How Long After PRK Can I Watch TV Like Normal
I’m just as addicted on [popular netflix TV show] as you are right now. And so I know how you are just itching to get back to your latest binge session after PRK. But wait a sec, you just had eye surgery. How long must you wait after PRK before resuming watching your favorite shows on TV?
Technically if you really wanted to, you don’t have to wait long at all. In fact, you could resume watching TV immediately. However, it may be best to wait close to a week before seriously watching TV after PRK surgery.
Watching TV won’t really damage your eyes, but it could be uncomfortable and an unpleasant experience after PRK surgery. To see why, let’s examine the recovery after PRK.
Recovery After PRK
PRK corrects vision by changing the shape of the cornea. Laser energy is applied to the rigid structural part of the cornea called stroma. But this stroma is covered by an additional protective layer called the epithelium.
Epithelium and stroma of the cornea; Image by StemBook (CC BY 3.0) / modified from original
During PRK, this epithelium layer is removed to allow access to the stroma. This epithelium must then regrow back. The regrowth of this epithelium is the reason for the recovery after PRK. (Lasik instead creates a flap directly to the stroma layer. This is the one key difference between lasik and PRK).
Until this epithelium grows back, vision will be blurry and the eye will be uncomfortable.
Immediately Resuming Watching TV
You won’t damage your eyes watching TV immediately after PRK.
One noteworthy exception: during tasks that require visual attention, one blinks less. Each blink of our eyelids is designed to restore the natural tear film on the surface of our eye and prevent our eye from drying out. Blinking less thus can cause the eye to dry out more. Watching TV requires our attention. The more visually interesting something is, the less we blink. Thus watching TV can cause the eye to dry out more. Increased dry eye and the resulting inflammation can slow the healing after PRK.
But let’s discount the dry eye for a sec. One main reason why you won’t want to watch TV immediately after PRK is won’t be very enjoyable. The combo of blurry vision and an uncomfortable eye doesn’t allow for the best TV watching experience.
Your vision may be too blurry to really see (and especially read) much on the screen. And the eye discomfort will more than likely prevent you from relaxing in front of the TV. You may simply just want to keep your eyes closed.
Waiting Up To A Week To Catch Up On Your TV Shows
A lot will change if you just wait.
During the first week after PRK, the epithelium heals up. This will typically take approximately 3-4 days to complete.
During this time, you can notice both the vision and the discomfort getting worse before they get better. But after the cornea is completely resurfaced with epithelium, the discomfort significantly goes away.
Four days out after PRK, watching TV can become a lot more comfortable with less concern about poor healing from dry eye. Feel free to resume watching TV at this point. But just don’t expect things to be very clear.
Even though the epithelium has fully covered the cornea, things aren’t fully healed up. The epithelium layer must be fully restored to its original smoothness and thickness for the vision to fully sharpen up.
This doesn’t happen immediately; this occurs during the next few weeks out after PRK. That’s right, it can take weeks for the vision to reach 100% after PRK. (In fact, it can take even longer such as months, but most people don’t notice the gradual improvement past the first month).
Fortunately, much of this improvement in vision happens very quickly. Vision exponentially improves by the end of the first week out after PRK.
The best time to resume watching TV is after this first week after PRK. With improved vision and comfortable eyes, this is when you can really lose yourself in your TV shows and enjoy the experience at the same time - and all without glasses and contact lenses.
Tips While Watching TV
Once you do resume watching TV, there are some best practices to make sure everything heals on point.
Use artificial tears to lubricate the eyes.
As mentioned above, watching TV can dry the eyes out. Having bad dry eye can delay the healing of the epithelium. But even beyond that, it is important to control dry eye. In the initial months after PRK, there will be an increase in dry eye. Using preservative free artificial tears is important to control this dry eye to allow for healing. And since your eyes can dry out more while watching TV, you may want to take preservative free artificial tears every hour while watching TV.
Take breaks from TV.
Now isn’t the time to binge all 8 seasons of Game of Thrones. Take some breaks from the screen to give your eyes some rest. Your TV shows aren’t going anywhere. Moderation can help avoid stressing your eyes out too much.
Maybe get into a new audiobook in the meantime.
Instead of having your eyes glued to the TV screen, listening to an audiobook is a great and popular way to spend the initial days out after PRK. Keeping your eyes closed will just be more comfortable. All you need is a good pair of headphones and a comfy chair to pass the time as you wait for everything to heal.
You really don’t have to wait long after PRK before watching TV. While watching TV can contribute to extra dry eye, you won’t damage the eyes if you decide to immediately watch TV after PRK. But if you don’t wait until things heal up, everything will just be blurry and uncomfortable. Beyond 4 days, the eyes will feel more comfortable, but for the best TV viewing experience, wait beyond 7 days.
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