the surgery

  1. The surgeon will put anaesthetic eyedrops in the patient’s eye.
  2. The surgeon will then clamp the eyelids with a speculum to keep the eye open during the procedure.

During the surgery

  1. The surgeon will now work on exposing the patient’s cornea in order to reshape it. In PRK, the surgeon will scrape off the epithelium (the thin layer on top of the cornea). In LASEK, they will cut the epithelium and move it to the side. If they are performing LASIK, they will create a flap in the cornea and lift it to the side.
  2. With the cornea exposed, the surgeon will focus the laser onto the eye and start reshaping the cornea.

After the surgery

If the patient has undergone PRK or LASEK, the surgeon will replace the epithelium and put a soft contact lens to keep it in place.

If the patient has undergone LASIK, the surgeon will put the corneal flap back in place and will most likely give the patient protective eyewear to wear on their way home. The flap naturally rebonds with the cornea within minutes. A LASIK patient will also be given eyedrops to stop their eye from getting too dry.

Is There Any Pain Before the Surgery?

Patients don’t feel any pain before the surgery as the first step the surgeon takes is to put anaesthetic drops to make the eye numb. By the time the surgeon clamps the patient’s eyelids open, the anaesthetic will have taken effect. Some patients find the idea of a clamp on their eyelids a bit scary, and might find it uncomfortable. If you find this to be true for yourself, the best thing to do is relax. Remember, you won’t feel any pain at all as your eye has been treated with an anaesthetic. Your surgeon will offer you a mild sedative if you feel very anxious about this stage of the procedure.

Is There Any Pain During the Surgery?

The laser procedure is generally painless. The anaesthetic will be in full effect, making the eye completely numb. Some patients have reported feeling some slight pressure on their eye while the laser is being applied to it. The laser treatment itself only takes around 30-40 seconds, so any feeling of discomfort will be minimal and short-lived.

Is There Any Pain After the Surgery?

Patients have reported a variety of experiences after laser eye surgery. Some PRK and LASEK patients experience a mild stinging sensation, while others feel moderate pain. For PRK patients, the discomfort usually stops after the epithelium has completely closed. For LASEK patients, the recovery period is shorter.

LASIK patients have it much easier when it comes to the healing process as the corneal flap heals very quickly. Most experience dryness and a mild stinging sensation at worst.

How Not to Worry About  Your Laser Eye Surgery

Does laser eye surgery hurt? Generally, no. But the best way to get over any fears you may have about undergoing the procedure is to talk to your surgeon about them. Discuss every stage of the procedure so you’ll know what to expect. If you’re about to undergo LASEK or PRK and worried about post-surgery pain, there are plenty of ways your surgeon can help you.

Just remember that the best way to prepare yourself for your laser eye procedure is to learn as much as you can about it, including how it will feel and what risks and complications are associated with it.

You can find more information in our comprehensive guide to laser eye surgery