LASIK surgery is often heralded as one of the safest surgical procedures, boasting a low rate of infection and serious complications. Indeed, candidates for LASIK can undergo treatment with peace of mind, knowing that the risks are few and far between. Still, certain side effects should be expected for at least the initial stages of recovery, requiring that patients rest and take time to heal. As one of the more common effects of LASIK surgery, light sensitivity can catch patients off guard if they do not know what to expect during this time. If you have recently had LASIK or are thinking of having LASIK surgery at our Austin office, learn how post-operative light sensitivity forms and how it may affect you during the healing process.
What Causes Light Sensitivity?
If you experience light sensitivity in the days following LASIK surgery, it may be due to one or a combination of reasons. Most commonly, sensitivity is caused by swelling of the corneal tissue in response to the damage caused during the creation of the corneal flap. This flap heals relatively quickly after surgery and rarely results in complications, but during this time, the healing process tends to make patients hypersensitive to bright lights. At the same time, patients also tend to have dry eyes in the early stages of recovery, further exposing the tissues to discomfort from environmental factors including light.
LASIK procedures that utilize IntraLase or other bladeless lasers for the creation of the corneal flap tend to result in a unique form of light sensitivity called Transient Light Sensitivity (TLS). TLS is often more significant than regular light sensitivity, and may not surface until a few weeks after surgery. However, with timely and appropriate professional treatment, patients can effectively alleviate this problem.
What Can Be Expected from Sensitivity?
Patients who have post-operative light sensitivity describe the feeling as one of discomfort when exposed to bright light, forcing them to shield their eyes or look away. The light source can be natural or synthetic, such as from the sun or from an indoor light fixture. The severity of discomfort and occasions for it vary, depending on the cause of sensitivity and the patient’s individual tolerance. In some cases, patients may need to avoid all but dim lights for the first few days of recovery, while other patients can comfortably endure most levels of light without issue. Although no patient can necessarily predict his or her precise side effects, a few basic precautions can help everyone enjoy a more comfortable recovery.
Ways to Minimize Sensitivity
Currently, surgical methods have already improved the side effects of treatment significantly. For instance, by cooling the cornea after LASIK and by prescribing anesthetic eye drops, an experienced ophthalmologist can reduce sensitivity in both severity and duration. During recovery, a patient can take additional steps to curb discomfort:
- Avoid bright lights: It seems like a no-brainer, but it can be difficult to consistently avoid exposure to bright lights. Whether walking outside or into a bright room, strategically avoiding such environments takes a bit of planning.
- Protect your eyes from direct exposure: If you need to be in an area with bright light, plan accordingly. Wear sunglasses, a hat with a brim, or both.
- Avoid screens: TV and computer screens are bright and may cause eye strain while your tissues are still healing. Try to avoid any such screens in the first 48 hours of recovery.
- Contact your doctor if sensitivity persists: If light sensitivity persists beyond the first week, becomes worse, or resurfaces in following weeks, contact your doctor immediately. You may be prescribed anti-inflammatory medication or alternative treatment in order to ensure the health of your eyes and corneal tissue. Even if you are unsure whether your side effects are normal, it is better to be cautious than to suffer from a potential complication.
Want to Learn More?
If you have a question about a recent LASIK procedure or are concerned with the side effects of surgery, our eye care professionals are ready to help you through the process. In the event you require follow-up treatment, we will gladly schedule you for an appointment as soon as possible. Contact us to learn more about any of our treatment options or to meet with Dr. Broberg.