What you can expect

By Mayo Clinic Staff

LASIK eye surgery is performed using a laser programmed to remove a defined amount of tissue from your cornea. With each pulse of the laser beam, a tiny amount of corneal tissue is removed.

The laser allows your eye surgeon to flatten the curve of your cornea or make it steeper. Often, LASIK is performed on both eyes on the same day.

Before surgery

Before surgery, your doctor will discuss the risks and benefits of LASIK surgery, your expectations, what to expect before and after surgery, and answer any questions you may have.

During a pre-surgical eye exam, your eye doctor takes a detailed medical and surgical history and conducts a comprehensive eye examination.

In the eye examination, your doctor will evaluate your vision and look for signs of eye infections, inflammation, dry eyes, large eye pupils, high eye pressure or other eye conditions.

Your doctor will also measure your cornea, noting the shape, contour, thickness and any irregularities.

Your eye doctor also evaluates which areas of your cornea need reshaping. Your eye doctor uses tests to measure the shape and contour of your cornea and determine the precise amount of tissue to remove from your cornea.

Doctors generally use wavefront-guided technology to evaluate your eye in detail before LASIK surgery. In this test, a scanner creates a highly detailed chart, similar to a topographical map, of your eye. Theoretically, the more detailed the measurements, the more accurate your eye doctor can be in removing corneal tissue.

During surgery

LASIK eye surgery is usually completed in 30 minutes or less. During the procedure, you lie on your back in a reclining chair. You may be given medicine to help you relax. After numbing drops are placed in your eye, your doctor uses an instrument to hold your eyelids open.

A suction ring placed on your eye just before cutting the corneal flap may cause a feeling of pressure, and your vision may dim a little.

Your eye surgeon uses a small blade or cutting laser to cut a hinged flap about the size of a contact lens away from the front of your eye. Folding back the flap allows your doctor to access the part of your cornea to be reshaped.

Using a laser, your eye surgeon then reshapes specific parts of your cornea. After reshaping is complete, the flap is folded back into place and usually heals without stitches.

During the surgery, you'll be asked to focus on a point of light. Staring at this light helps you keep your eye fixed while the laser reshapes your cornea.

You may detect a distinct odor as the laser removes your corneal tissue. Some people describe smelling an odor similar to that of burning hair.

If you need LASIK surgery in both eyes, doctors will generally conduct the procedure on the same day.

After surgery

Immediately after surgery, your eye may itch, burn and be watery. You'll probably have blurred vision. You generally will experience little pain, and you'll usually recover your vision quickly.

You may be given pain medication or eyedrops to keep you comfortable for several hours after the procedure. Your eye doctor might also ask you to wear a shield over your eye at night until your eye heals.

You'll be able to see after surgery, but your vision won't be clear right away. It takes about two to three months after your surgery before your eye heals and your vision stabilizes. Your chances for improved vision are based, in part, on how good your vision was before surgery.

You'll have a follow-up appointment with your eye doctor one to two days after surgery for your doctor to see how your eye is healing and check for any complications.

Plan for other follow-up appointments during the first six months after surgery as your doctor recommends.

It may be a few weeks before you can start to use cosmetics around your eyes again. You might also have to wait several weeks before resuming strenuous contact sports, swimming or using hot tubs.

Follow your doctor's recommendations about how soon you can resume your normal activities.

Feb. 25, 2014