(Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis)
by Editorial Staff and Contributors
Click here to view an animated version of this procedure.
LASIK is a surgery that uses a laser to reshape the cornea of the eye. This reshaping changes focusing power and usually corrects vision. Surgery may be done on both eyes, either at the same time or on separate occasions.
Reasons for Procedure TOP
LASIK is done to eliminate the need for glasses or contact lenses.
Most people who get LASIK will still need reading glasses at middle age and beyond to correct for presbyopia (decreased ability to focus due to age). Be sure to discuss presbyopia with your doctor prior to getting LASIK so that you understand how it will affect your vision.
Possible Complications TOP
LASIK eye surgery has a relatively low complication rate, but they can occur. Possible complications include, but are not limited to:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor will likely do the following:
Leading up to your procedure:
Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure, like:
Drops are given to numb the surface of the eye. You may be given a sedative to help you relax during the procedure.
Description of Procedure TOP
You will be positioned on your back in a reclining chair. The area surrounding your eye will be cleaned. Numbing drops will be placed in your eye. The eyelid will be held open with a special device. A ring will be placed on the eye and pressure is applied to create suction. A blade will then be attached to the suction ring. The doctor will use the blade to cut a flap in the cornea. The doctor will fold back the flap.
You will look into a light (not the laser). A laser will be directed to remove a specific amount of corneal tissue. The laser will make a ticking sound as it reshapes the cornea. At this point, some patients report a smell similar to burning hair. Once the laser is finished, the corneal flap will be gently placed back into position. Antibiotic drops will be put in the eye. A shield will be placed over the eye.
There are other ways to do laser vision correction surgery. One includes using a laser to make the flap in the cornea. The other includes removing the top layer of the cornea with a special device or chemical, then using the laser. Ask your doctor which procedure is best for you.
How Long Will It Take? TOP
Less than 30 minutes.
How Much Will It Hurt? TOP
You will likely feel some discomfort when the suction ring is applied. Just after the procedure, expect a burning or itching sensation or the feeling that there is a foreign object in your eye. Your eye may tear and be red and bloodshot. You will most likely have a loss of vision at times during the procedure. This is normal.
Postoperative Care TOP
You will wear a shield to protect your eye from injury or pressure, even while sleeping. When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
Vision may be hazy or cloudy; you may see starbursts or halos around lights. Vision changes and redness should gradually improve over several days. However, it may take up to six months for your vision to completely stabilize. Your doctor will schedule follow-up visits.
Additional surgery may be necessary to further correct or enhance vision. If more surgery is needed, wait until your eyesight has stabilized. It is usually considered stable when you have consistent measurements on at least two consecutive exams several months apart.
Call Your Doctor TOP
Contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Eye Surgery Education Council
United States Food and Drug Administration
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
Lasik-Laser eye surgery. American Academy of Ophthalmology website. Available at:
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Accessed July 16, 2013.
Medical devices. United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website. Available at: .
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Updated March 22, 2013. Accessed July 16, 2013.
Last reviewed July 2013 by Eric L. Berman, MD; Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 5/11/2013