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Ever dreamt of not wearing glasses or cumbersome contacts and yet retaining perfect vision? Here is what you need to know about LASIK – The future, today.
What is LASIK and what does it correct?
Laser eye surgery or laser vision correction, more commonly referred to as LASIK, is a type of refractive surgery. LASIK is typically performed by an Ophthalmologist who uses a special type of laser to reshape the eye’s cornea to improve visual acuity.
It is a surgical procedure that can correct the following conditions:
- Myopia (Short-sightedness) from 100~ to 1000~ degrees
- Hyperopia (Long-sightedness) up to 300~ degrees
- Astigmatism up to 300~ degrees
What happens during a procedure?
Eye drops are typically used to numb the eye prior to the procedure to reduce the sensation of pain but some patients request for a mild sedative instead.
After the area has been anaesthetized, a thin flap is created on the cornea using a laser tool and then pulled back so that the surgeon can access the corneal tissues.
The area is then treated with an excimer laser before being covered with the corneal flap that will protect the eye and keep it comfortable during the healing period.
The entire process takes about 10 minutes and no stitches are required.
Who is LASIK for?
LASIK is not just simply a panacea for all forms of poor eyesight. Thanks to aggressive marketing in Singapore, many think that they can just simply go for LASIK if they would like to get rid of their glasses or contact lenses.
There are a few factors that you have to consider to determine whether you are eligible for the surgery:
- Eye health
Those suffering from any form of infection of the eyes, conjunctivitis or severe dry eye syndrome, as well as those with cataracts or glaucoma, are unsuitable for LASIK surgery.
- The thickness of the cornea
As the procedure involves reshaping the cornea to improve vision, operating on the cornea that is overly thin or irregularly-shaped would make it difficult for the surgery to have optimal results.
- Large pupils
Those whose pupils are too large are unsuitable for LASIK surgery as the risk of side effects like seeing halos around images, glares and starbursts would be increased significantly post-surgery.
- Overly-high prescription
Those with a prescription that is very high will affect the results of LASIK surgery and increase side effects.
Breastfeeding or pregnant women should refrain from undergoing LASIK surgery as changes in hormones will modify the shape of the cornea and affect vision. Certain medication that has to be taken before and after surgery may be dangerous to the unborn fetus or baby (if breastfeeding).
What happens during the pre-LASIK assessment?
A pre-laser evaluation that will take a few hours (depending on the severity of the condition of the patient) will have to be conducted.
You will be required to stop using soft contact lenses 3 days before the evaluation and 14 days for hard contact lenses.
The evaluation involves checking for corneal thickness and shape as well as intraocular pressure and visual acuity.
DO TAKE NOTE that eyedrops that will dilate your eyes will need to be applied, and will affect vision for a few hours. Bring sunglasses as you will become more sensitive to bright lights!
After the evaluation, you will get a consultation with your eye surgeon. Be sure to clear up any doubts you might have during this time.
What happens if I have dry eyes?
It is important for you to take note that LASIK does make symptoms of dry eyes worse. This is extremely concerning to many patients who suffer from dry eyes.
However, this is only temporary in most cases. In order to determine your suitability for LASIK if you have dry eyes, we need to take into account the severity of your condition as well as the reversibility of your condition post-LASIK.
Most people with dry eyes have mild dry eyes. Patients are eligible for LASIK if this is the case for them, as long as they treat their dry eyes aggressive and conscientiously. This means using eye drops frequently even if you do not feel the need to and to not allow symptoms to appear.
After 2 – 3 months or so, you will notice that the condition of your eyes has reverted to how it was prior to the surgery, but there is always a possibility that you are an exception to the norm and it takes longer to reverse for you.
How much does LASIK cost in Singapore?
There is not a significant difference in price whether you decide to seek treatment in a public setting or a private setting.
