Does Laser Eye Surgery Hurt?

Posted by  On 05-03-2024

Laser eye surgery, particularly LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis), has revolutionized vision correction by offering a quick and effective solution for refractive error. One of the primary concerns for individuals considering laser eye surgery is the fear of pain during the procedure.

In this article, we will investigate whether there is any pain related with LASIK surgery, with the goal of providing clarity to people considering this life-changing treatment.

The LASIK Procedure: Painless Precision

Unlike traditional surgeries that involve cutting into the cornea, LASIK utilizes advanced laser technology to reshape the cornea, improving its ability to focus light onto the retina. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of LASIK patients describe their experience as virtually pain-free.

Although mild-to-moderate pressure may be felt at certain points during the surgery, it is crucial to differentiate this from pain. The use of advanced techniques, coupled with the meticulous application of anaesthetic eye drops, contributes to creating a comfortable environment for the patient.

Even when the anaesthetic wore off, most patients reported little to no discomfort post-LASIK, with minor burning or stinging sensations. 

While mild pain or discomfort during vision stabilization and healing was acknowledged, LASIK recovery overall is considered a relatively pain-free process. The majority of patients resumed their normal routines and activities shortly after the procedure, enjoying the added benefit of perfect vision.

Pain Perception

Research underscores the role of psychology in the perception of pain during LASIK. While some patients may anticipate pain due to the nature of the surgery, the reported discomfort is often psychological rather than physiological.

Thus, understanding this psychological element is crucial in providing a realistic expectation for patients undergoing LASIK.

Minimizing Discomfort: Anaesthesia Options for a Pain-Free Experience

The prevailing notion that laser eye surgery is a painful experience is dispelled by the use of anaesthetic eye drops, sedation when necessary, and a commitment to patient safety. 

Understanding the nuanced aspects of the procedure helps prospective patients approach laser eye surgery with confidence, focusing on the ultimate goal of achieving clearer vision and a life free from refractive errors.

Anaesthetic Eye Drops

Before the laser eye surgery procedure begins, the application of local anaesthetic eye drops takes centre stage. These drops play a crucial role in completely numbing the surface of the eye, rendering it insensitive to any tactile sensations during surgery.

Beyond ensuring painlessness, the anaesthetic eye drops also contribute to maintaining optimal moisture levels for the eyes.


For individuals grappling with anxiety, sedation is an available option. Administering sedatives induces relaxation and drowsiness, fostering a more comfortable mental and physical state during the surgery.

However, it’s crucial to note that sedation carries its own set of risks, and at Clearview Vision Institute, patient safety remains a top priority.

Anaesthetic Variations: Impact on Pain Scores

Examining the impact of anaesthetics, a 2012 study in the American Journal of Ophthalmology compared pain scores in patients receiving 2% lidocaine gel versus 0.5% proparacaine eye drops during LASIK. 

The lidocaine-treated eyes demonstrated significantly less pain during and after the procedure, suggesting a potential avenue for reducing discomfort. Similarly, a 2009 study highlighted the efficacy of ketorolac tromethamine 0.4% eye drops in minimizing pain associated with LASIK.

Postoperative Pain

In the hours immediately after LASIK, patients may experience slight discomfort, characterized by watery, gritty, or heavy sensations in the eyes. This discomfort typically lasts for approximately 3 to 4 hours. 

To alleviate this discomfort, patients are provided with anaesthetic eye drops in their take-home pack, offering relief and enhancing overall comfort during the initial healing phase.

A 2015 study published in Clinical Ophthalmology delved into the ocular experiences of 73 LASIK patients. Postoperative pain, ranging from 2 to 10 on the pain scale, was reported by 97% of participants. Temporary light sensitivity, burning sensation, tearing, and a foreign body sensation were common. 

Importantly, these symptoms, as well as some perceptions of pain, proved transient. The vast majority of patients expressed satisfaction with their LASIK results, highlighting the enduring benefits of visual freedom from lenses and glasses.

Visual Progress: From Hours to Weeks

In the initial hours post-surgery, most individuals will notice a significant improvement in their vision. Short-sighted prescriptions and astigmatism treatments often stabilize rapidly, while long-sighted treatments may take several weeks or months for full stabilization. 

A follow-up examination, typically the day after surgery, allows the surgeon to measure vision, assess healing progress, and sign off on the resumption of activities such as driving.

Potential Side Effects: When to Consult Your Doctor

Severe pain post-laser eye surgery is uncommon and may indicate a serious issue. If you experience intense pain, promptly contact your doctor. Likewise, if your vision worsens or you notice redness, discolouration, or discharge around your eyes, reach out to your eye care professional.

Common side effects include dry eyes, reported by many individuals a week after LASIK. Additionally, other potential side effects may include changes in vision, glare, halo or star-bursting patterns, haze, and decreased contrast sensitivity, affecting a proportion of patients.

Rare complications, such as Sand of Sahara syndrome, corneal flap issues, corneal ectasia, and infections, require immediate attention. While these occur infrequently, if you observe any such side effects, consult with your eye doctor promptly for a thorough evaluation.

Laser Eye Surgery in Toronto With Clearview Vision Institute

At Clearview Vision Institute, we provide an unrushed and informative service where the focus is on you. We offer a thorough consultation, assessment, and tailored treatment plan.

Ready to experience pain-free laser eye surgery in Toronto? Contact Clearview Vision Institute today to book an appointment. We will answer all your questions to ensure you make an informed decision.

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