Laser eye surgery is becoming increasingly popular in the UK and the US, yet still questions remain over certain aspects of the procedure. For those who have a regular exercise routine, the idea of having to abstain from such activities immediately after the treatment may be off-putting.
Although ‘laser eye surgery’ is a commonly used term and few feel the need to elaborate, there are actually different types of surgery you can have, and this affects your ability to get back into your sport after the surgery. The two main types are LASIK (Laser Assisted in-situ Keratomileusis) and LASEK (Laser-assisted Epithelial Keratomileusis).
LASIK involves opening up a flap on the surface of the cornea, before using a laser to shape the lower layer; the flap is then replaced and the healing process begins. LASEK, the less-common procedure, shapes the front of the cornea. However, with LASEK, a special contact lens must be worn to protect the affected area – this does not happen with LASIK.
Due to the difference in the LASIK and LASEK treatments, the recovery times differ when it comes to physical activity. If you jog, walk, do yoga or something similar, experts say it is fine to get back involved with these activities as soon as your vision is back to normal, which is typically within days. However, swimming is a different matter; the aggravation from chlorine and the risk of infection mean that all patients should stay out of the pool for two weeks.
With contact sports, LASIK patients usually have to wait a lot longer before they engage in sport again, as a blow to the eye could damage the flap that has been cut. How long varies depending on the individual and the work being done; in some cases return to action is ok after a couple of weeks, but in some cases it’s months. Top sports stars such as Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli have had LASIK, so it is possible to get back into sports reasonably quickly. The only thing to do is discuss it at length with your surgeon before committing to the procedure.
While you should speak to a number of doctors – including your own GP – before undergoing laser surgery, you should make sure you speak to only qualified surgeons. It is also worth prioritising those which offer a free consultation and no obligation from the advice meeting.