Laser Surgery for Eyes: A Guide on Everything to Know

Since it was first approved by the FDA in 1999, over 10 million Americans have had laser eye surgery. 

It’s estimated that around 96 to 98 percent of LASIK patients end up with 20/20 vision. That’s almost 10 million people who no longer have to rely on glasses or contacts to see. 

If you’re considering getting laser eye surgery, you’re probably very excited about the prospect of having clear vision. 

However, before you undergo LASIK, there are some things you need to know. 

Check out this guide to learn everything you need to know about laser surgery. 

What is LASIK?

The terms laser eye surgery and LASIK are used pretty much interchangeably. For those who don’t know, LASIK stands for “laser-assisted in situ keratomileuses”, and it’s just one of several types of refractory surgeries. 

During your laser eye surgery, your surgeon will reshape your cornea so that light can enter the eye and properly focus on the retina, which in turn leads to clearer vision. 

This is an essentially pain-free surgery that only takes about 15 minutes to perform. 

The surgery results in improved vision without the need to wear glasses or contacts. 

For those who aren’t good candidates for LASIK, there are other vision surgeries to choose from, such as LASEK, PRK, or phakic IOL. 

Are You a Good Candidate for Laser Eye Surgery? 

So, how do you know if you’re a good candidate for laser eye surgery?

You’re a good candidate if you meet the following criteria:

You’re in Good General Health 

Certain health conditions may make laser eye surgery a poor option for you. Before undergoing laser eye surgery, you should speak with your physician to decide whether or not your health makes you a good candidate. 


You need to have a prescription that’s within the FDA parameters for surgery. Here are the parameters:

  • up to +6.00 diopters of hyperopia
  • up to -12.00 diopters of nearsightedness
  • up to 6 diopters of astigmatism/cylinder

Ocular Maturity and Eye Health 

In order to undergo laser eye surgery, you must be 18 years of age or older. This is why you’ve achieved ocular maturity. In other words, this is when your eyes have fully matured. 

You also must have a stable eye prescription, which is a prescription that hasn’t changed in the past two years. 

In addition, your eyes should be in generally good health and free of disease, infections, and injuries. 

How is the Surgery Performed? 

To perform laser eye surgery, your surgeon will start by creating a thin, superficial flap in your cornea using a small surgical tool. 

They will then fold back this flap to gain access to the underlying cornea. Your surgeon will then use a tool called an excimer laser to remove some of the corneal tissue. This will help to reshape your cornea so that when light enters your eye, it’s able to better focus on the retina. This, in turn, results in improved vision. 

For those who are nearsighted, your surgeon will work to flatten the cornea. In those who are farsighted, the goal will be to create a steeper cornea. If you have astigmatism, the goal will be to smooth out the cornea into a more regular shape. 

After the cornea is reshaped, the flap is then laid back and sealed. 

This all may sound very intense, however, laser eye surgery doesn’t require any bandages or stitches. You’ll just need to use topical anesthetic drops. 

Before the Surgery 

Before the surgery, you’ll first need to undergo a thorough eye exam to ensure that your eyes are healthy enough for the procedure. 

Your doctor will evaluate your pupil size, the thickness of your cornea, the shape of your cornea, refractive errors, and your general eye health.

Your doctor will also evaluate the tear film on the surface of your eyes. And in some cases, you may be recommended a precautionary treatment plan in order to prevent dry eye post-surgery. 

Before your eye exam and before laser surgery, your doctor will also instruct you to stop wearing contact lenses for a period of time (usually around two weeks). 

What to Expect During the Surgery

To prevent discomfort, your surgeon will apply numbing drops to your eyes. They may also give you some medication to help you relax. 

Your eyes will then be positioned under the laser and an instrument will be used to keep your eyelids wide open. 

The eye surgeon will then create the corneal flap, and then they’ll ask you to look at a target light for a short period of time. The laser will then send pulses of light into your eye and will painlessly reshape your cornea. However, you may feel slight pressure. 

After the Surgery

After the surgeon, you’ll be asked to rest for a bit. You may feel a slight burning or itching sensation in your eyes, which is normal and will go away. 

After a brief exam, you can go home. However, someone will need to drive you home from the surgery.

The day of surgery, you’ll deal with some haziness and blurry vision. However, this should go away by the following morning. Within the next few days, your eyesight should stabilize. In some rare cases, it can take eyes up to several weeks to stabilize. 

While some doctors advise a full day of rest, many people return to work the next day. You will, however, likely need to see your doctor the day after surgery to see how things are progressing. 

Following surgery, you should also avoid rubbing your eyes as much as possible, as there’s a chance that this could dislodge the corneal flap. 

Risks and Benefits 

Obviously, the ability to see clearly without glasses or contacts is the biggest benefit of laser eye surgery. (You can read more about these benefits here.) 

However, it’s also important to note that there are some risks that come with laser eye surgery. 

For example, you may develop dry eyes, astigmatism, or flap problems. You may also suffer from under-correction or overcorrection to your eyes. While under-corrections can be easily fixed with more surgery, overcorrections are a bit more difficult to deal with. 

Also, laser surgery doesn’t guarantee perfect eyesight, so you still may need to wear glasses when driving. 

Are You Ready for Laser Surgery? 

Now that you know what to expect with laser surgery, it’s time to decide whether it’s right for you or not. 

While you’re mulling over the decision, be sure to browse our blog for more health-related tips and tricks.