There’s an ongoing misunderstanding about LASIK that your vision is perfectly clear immediately. When you arise from the laser bed, you’ll instantly look out of your new, high-definition eyes and see a bald eagle soaring half a mile away. It’s an example of excellent word-of-mouth gone a little too far. It is true that you’ll usually be able to see across the room better than you could (especially with prescriptions of -3.00 or higher). That, however, is much different than being able to see with perfect clarity right away.
Shouldn’t I have crystal clear vision right after LASIK?
Before we get to why the idea of immediate crystal-clear vision incorrect, we should first answer why the myth perpetuates itself. It’s because memories of emotions are much longer than memories of details. People remember the day they had LASIK as a magical, once-in-a-lifetime kind of day. And it is! For most people, they wake up with really blurry vision that morning and go to bed with really clear vision that night. It’s unbelievable and magnificent that it can even happen.
So, it is an emotional memory. The good kind of emotion, but still emotional. And emotional memories are long. For the actual details of the timeline of progressive visual clarity, our memories aren’t quite so foolproof. Everyone (truly, everyone) has hazy vision when they first sit up after the procedure. But it rare for people to remember that part.
How do I know this? I have personally been involved in a lot of conversations between a patient who had LASIK done by me a few years ago, and their friend who is just now getting it done. These are patients who – just a few years ago – sat up after their LASIK, looked around, and said something along the lines of, “is it normal for it to be pretty hazy like this?” But when they describe it to their friend, they’ll say, “it is crazy, because you sit up, and you can see perfectly.” They remember the feeling of that day, but the timeline gets a little distorted as the years pass.
Why is vision hazy?
As why the vision is hazy, it’s straightforward. If you’ve ever opened your eyes underwater while swimming, you may remember the haze to your vision when you got out of the pool. The cornea (the clear, domed front of your eye) gets water-logged and that makes the vision hazy. Since saline keeps everything clean and clear during the procedure, the cornea ends up getting water-logged. Add to that the viscous artificial tears we instill when we’re done, and you’ve got some guaranteed hazy vision.
When will my vision become great after LASIK?
Over the next six hours, the water gets naturally removed out of your cornea. Your cornea is good at that because it must do it all day and night anyway, just to stay clear. The viscous artificial tears get replaced by normal artificial tears and then by your own natural tear film. Soon, the clarity increase is obvious. Your vision goes from, “I can tell something good has happened, but it’s too hazy to know how good” all the way to, “this is amazing!”
Fast forward a few years, and you’ll remember the day fondly. Particularly, you’ll remember the “this is amazing!” as the towering sentiment over all the others. Then you can continue the tradition and tell your nervous friend how your vision was perfect when you first sat up. If you could, though, would you also have them read this article?
Author: Joel Hunter, MD is an Ophthalmologist, Refractive Surgeon, and the Founder of Hunter Vision, a LASIK Orlando Clinic in Florida. A recognized and respected specialist in vision correction who has performed a countless number of refractive surgeries, Joel gives lectures across the country and trains fellow doctors in the newest LASIK surgery techniques.