Lifestyle & LASIK
LASIK can give you freedom from glasses and contacts allowing you to participate in many activities which would otherwise be difficult or impossible. Some of these activities, however, can elevate post-LASIK risks, especially during the healing process. Depending on how large of a role these things play in your life, you may even want to consider alternatives to LASIK. At the very least, it is important to keep in mind how LASIK will affect your ability to participate in certain activities before scheduling surgery. For instance, if you are planning an island vacation, you probably want to wait until after you return to have the procedure
Sunlight and tanning booths
You should always wear UV protection sunglasses to protect your eyes, with or without LASIK surgery. After LASIK, however, it is critical that you protect your eyes from UV rays for at least six weeks to several months. UV exposure can reverse the effects of LASIK and cause late-onset corneal haze. This includes exposure to natural sunlight and tanning beds. UV rays are known to cause cataracts and retinal damage. Even clear glasses and some contact lenses provide some amount of UV protection. If you wear eye glasses you may not be in the habit of wearing sunglasses because of the inconvenience. If you do not already have a good pair of sunglasses with UV protection, purchase sunglasses that are comfortable and that you will enjoy wearing as part of your preparation for surgery.
Swimming and water sports
One of the benefits of LASIK, for many people, is the ability to go swimming and enjoy other water sports, such as water skiing and scuba diving, as they never have before. That doesn’t mean you can rush right out to the pool, lake, or beach after surgery. You will need to refrain from water sports for at least one to two months. After LASIK your eyes will be very vulnerable to infection. Natural water, such as sea and lake water, is full of bacteria and organisms which can easily invade your eyes. Swimming pools and hot tubs are chlorinated, but that does not mean that they are contaminant free. On top of the bacteria which can still be found in chlorinated water, chlorine causes dry eye. More aggressive water sports, such as water skiing or even diving, may cause flap complications, due to the impact involved.
Skiing, mountain climbing, and other high altitude activities
Pressure changes and lack of oxygen can affect your vision at very high altitudes. This can happen whether you have had LASIK surgery or not. The effects are temporary, but can be dangerous at the time they are occurring, not to your eyes, but because you can’t see. It is normally only an issue at extremely high altitudes, well over 10,000 feet. A more common problem is dry eye. Even at less extreme altitudes, mountain climbers and skiers usually encounter high winds which can contribute to dry eye. Dry eye can cause complications after LASIK.
You absolutely must refrain from playing contact sports for at least one month after LASIK surgery. This includes, but is not limited to, hockey, football, tennis, racquet ball, martial arts and boxing. A blow to your eyes during the recovery period can cause flap complications. Even after this period, and really, whether you have had LASIK or not, you should wear protective eyewear when playing contact sports.
If you participate in any of these activities, or if you wish to but can’t because of your eyesight, LASIK surgery may greatly enhance your life. There are precautions to consider, and your ophthalmologist can help you determine if LASIK is right for you, based on your unique situation.