What Does Laser Eye Surgery Feel Like?

One of the most commonly asked questions about laser eye surgery is what exactly should I expect during the procedure and what does it feel like?
The following are the typical things that people worry about laser eye surgery:

  • The idea of someone poking around in their eye.
  • The thought of a needle in their eye.
  • The thought of a laser burning their eye. The smell of the eye burning.
  • The fact that they think laser eye surgery is painful.
  • The thought of someone cutting their eye open.

Well to be honest if any of the above were true then it would be understandable if people were put off having the procedure:
Let’s try and put a few things straight and see if any of the above are actually justifiable.

  • Cutting eye open: Firstly there is no poking around inside your eye and your eye is not opened up at all. A very thin corneal layer is separated from the surface of your eye for a few minutes and then gently replaced back. The layer that is separated from the surface of your eye is far smaller than a millimetre. Imagine removing an incredibly thin layer of skin from your arm. It’s not the same as actually cutting into and opening up your arm.
  • Are there needles involved in the laser eye surgery procedure? Absolutely NOT! Your eyes are numbed using eye drops which at the very worst sting for about 10-20 seconds. The eye drops feel no worse than getting a little bit of shampoo in your eye.
  • The thought of the laser burning my eye: One of the common myths about laser eye surgery is that there is a smell of burning flesh during the procedure. Well, the first thing to mention is that the laser does not burn anything. Contrary to what most people believe, the laser beam is actually cold. Occasionally there is a smell resembling burning during surgery but this is a smell that is given off by the actual laser machine. It is NOT the burning of the surface of your eye. The actual lasering of the eye is completely painless and you won’t even be aware it is being done. It is just like having a light shone in your eye for a short period of time. The higher your prescription the longer the laser is applied for. For every 1 dioptre of prescription, the laser is applied for 10 seconds. So if your prescription is  -3.00 then the laser is only applied for 30 seconds.
  • The fact that laser eye surgery hurts: The laser eye surgery procedure does not hurt at all. Some people report mild pressure on their eye but that really is it.
  • The thought of a blade being used during surgery: People often wrongly envisage their surgeon coming towards their eye with a knife and no wonder they get nervous. Nothing could be further from the truth – You won’t even see a blade. The surgical blade (also called microkeratome) is incorporated within the equipment. As the machine is so close to your eye it will just look like a black blur. You wouldn’t even know a blade was being used if you weren’t told! If the idea of a blade really does put you off then you should consider Intralase which is a blade-less procedure.

In reality, the laser eye surgery procedure is quick and generally pain-free. It is carried out under a local anaesthetic and the following is what you can expect:

  • The whole procedure normally only takes around 15 minutes to perform and that is to treat both eyes.
  • Your eyes will be anaesthetised using special eye drops which will cause a stinging sensation in your eyes for around 20 seconds. This is no worse than getting a small amount of soap in your eye.
  • Once the eyes have been numbed the surgeon then has to ensure that you will be unable to blink during the procedure. A special instrument is used to ensure that your eyes are kept open. Some people find this a little uncomfortable (not painful) and the more you can relax the easier it will be.
  • The Lasik procedure and Lasek procedure are carried out slightly differently but both procedures feel exactly the same.
  • The inner layers of the cornea have to be accessed so the laser can be applied. Most people report a mild feeling of pressure during this part of the procedure but no pain.
  • The laser then has to be applied which typically lasts for about one minute, depending on how high your prescription is. You will not feel anything during the lasering of your eye.
  • Once the lasering has been completed your eyes will then be cleaned up and more eye drops will be applied.
  • The Lasik recovery and Lasek recovery will both have differing amounts of discomfort but the actual procedures are pain-free.

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