WebMD Logo Icon
WebMD Connect to Care helps you find services to manage your health. When you purchase any of these services, WebMD may receive a fee. WebMD does not endorse any product, service or treatment referred to on this page. X

Is LASIK Painful?

By Amanda Vining
Medically Reviewed by Neda Shamie, MD, and member of the Refractive Surgery Council editorial advisory board on December 21, 2020
What does LASIK feel like? Here’s what you need to know about this popular vision correction surgery.

LASIK, which stands for laser in-situ keratomileusis, is a type of eye surgery that can treat nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. During LASIK, your eye surgeon uses lasers to reshape your cornea, the clear outer layer of your eye. If the thought of a laser beam in your eye makes you cringe, here’s what you need to know about the procedure.

What Does LASIK Feel Like?

Right before the surgery starts, your surgeon numbs your eyes with anesthetic eye drops, the American Academy of Ophthalmology says. You’ll stay awake for the procedure, but your surgeon will offer a mild sedative to help you relax.

The surgeon then places eyelid holders between your lids to keep you from blinking, and suction rings over your eyes to stop your eyes from moving. You may feel some pressure, as if a finger were pressing on your eyelids, the American Academy of Ophthalmology says. Your vision will look dim or go dark until the suction rings are removed after the surgery.

Once your eyes are prepped, your surgeon creates a flap in your cornea using a laser or a special blade. “There is sometimes a little bit of pressure felt with the first laser that creates the flap, but it is completely tolerable,” Amir Moarefi, MD, a refractive ophthalmologist at Eye Physicians of Long Beach, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

The surgeon then reshapes your corneas with another laser and replaces the flaps without stitches, the American Academy of Ophthalmology says. The whole procedure should take less than 30 minutes, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Afterward, you might feel a scratchy or burning sensation in your eyes for a few hours, the American Academy of Ophthalmology says. You might also feel like there’s something in your eye. Your eye doctor may recommend that you take a mild pain reliever, according to the FDA. They’ll also give you eye drops to ease dryness and help you heal.

As with any surgery, LASIK comes with risks. It’s possible to have side effects like lingering dryness, pain, or sensitivity to light, but these usually go away in 3 to 6 months, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Rarely, they may be permanent. 

While you’re recovering from LASIK, it’s important to call your doctor right away if you have severe pain.

From 20 years ago to today, LASIK has completely evolved for the better,” Moarefi says. “Each laser that is produced is now more and more customized for each individual, so that no two treatments are the same. Each laser will give a specific treatment for the cornea as if it is treating your own individual fingerprint. The advances have made it so that the results last longer and there is less chance of regression.”

Start Your Journey to Better Vision Today

Ready to say goodbye to contact lenses and glasses? WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.