As LASIK is the most common procedure, LASEK laser eye surgery recovery experiences are hard to find online. This article is one that is NEEDED on the internet. My LASEK laser eye surgery recovery was one of the most difficult periods in my life. As explained in my previous blog, the surgeon deemed my eyes to be suitable for LASEK rather than LASIK, where LASEK is the “slower healer”. This is a huge understatement in my eyes (pardon the pun).
If you are embarking upon the LASEK laser eye treatment, my intention is not to scare you or put you off but instead to help you become more mentally prepared for what to expect.
Table of Contents
- Post-Operative Medications
- First Week: Horrendous LASEK Laser Eye Surgery Recovery
- First Month: Fluctuating Vision
- Third Month: Three Month Recovery Time?
Before I share my personal LASEK laser eye surgery recovery experience, I thought it would be useful to inform you of the post-operative medications required. This is so you can really understand what is involved during the recovery period.
The details below were provided to me by Optical Express once I received my medication. Images have been included below.
|Name||Purpose and Notes||Usage|
|Oftaquix or Exocin Eye Drops||You will either be given one or the other – I was given Oftaquix. These antibiotic drops help to prevent infection and should be kept in a cool place. The use of these drops should start on the same day as the treatment. Some of these drops were already given during the treatment.||1 drop 4 times per day for 1 week|
|FML Eye Drops||These drops will help to reduce inflammation and should also be started on the same day of treatment. These drops must be shaken well before each use (oops I missed this instruction).||Reducing basis over the course of 4 weeks: |
Week 1 – 4 times per day
Week 2 – 3 times per day
Week 3 – 2 times per day
Week 4 – 1 time per day
|Paracetomal, Ibuprofen or Co-Codamol||You will need to purchase these drops yourself but they will reduce mild to moderate discomfort – you will need this!||Take tablets according to packet instructions as required for pain|
|Tetracaine Eye Drops||These refrigerated drops are to reduce post-op discomfort if the other drops do not help.||“Emergency eye drops” – use sparingly for the first few days for pain (no more than 1 drop every 2 hours)|
|Blink Eye Drops||These drops are for dry eyes and will most likely be needed for the first month at least. Use when eyes feel dry or blurred.||Week 1 – 4 times per day |
After week 1 – as needed for dry eye symptoms
In addition to the above medication, you will also be given some cotton type sheets (clearly not the medical term) which can be sanitized and used to clean around the eyes. You will have a lot of dried up drops all around your eyes and your eyelashes may get quite clumpy. These sheets are very helpful to clear these up.
There is also the eye mask which you must wear when sleeping during the first week.
First Week: Horrendous LASEK Laser Eye Surgery Recovery
Before you read on, remember my intention is not to put you off getting LASEK laser eye surgery. It has been just over 2.5 months since my LASEK treatment (19th December 2020) and at this point I have no regrets. I am glad I got through the pain because laser eye surgery truly is life-changing. However, I will not downplay the huge struggles I experienced either.
As explained in my previous post ‘The Daunting yet Life-Changing Day of Laser Eye Surgery‘ you are instructed to nap post surgery. This is exactly what I did as soon as I got home. I would also recommend having painkillers straight after. I am glad I was not awake when the anaesthetic drops wore off!
Pain and Discomfort Experienced
Bear in mind that I was taking paracetamol constantly (every four hours). Within the first week of my LASEK laser eye surgery recovery, I experienced the following pain and discomfort:
- Eyes felt gritty, as if there was a layer of sand in the corner of my left eye and both would sometimes sting
- My eyes also felt very dry too
- Non-stop watering eyes for at least a few days
- Extreme light sensitivity – thank you to my family for accepting that we would have to sit in darkness for about four days. In all honesty, my eyes felt as thought they were more comfortable closed than open and I wore sunglasses at all times for the first few days
- Exhaustion, which could have also been down to the emotional stress of the pain too. In order to get through this I spent the majority of the first couple of days asleep. However, I did wake up a few times sweating and feeling sick
- There was one night I woke up either from my mask somehow poking my eye. I am not sure what actually happened but there was an intense shooting pain that woke me up and then lots of watering was to follow. I did also experience left eye sharp shooting pains every so often yet randomly in the day
- Tasting eyedrops at the back of your throat as there are so many to take and eyelashes constantly being stuck together
The majority of these symptoms eased as the week went on. I do think what made this a lot worse is that I did not mentally prepare for the level of pain and discomfort I would experience during LASEK laser eye surgery recovery. Brushing off the LASEK recovery initially and thinking I would not need much emotional support also played a huge part in making this week harder than it needed to be.
