Is Laser Eye Surgery Painful?

3 June 2021

There are many myths and misconceptions about laser eye treatment, and many people are apprehensive about getting surgery as they think it could be painful.

In reality, the treatment itself is usually pain free, and any discomfort you may feel afterwards is minimal, so it really isn’t anything to worry about. Read on below to learn whether laser eye surgery hurts and what to expect after the treatment.

Before surgery

Your surgeon will administer some eye drops to keep your eyes moist, with a mild anaesthetic to prevent any discomfort. Your eyes will then be held open using a sterile speculum. This might feel a little strange at first, but it if you relax you’ll soon get used to how it feels. If you are feeling particularly anxious about your surgery, your surgeon can also offer you a mild sedative to help you relax.

During surgery

Depending on what type of laser eye treatment is carried out (LASIK, LASEK or SMILE), your surgeon will use innovative techniques to reshape the cornea and correct your visual error.

The actual laser treatment part of the process is very short and only lasts about 30 to 40 seconds. The laser itself removes tissue a quarter of a width of a human hair with each pulse, so it is incredibly accurate and focused. It is generally painless, thanks to the anaesthetic administered before treatment, and if you do feel any discomfort it will not last long.

Contrary to popular belief, the laser is not hot but cold. Some patients do report a burning smell but this is simply the laser reacting with the carbon atoms in the air around it. This causes a smell similar to smoke but it has nothing to do with your eye tissue and is nothing to worry about.

After surgery

After the treatment, there may be some degree of discomfort, depending on which treatment you have opted for.


After having LASEK surgery, your eyes will be covered with bandage lenses – soft, clear contact lenses worn to protect the eye whilst it heals. These lenses may need to be worn for up to a week, depending on how quickly the healing takes place.

LASEK patients report some mild to moderate pain, usually in the form of a stinging sensation. However, this is usually very short lived and will soon decrease as the eye heals.


Patients who have undergone a LASIK treatment tend to experience less discomfort than with LASEK, as the cornea heals very quickly. There may be some dryness of the eyes in the days after surgery but this can be countered with eye drops. Around 90% of laser eye surgery patients are suitable for LASIK treatment, and it is the most common type of laser eye surgery.


SMILE (Small Incision Lenticule Extraction) is the newest and least invasive laser eye treatment available. If you opt for SMILE eye surgery, you’ll have less risk of developing dry eyes, as well as a quick recovery time, as no flap is created on the cornea.

Speak to your surgeon

At Optegra, our world class ophthalmic surgeons are extremely skilled and help to make the treatment as comfortable as possible.

Download Information Pack

Learn more about how our latest vision correction techniques could improve your vision and change your life. Or Book Free Consultation.

    Read our terms & conditions. Read our privacy policy

    Please note – by providing these details, you agree that we can contact you via these methods

    There are very few cases of complications and in almost all cases, these can be effectively dealt with on the spot. Whilst there may be some mild discomfort in the hours and possibly days after surgery as your eyes heal, this is no cause for concern.

    However, if you have any concerns either before, during or after your surgery, you can simply ask your surgeon. They are on hand to answer any questions you may have about eye pain or discomfort.

    Don’t let fear stand in your way

    Some people let fear get in the way of good eyesight. Misconceptions about laser eye surgery have prevented too many people from getting the treatment they need, so it is very important that you know the facts.

    Countless patients who have undergone treatment have been amazed at how easy and quick the procedure is. And, while it’s true that you may need some time to recover from the treatment, the majority of patients are back at work within a couple of days.

    Book a consultation with Optegra – our knowledgeable staff will be happy to answer your questions.


    Download a free infopack

    Not ready for a consultation? Learn more about our range of treatments, doctors and hospitals

    Information pack

    Free Virtual Consultation

    Book your virtual consultation with our top rated eye hospitals

    Book Now
    phone icon

    Call us free

    We'll answer any questions you may have about treatment.

    Private Patients - 0808 304 3983
    NHS Patients - 0207 509 4186

    Private: Mon-Thu: 8am-7pm, Fri: 8am - 5.30pm NHS: Mon-Fri: 8am - 6pm