Is It Safe to Fly After Lasik Surgery?

I am considering Lasik surgery and have an upcoming vacation that will keep me away from too much eye strain for at least a week, which I hear is helpful. The only catch is I have to fly. Will the change in altitude or pressure changes affect my results or cause any discomfort?

Doctor Answers 10

LASIK and Air Travel

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I am always amazed at how busy my LASIK patients are and how many things they have planned! I think my LASIK patients have alot more fun than I do! Seriously, other than the dryness on an airplane, air travel is fine as soon as two days postop (I traveled on  the second day after my laser surgery). There are no issues with altitude or pressure. You will have to be careful to not get hit in the eye for a week or so, in addition to avoiding water sports for a week. So, try to plan your LASIK surgery so you are not squeezing your surgery in to some other plans too tightly. My advice is to have your surgery late in the week (like a Thursday or Friday) then have a slow paced weekend that is not too over scheduled. Then by Monday you are off to the races!

Baltimore Ophthalmologist

Flying after Lasik surgery

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It is fine to fly two days after Lasik if you had your 1-2 days post op visit. Altitude or pressure changes would not affect surgery result. But you might need to use lubricating eye drops more often caused by dry air in the plane. 

William Ellis, MD, FACS
San Francisco Ophthalmologist

Flying After LASIK

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It is best to avoid high altitudes immediately after LASIK surgery as low oxygen conditions can cause corneal edema (swelling). Once the surface is healed (usually one day) airplanes are generally fine, but to be on the safe side it is best to wait a week to fly (or go skiing) and see your doctor for your one week post op visit before you go up in a plane or participate in other high altitude activities to be certain you are healed.

Michael K. Tracy, MD
San Diego Ophthalmologist

Safe to fly after LASIK

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Yes, it is absolutely safe to fly after LASIK. You just need to use lubricating drops more frequently to combat the dryness caused by the air conditioning in the plane.

Vandana Jain, MS
India Ophthalmologist

LASIK LASEK altitude flying

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When I was at Harvard, one of the surgeons there who had LASIK went to climb K2, which is the 2nd tallest mountain in the world after Mt. Everest. Unfortunately, he developed corneal edema (water-logged cornea), as when you have LASIK you wind up with a two-piece cornea, and the 2 pieces never fully join as well as if you didn't have a "sandwich" configuration, so the upper flap got watter-logged because the corneal endothelial cells that pump the water out of your cornea constantly don't pump the water out of the flap as well. Anyway, he pretty much lost vision and had to descend (but it came back a few days afterwards)
In the more advanced, safer, noncutting LASEK I now perform exclusively, this wouldn't have been a problem, as you don't cut the cornea, it's not in 2 pieces afterwards, so your natural pumping cells can fully pump out the water from your entire cornea afterwards--even on the top of Mt. Everest!

This is why, if you're a jet fighter pilot or test pilot, they don't want you to get LASIK, but you can safely get LASEK, as if your cabin loses pressure you won't go blind, so hopefully you can maintain control long enough to descend (this is assuming not a total loss of pressure, in which case your blood would boil).

So, there is no pressure problems with LASEK, unlike LASIK. If you fly commercial, all I tell my patients is to use tear gel and drink lots of water and avoid the free alcohol and bad movie, as you don't want to dehydrate your eyes after either LASIK or LASEK on a plane! I’m having patients fly in from abroad weekly to get my LASEK, as in many countries they only do the older cutting LASIK procedure, so I actually get this question a lot!

Emil William Chynn, MD, FACS, MBA
New York Ophthalmologist

Flying after LASIK

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Flying is generally safe after LASIK surgery. But, since the eyes tend to be drier after surgery and airplanes are notoriously dry environments, I would recommend bringing a lot of lubricating eye drops on the trip.

Christopher Starr, MD
New York Ophthalmologist

Flying after laser vision correction

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What we said was, "While the change in cabin pressure may cause your ears to pop, it will not harm your LASIK surgery, even if you’ve had surgery that very morning. The bigger cause for concern when flying is the dry air. After LASIK, your eyes may be dry and irritated, and dry eyes are more susceptible to infection. So if you’re in a plane or going skiing in cold, dry mountain air, be sure to bring your lubricating eye drops with you. Keep those eyes moisturized and enjoy the view!"

Paul C. Kang, MD
Washington DC Ophthalmologist

Flying is safe after LASIK

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We are often asked this questions since many patients travel from far away to have LASIK at our center. There is no problem with flying even shortly after LASIK surgery from a medical standpoint. There might be a problem immediatelly after surgery in negotiating the airport, dealing with travel stress and delays, and more importantly what to do if having some discomfort during the flight, or needing to return to be checked if problems arise.

We recommend that patients be checked one day post op before traveling home for these reasons. Also planes are dry, and frequent tears and good hydration are important. If traveling for vacation, sun protection, sports eye protection, and staying out of the water for a week is probably a good idea.

Jon Dishler, MD, FACS
Greenwood Village Ophthalmologist

Flying after LASIK

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It is OK to fly shortly after LASIK. I've had patients fly the very next day (after their morning one day postop visit). Air in planes can be dry, so I tell patients to bring plenty of artificial tears to use. The altitude and pressure will have no effect at all.

I'm assuming your question is as a passenger. As a private pilot, as soon as you (and your doctor) feel comfortable with your vision, you can have your FAA physician sign you off, or have your eye surgeon sign off on a form. I've had pilots fly within days of their LASIK without any difficulty whatsoever.

Gary Kawesch, MD (retired)
San Jose Ophthalmologist

Flying after LASIK

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Flying or altitude does not affect LASIK! Rubbing your eyes and getting dirty water in them will affect your surgery. So, enjoy your vacation, perhaps with goggles!

Susan J. Taub, MD - RETIRED
Chicago Ophthalmologist

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.