By Christmas Day, 6 days into LASEK laser eye surgery recovery I was able to sit in a brighter room. I did end up having a nap though as I still felt quite tired. However, by this point it did feel as though I was through the worst of the pain and discomfort.
Following Day: Optical Express Aftercare Appointment
This appointment is one that I was really looking forward to. As I was mentally unprepared for the high level of pain and discomfort during LASEK laser eye surgery recovery, I wanted to talk to a specialist to check everything was normal. However, this is where I encountered my worst customer service experience with Optical Express.
My appointment was booked for 12:10 but I received the call half an hour earlier. Luckily I was not asleep and my phone was on loud so I did not miss the appointment. I say luckily but in actual fact I perhaps may have felt better if I did miss the call.
This employee spoke extremely quickly and it was evident he did not want to be on the phone call for long. I felt as though I was rushed off the call. At this point I of course had LOADS of questions but barely had a chance to get a word in. I would add here that this was unlike all other positive encounters I had with Optical Express. This did however make me understand how Optical Express received some of the negative reviews they had such as the experience feeling like a business transaction.
The aim of the appointment was to check both eyes felt the same, if I had taken the emergency drops and ensured I had all the eyedrops and face mask to sleep. It was in a way reassuring that my symptoms seemed normal for LASEK laser eye surgery recovery although they did not feel it.
Note: if you are wondering why I chose Optical Express for laser eye surgery, click here. You can also contact me for the £300 off referral discount code at email@example.com!
Day 4: Bandage Contact Lens Removal
As part of the LASEK laser eye surgery, bandage contact lenses are applied to the eyes to act as a protective layer on top. It is said that the bandage contact lens is inserted for comfort only. The lens does not reduce the risk of infection. Therefore, if it does fall out you are told not to re-insert it yourself. If your level of discomfort increases you can make an appointment to get the lenses replaced as soon as possible or wait until the next scheduled aftercare appointment.
The bandage lenses are typically removed on day 4, which mine were. I went into the Birmingham clinic for my appointment. As explained in my previous post, I had to rebook this appointment in myself as my initial booking did not go through.
Key takeaways from this LASEK bandage removal appointment were:
- Removing the bandages lenses is the same as removing any contact lenses – I actually did this myself!
- My eyesight at this stage was deemed to be suitable for driving. However, I was very unsure with my responses during the eye test as my eyesight was quite hazy and blurry. I would be worried if I did actually drive with this vision
- My eyes were very dry although they no longer felt dry so I was able to pick up more blink intensive drops
- At this point I was still quite light sensitive and wearing sunglasses. I was told this was no longer necessary so started to force myself to open my eyes more and ditch the sunglasses
A Second Call with Optical Express
Following my bandage contact lens removal appointment, Optical Express booked me in for my 3/4 week post treatment aftercare appointment. This was again booked incorrectly. The receptionist somehow managed to book the appointment for the morning of my bandage contact lens removal appointment. To resolve this mistake, I had to call Optical Express again.
To my surprise, this call was extremely reassuring and a very pleasant experience. This employee really put me at ease and explained everything that I was feel was normal. She herself had LASIK but informed me of colleagues who had LASEK experienced a much more prolonged laser eye surgery recovery time. Additionally, I was told my vision was likely to settle and clear up a few days after getting my bandages removed. This made me hopeful but if you read on below, you will see that this was not the case for me.
First Month: Fluctuating Vision
So far I have mainly only focused on the pain and discomfort aspect of my LASEK laser eye surgery recovery. Now I shall address the other and arguably most important aspect which is vision. This aspect was mentally very challenging and I shall talk you through why.
With LASIK, I heard of many instances where patients would say they had the surgery followed by a nap and that same evening wake up with 20/20. They could also go back to work the next day and it was essentially the dream outcome. Coincidentally a friend was having LASIK laser eye surgery with Optical Express on the same day as my treatment. Although, our experiences could not have been more different. She fortunately had the ideal LASIK scenario and could read four lines above 20/20 almost immediately. This was nothing like my vision so soon after treatment.
