What should I expect after surgery?
As soon as the procedure is finished, you may notice that your eyes feel irritated, burn, itch, or feel like there is something in them. Your eyes will frequently water or tear excessively, and your vision will be somewhat blurry. The most important thing to avoid during this time is rubbing your eyes. Do not rub your eyes under any circumstances, as rubbing can dislocate or shift the corneal flap, which could require you to have an additional procedure to reposition it. Using copious artificial tears and resting with your eyes closed will most effectively ease these sensations. In some instances, there may be increased discomfort or even a mild degree of pain, for which your doctor may advise you to take a pain reliever. In most cases, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, are enough to relieve the pain. In addition to artificial tears, you will have antibiotic drops and anti-inflammatory drops (steroids) to use beginning on the day of surgery that you will continue to use for days to weeks after surgery.
Other symptoms you may notice immediately after surgery include light sensitivity, hazy vision, glare, seeing starbursts or halos around lights, and reddened or bloodshot eyes. All of these symptoms should improve over the first few days following surgery. It is very important that you contact your doctor immediately on the first night after surgery if you are having severe pain or if your vision is getting worse and not better. You do not need to wait until your first follow-up visit if you are experiencing either of these things.
Your first postoperative visit should be scheduled within the first 24 hours following surgery. At that visit, your doctor will check your vision and examine your eyes. You will continue to use your antibiotics and steroid drops as well as artificial tears. Your vision should be clearer but may still be blurry the first few days after surgery, and you may need to adjust your work or travel schedule or even take some time off after surgery to fully recuperate.
You should ask your doctor how long you need to wait to start participating in sports again, such as walking or jogging. In general, you should wait anywhere from one to three days following surgery to restart low impact sports, and avoid any possible eye trauma, such as more competitive sports, for a minimum of 2 or more weeks. In addition, it is unwise to expose yourself to eye infection risks such as pools, lakes, or hot tubs during the early healing process. Your surgeon will tell you when you can resume these activities.
As mentioned earlier, lotions, creams, makeup, and perfumes can often cause buildup on the eyelids and may increase the risk for infection. Ask your doctor when it is advisable to resume use of these products.
Typically, your vision will stabilize within the first week or two, but it may continue to change over the first couple of months following surgery. It may take anywhere from 3-6 months for your vision to stabilize completely. Other visual symptoms, such as glare, seeing halos, and difficulty driving at night, may continue during this stabilization period. Additional treatments, or enhancements, may be needed after surgery, but the stability of your cornea will need to be established before any repeat treatments are performed. Before enhancements are considered, you should have had consistent eye measurements at two consecutive visits. When considering additional treatments, you should know that while it is likely that your vision can be improved by enhancements, just as with the initial surgery, there are no guarantees, and there are still risks associated with having surgery.
You should not hesitate to call your eye doctor immediately if you develop worsening or unusual symptoms at any time after surgery. These symptoms could be a sign of a serious problem that could result in loss of vision if not treated properly in a timely fashion.