Author: Dr Val Phua MBBS, MMed (Ophth), FRCOphth, FAMS
Photo by: Glen Noble
In Singapore, LASIK (Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis) is a popular procedure to achieve freedom from glasses and contact lenses. It has success rates exceeding 98% and safety rate exceeding 99%. Those who have undergone LASIK often describe it as life-changing. Here are 5 key things to know about LASIK in Singapore.
1. There are no blades involved
The LASIK procedure involves several steps. One of the key steps in creating a corneal flap and then lifting it to expose the underlying layers to allow for the laser correction. In the early days of LASIK surgery, a blade was used to create this flap and this resulted in potential complications like an incomplete flap and a free flap. WIth the advent of the femto-second laser, this key step of flap creation during LASIK is now replaced by the use of a femto-second laser machine to create a smooth and predictable flap. If you have in your mind an image of a knife splitting your cornea into layers, don’t worry because that method of doing things is now obsolete. Modern day LASIK is now blade-free with the use of lasers for this key step instead.
2. It is a painless procedure
Some people have the misconception that LASIK is a painful procedure. It is in fact a painless procedure. The eye is well numbed with topical anesthetic eye drops before the procedure begins and this ensures that the entire process, from the creation of the corneal flap using the femto-second laser to the application of the corrective laser, is painless. Some may experience a mild discomfort during the part where the machine applies a vacuum to keep the eye steady during the corneal flap creation. This pressure sensation is common and usually mild. After this is done, the rest of the surgery proceeds pain-free. Some may also have concerns about pain after surgery. This is usually minimal especially with LASIK surgery. There may be some mild discomfort in the first couple of days but this quickly resolves, allowing a painless recovery.
3. It is able to treat astigmatism
Laser technology has improved vastly over the years and it is unfortunate that some people are still under the impression that LASIK is not able to correct astigmatism. This is a myth; LASIK surgery is able to correct the various refractive errors in the eye including short-sightedness, long-sightedness and even astigmatism at the same sitting. The concern about astigmatism comes about if there is irregular astigmatism present. This is easily seen through a special scan of the cornea. Some patients have this irregular astigmatism to such a significant degree that it makes it unsafe to proceed with LASIK surgery. These patients have corneas that have a tendency to reshape itself over time (ectasia). Should these patients undergo LASIK surgery, the cornea becomes structurally weaker and increases this risk of ectasia over time.
4. Recovery is quick
One of the many benefits of LASIK surgery is the minimal down time. In general, patients are able to see fairly well by the next day. Eye drops are given after the surgery to prevent infection and aid healing. These are instilled for about a week and thereafter, lubricant eye drops will suffice. Many are back to their normal activities like running and gymming in a week. Swimming is generally avoided for a month while the eye continues to heal and stabilise. The main challenge during this early recovery phase is the avoiding of eye rubbing. Aggressive eye rubbing can result in issues like the corneal flap being dislodged and can affect vision.
5. It can be used to treat presbyopia (老花眼)
Presbyopia is a condition of the eye that results in difficulty focusing on near objects and may necessitate reading glasses. It starts to become more apparent at about 40 years old onwards where objects need to be pushed progressively further away from you in order to remain in focus. Conservatively, reading glasses is a good choice to address this. For those looking for alternatives, LASIK is an option. LASIK is not only for the young and can be used to address presbyopia. This is done using the concept of monovision where the dominant eye is corrected for distance vision and the non-dominant eye is corrected for near vision. In this way, individuals enjoy both distance and near vision without the hassle of glasses.