Immediately after the surgery I could tell my eyesight was much better. It was not 20/20 nor completely clear but where everything was a blur at -5 it was not as bad. There was a moment a few days after when watching Neighbours (do not judge me please) where I thought I could see clearly. However, this feeling did not last. As mentioned above, on day 4 I was told I could see well enough to drive although I would not agree with this.
My vision was fluctuating non stop during the first month. This was mentally draining and quite frustrating. Some mornings I would feel I had 20/20 but it would not last the day. Initially I would see at 20/20 for approximately 10% of the day with the remainder all over the place. It was just difficult to focus and felt as though the sharpness of my vision had gone.
You really start to question your decision to get laser eye surgery, I know I did. I was contemplating whether I had made a mistake or not. Where my eyesight was stable and I could correct it perfectly with contact lenses this was no longer the case. Now it felt as though it was bad enough for glasses but not for contact lenses. You also do start thinking the worst case scenario about needing top up procedures (part of my aftercare package). It was actually really getting me down.
This feeling was heightened by the fact that I work on a laptop. I was constantly having to zoom in around 150% and there were times I’d have my face close to the screen to see. During the auditor busy season, this was not ideal. However, I continued to perform eye exercises (7. Exercise your eyes: 10-15 seconds) to ensure I was getting eye breaks and was trying to help where I could.
I can remember going for walks with my mum during lunchtimes. This is actually when my eyesight felt the sharpest. We would read number plates in the distance, road signs, bus stop signs and all sorts. Initially where my eyesight was lagging behind my mum’s, it started to feel on par over time. I was able to notice things in the area I had never spotted before. However, my vision was still fluctuating. By the afternoon it would not be as sharp again.
Week 3/4: Optical Express Aftercare Appointment
Given it was nearly a month post treatment at this point and gathering what I am like, it is pretty obvious I had many questions going into this appointment. For example, all around fluctuating vision, whether my left eye would catch up, the process if it did not, etc.
At this appointment I had similar eye examinations as at the laser eye surgery consultation – the hot air balloon and puff test. I also had to have more eye tests and the optician examined my eyes herself.
I honestly think this appointment was a God send because this felt like the turning point in my LASEK recovery. The optician gave me the reassurance I needed plus more and it made all the difference.
My appointment was in the morning before work and was during the time my eyesight was focusing better. At this point, my right eye was said to be fantastic and could read one line above 20/20. My left eye was slightly behind at one line below. This was expected to catch up though as eyes heal at different rates and I should avoid focusing on this as well as reading subtitles. Furthermore, the healing had been good and there was no sign of infection or haze.
I was informed that fluctuating vision is normal and is mainly due to having dry eyes. This was very surprising as my eyes did not feel dry but they were and I was given stronger lubricating eyedrops. These drops had to be taken 4-6 times a day over the next month and then slowly reduced.
As my prescription was fairly high (around -5) more tissue is required to heal. I was left with the impression the fluctuating vision could take around 3 months to settle.
Third Month: Three Month Recovery Time?
Almost three months after my LASEK laser eye surgery, I am proud to say I feel as though I do have 20/20 vision. My three month aftercare appointment is coming up so I cannot confirm until then. That being said, I would say I have not had any difficulties seeing or have had to squint at all 100% of the day. For me, after the first month and using the lubricating drops my eyesight settled pretty instantly. I now use the drops 1-2 times a day but I do not feel I need them as my eyes do not feel dry often. I do however experience halo rings but only slightly with far distance red car lights.
In conclusion, I would say the recovery time for LASEK is three months. By this point it would be more clear whether a top up procedure is required. However, that being said the recovery time will of course be different for everyone. Some may not have experienced as much pain and discomfort or fluctuating vision. Others may have it worse.
I have read the horror stories where some have not been fortunate enough to reach 20/20. This is the risk with laser eye surgery and every surgery does come with risks. Thankfully the pros did outweigh the cons for me. I do wish I asked if I was suitable for LASIK though but like I said, no regrets!
If you have your surgery coming up, good luck. If you are going through the recovery process, HANG IN THERE. There should be brighter days.
My next blog post will be all around planning the timing of your laser eye surgery. There is more to think about than you would initially think. Join the journey so you do not miss this.