This is what you can expect to pay:
- Advanced Surface Ablation (Epi-LASIK, LASEK, PRK, TransPRK): $3,800 to $4,000
- LASIK: $3,500 to $4,500
- ReLEx SMILE: $5,000 to $6,000
The different types of LASIK (or rather, laser eye surgery)
I mentioned ReLEx SMILE and Advanced Surface Ablation procedures above, which are not LASIK. Why did I do that?
This is because when people use the term LASIK, they mistakenly use it synonymously with laser eye surgery.
There are three different kinds of laser eye surgeries available in modern days, as mentioned above:
- Advanced Surface Ablation (Epi-LASIK, LASEK, PRK, TransPRK)
- ReLEx SMILE
I’m confused. Can you explain what LASIK is to me then?
As explained earlier:
- The procedure involves using a laser to create a flap on the surface of the cornea which is later folded back.
- A second and different type of laser is used to sculpt the corneal tissue to correct the refractive errors.
LASIK is the most widely performed laser vision correction in Singapore and has gained widespread acceptance amongst surgeons worldwide for its excellent refractive correction as well as its swiftness and comfortable recovery.
However, it has some drawbacks as well. This includes traumatic flap dislodgement and corneal ectasia.
What about Advanced Surface Ablation?
Advanced Surface Ablation (ASA) differs from LASIK as it is considered slightly more uncomfortable than it.
Procedures that fall under ASA include the aforementioned Epi-LASIK, LASEK, PRK and TransPRK.
ASA is a surfaced-based procedure with no incisions. It is minimally invasive.
You are most suitable for ASA if:
- You have thin corneas
- You are concerned about procedure-induced dry eyes
- You are into active rugged or contact sports
- You wish to avoid flap-related issues such as dry eyes, corneal ectasia and flap dislodgement.
ASA is carried out in 3 main steps:
- The thin layer of cells on the surface of the cornea is removed
- A laser accurately sculpts the cornea tissues to correct refractive errors
- A protective contact lens is placed over the eye until the surface cells grow back within a few days
The main drawback of ASA is it has a relatively longer downtime of 3 to 5 days before vision reaches a level allowing for normal activities, and it requires a longer duration compared to LASIK and ReLEx SMILE for your vision to fully stabilize.
What about ReLEx SMILE?
Refractive Lenticule Extraction, Small Incision Lenticule Extraction (ReLEx SMILE) is another minimally invasive procedure that is flapless and offers fast recovery.
ReLEx SMILE is carried out in 2 main steps:
- A laser creates a disc-shaped piece of corneal tissue just beneath the surface of the cornea
- The same laser then creates a small incision on the cornea, from which the lenticule is removed, resulting in a reshaped cornea that corrects your vision.
Once again, ReLEx SMILE is suitable for you if you have an active lifestyle.
The main drawbacks of ReLEx SMILE is that is cannot correct for long-sightedness, and that enhancement of vision using laser vision correction requires conversion to either LASIK or PRK / Epi-LASIK.
Can I wear contact lenses after LASIK?
You can wear contact lenses after LASIK, but you will need to wait for 1 – 3 months after the procedure before you begin to do so.
It is worth noting that your contact lenses may not fit as well as they used to, and may have a tendency to fall out especially if your eye is dry.
To prevent this, have your optometrist adjust the shape of your contract lens to one that would allow for a better fit between the contact lens and the cornea.
Can my vision regress after going through LASIK?
Only 5% of patients may require enhancement procedures for short-sightedness, long-sightedness or astigmatism within 10 years of the surgery. For the others, they get to enjoy good vision for many years to come.
If you require to, unfortunately, undergo any surgery due to older age, you can do so. It is best to inform any doctors you see about your history with LASIK.
What must I do after my LASIK procedure?
After your LASIK procedure, you will experience blur vision for the first 6 hours. Please do not drive during this period, and get someone to accompany you home after.
Use eye shields to prevent accidentally rubbing your eyes, and follow all medical instructions strictly.
Your doctor will schedule further reviews with you depending on what procedure you underwent.