Is redness of the eye normal one week after LASIK?
I frequently get asked if certain types of redness are normal after vision correction procedures. The answer is it depends!
The only type of redness that is truly normal, benign and nothing to worry about at all is the blood-red splotchy type of redness which is seen on the whites of the eye. This is called a sub-conjunctival hemorrhage and can occur during the flap creation process of a LASIK surgery. Because there is a suction ring on the eye while we use the laser to create the flap, there are occasions when one or more of the tiny blood vessels of the eye will break and leave a blood spot. This is similar to a bruise, but because it is on the white of the eye (the Sclera), it is very visible and looks worrisome to those that don’t realize what it is.
In order to minimize these, we use a combination of special eye drops prior to the surgery and this protocol lowers the incidence of these hemorrhages in our hands to less than 5% of the cases. If they do occur, they will go away on their own over a few weeks and require no treatment at all. They do not interfere with vision and have no bearing at all on the result.
Other forms of red eyes are much less normal at one week post LASIK. When eyes develop an infection the whites become pink or red, but usually there is also some pain and irritation involved. There may also be a discharge. If the cornea itself is infected, the vision can be affected and blurring will result. This requires immediate treatment.
A much more common type of red eye comes from having dry eyes, which is likely following LASIK during the first few months post op. The eyes are usually pinkish and feel gritty or like something is in them. Patients need to avoid fans and vents, etc so that forced air is minimized in their environment as much as possible. Frequent use of artificial tears and other prescription medications are necessary to maintain a smooth, clear ocular surface. Care while using computer screens is necessary since our blink reflex is blunted while we stare at computers. If these precautions are not taken, then redness can occur as a primary sign of dryness.
For more information about redness in the eye after LASIK and other general reasons for why you have bloodshot eyes, read November's Men's Health article with Dr. Holzman.