What You Should Know About Running After Lasik
You probably got lasik done partly because of running. Trying to run with prescription glasses isn't fun. Fogging and the smudges on the lenses make it hard to see where you are going. And so got lasik.
When running after lasik, it is important to avoid getting sweat in the eye. Any excess water in the eye can increase the risk of infection or simply just cause a lot of extra irritation to the eye. Taking extra steps such as reducing your vigorous activity and protecting your eyes can allow you to run after lasik.
Since as a dedicated runner, you probably want to limit your downtime after the lasik procedure as much as possible. Here is how you can return to running after lasik while protecting your newly corrected eyes.
Avoiding sweat in the eyes
Running can be a very vigorous activity. It doesn't take much effort to get your heart rate going and to break a sweat. This is especially the case if you are running in the summer or in a warm climate. The body wants to sweat to cool off. But sweat poses issues after lasik.
Sweat contains salt
If you've ever swam in an ocean, you probably already know that salt doesn't feel so great on the eyes. A salty solution can irritate the eyes.
After lasik, the eyes will be more dry than usual. Typically there are tiny nerves within the cornea that regulate the tears on the surface of the eye. When the eye drys out, these nerves send signals to produce more tears. But after lasik, the connections of these nerves are disrupted by the lasik flap. Until these nerves regenerate, the eye has a decreased ability to produce tears.
When the eye drys out, inflammation starts to build up on the surface of the eye. This inflammation will actually further disrupt tear production. It is important to maintain good control of dryness and prevent inflammation after lasik in order to allow everything to heal up.
Anything that irritates the eye will cause extra inflammation to build up! This includes sweat. Getting sweat in the eye doesn't help the goal of maintaining good control of dryness.
It wouldn't be such a big deal if irritation was the only issue with sweat. But there is a far greater concern for getting sweat (and any water) in the eye in the first few weeks after lasik. This concern is bacteria causing an infection.
The very surface of the cornea is covered by a thin layer of cells called epithelium that provide a barrier to keep bacteria out of the cornea. During lasik, a flap is created through this layer. After this flap is re-positioned, a thin break exists in this layer. This break is a passageway for bacteria to slip through and get underneath the lasik flap.
Fortunately, within the first few hours after lasik, this break quickly heals up. The epithelium covers up the break to recreate its barrier (this also corresponds to the initial scratchiness going away after lasik). But even after the epithelium has healed over, it takes some time to get back to it's full pre-lasik strength. While the odds of bacteria getting through the epithelium after it heals over is pretty low, we want to be very conservative with our eyes until it gets back up to full strength. This can take a week or two to happen. Until that happens, you will want to avoid getting water in the eye.
Sweat starts out as a sterile liquid. But as sweat drips down your forehead and into your eyes, it can pick up some of the normal bacteria on your skin. This bacteria can travel with the sweat directly into the eyes. Another reason we want to keep sweat out of the eyes.
How to protect against sweat
Well doing very light activity works. Activity light enough that you avoid sweating. But can you increase the intensity a little bit more?
If you are going to increase your pace a little bit more, you want to make sure sweat doesn't get into the eye. The easiest way this is achieved with a sports headband aka sweatband.
Sports headband; Image courtesy of Amazon.com note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases
Some people may think sweatbands look dorky, but you can't really argue with their function. Sweatbands work really well to keep sweat out of your eyes. Don't want to wear a sweatband? There are also some other options including running visors or hats which can absorb sweat. Either way, you will want to find a solution which can absorb and keep sweat away from your eyes.
Protecting your eyes
There is a lot of debris outside. While running, dirt and dust can blow into your eyes. Even if you just mainly run on roads, there will still be dirt which can be stirred up by cars. You will also occasionally come across some bugs which just love to fly directly into your eyes! These are all things that you want to keep out of your eyes. Similar to how sweat can irritate your eyes, random debris can do the same thing.
The best thing you can do to protect your eyes when running outside is to wear a pair of sunglasses over your eyes. These sunglasses provide a great barrier to keep things out of your eyes. If you run when it's dark out, you will want to consider getting a pair of clear athletic glasses just for eye protection. Bugs still like to fly around at night!
The best part about sunglasses after lasik is that you no longer need to worry about prescription in the sunglasses. You can pick whatever pair you want!
Lastly, it's important to drink water before, during and after running. As stated up above, after lasik your eyes will be more dry than usual. To help keep the eyes healing well, you will want to avoid situations which can cause your eyes to dry out more. Not drinking enough water and becoming dehydrated is one of those situations. If you are running aggressively (and losing water through sweat), you run the risk of becoming dehydrated.
Preventing dehydration while running is pretty simple. Drink more water. Before a run, drink some water. If you are going out on a longer run, bring water with you on the run. After you return home, drink more water. This is something you should be doing anyway, but becomes even more important when we want to prevent the eyes from drying out further after lasik.
With a few simple adjustments, you can return to running as soon as 24 hours after lasik (as long as your surgeon also gives you the OK). Wear a sports headband to keep sweat out of the eyes. Wear sunglasses to protect environmental debris from blowing into your eyes. Drink water. All straightforward measures to keep your eyes healthy as you continue to hit the pavement.
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