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How Long Does Laser Eye Surgery Take?

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Laser eye surgery is often brought up when considering treatment options for refractive errors like nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. There are a few reasons someone might choose to have refractive surgery. Maybe they work a job that needs unimpeded vision, perhaps they’re tired of relying on glasses, or maybe they find contact lenses uncomfortable.

Whatever the reason, thousands of Canadians have already decided to undergo laser eye surgery. It’s a relatively fast operation, as typically, laser eye surgery takes under 30 minutes to complete. However, there will be some prep time, paperwork, and post-operation care, so you’ll likely want to give yourself an hour or two when planning out your day. 

Laser eye surgery isn’t suitable for everyone, but you can talk about it with your optometrist at your next eye exam. Of course, the best thing you can do if you’re considering leaving lenses behind is to learn more.

What Can Laser Eye Surgery Correct?

Whatever type of laser eye surgery you’re interested in, they’re all designed to correct refractive errors. Refractive errors are a collective term for a common type of vision problem. Even if you don’t have a refractive error, you’ve likely heard of at least one of these four common types:

  • Nearsightedness, also called myopia, makes distant objects blurry
  • Farsightedness, also called hyperopia, makes nearby objects blurry
  • Astigmatism is a general blurriness or distortion that can happen at any range and can occur alongside other refractive errors.
  • Presbyopia is a part of aging that makes nearby objects blurry

These errors occur when the eye can’t correctly focus light onto the retina, the layer of light-reactive cells at the back of the eye. While the shape of the eye can affect how you focus light, it can also result from irregularities in the shape of the cornea, the clear dome at the front of your eye. 

Laser eye surgery, or refractive surgery, can reshape your irregular cornea to better focus light.

It’s important to note that presbyopia is different. It’s a normal part of aging in which the crystalline lens loses its flexibility. Laser eye surgery, which works on the cornea, can’t fix this. Some recent laser surgeries have been used to correct presbyopia.

A female optometrist prepares a patient for laser eye surgery

What Are The Types of Laser Eye Surgery?

A few different types of laser eye surgery are offered in Canada:


Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis (though many people might prefer to call it LASIK) is one of the most popular types of laser eye surgery offered today. It’s a bit more complex surgery, though it has a very high satisfaction rate. Over 98% of patients reported being satisfied after LASIK surgery for their myopia.

LASIK is done by cutting a thin flap in the cornea’s outer layer and peeling it aside. Your surgeon will then use a computer-guided laser to trim away the inside of the cornea. The laser uses precise calculations to reshape your cornea in a way that should correct refractive errors. The flap is then replaced and allowed to heal.

Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK)

PRK is excellent for people who have corneas that are too thin for LASIK. Instead of cutting and peeling back a flap of your cornea, the surgeon will use a sharp blade, brush, alcohol solution, or laser to remove an incredibly thin layer of your cornea completely.

With the cornea exposed, PRK continues much like LASIK. Your surgeon uses a laser to reshape your cornea, and then using a contact lens-like bandage, your eye will be allowed to heal. Because PRK doesn’t leave behind a flap that could be damaged or infected, it’s generally considered safer.

How Long is the Recovery Time?

We know that surgery isn’t simply how long the operation takes; it’s also about how long it takes before you can pick up your normal activities. Some people might notice mild irritation, discomfort, or pain after surgery, but it should fade in a few days. Your doctor might recommend pain medication or eyedrops to prevent infection and dryness.

What to expect during recovery depends on the sort of surgery you underwent.

LASIK Recovery

One of the benefits of LASIK is its fast recovery time due to the flap protecting your eye. Still, you’ll need someone to drive you home after the surgery and back for a check-up the next day.

Most people who have LASIK surgery see quite well after a night of healing and report little to no pain. However, it’s also not uncommon to have hazy or blurry vision for a few days. Your surgeon might recommend eyedrops or avoiding makeup for a couple of weeks.

PRK Recovery

PRK has the benefit of typically being considered safer, while also having a longer recovery time. Since your surgeon removed an entire layer of your cornea, you’ll need to protect it with a contact lens-like bandage while it heals. Your vision will be blurry during this time, and it’s crucial you don’t rub your eye as it could damage your vulnerable cornea.

Your doctor will remove the bandage from your eyes about 2–4 days after surgery. You’ll probably be able to return to your routine in about five days.

We’re Here to Answer Your Questions

Laser eye surgery is an extensive choice and comes with many questions. Our experienced team at Eye Effects offers consultations where we’ll take you through the entire surgical process.

You’re not in this alone, so book a consultation in Calgary or Didsbury and let us guide you through your options.

Written by Eye Effects

We’ve been providing stellar eye care to our communities in Calgary and Didsbury for over 25 years. At Eye Effects, we aim to be a premier place for individuals of all ages and walks of life to access professional vision care and advanced technology. From comprehensive exams to trendy frames and lenses, we’re sure we have something for all eyes!
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