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If you have imperfect vision and want a convenient alternative to contacts or glasses, laser eye surgery may be worth thinking about. With a large number of clinics in Australia offering a variety of procedures, it's easy to see why laser eye surgery is a popular choice for many.
Use this guide find out how laser eye surgery works, and how to find a clinic that's matched to your needs.
What's in this guide?
- Compare laser eye surgeries in Australia
- What is laser eye surgery?
- How does laser eye surgery work?
- What types of laser eye surgery are there?
- What are some of the benefits of laser eye surgery?
- What are some of the risks involved?
- What's the typical cost of laser eye surgery procedures?
- How to compare laser eye surgery clinics
- Frequently asked questions
Compare laser eye surgeries in Australia
What is laser eye surgery?
Laser eye surgery is a type of surgery that's used to correct a range of vision problems including short- or long-sightedness, astigmatism and other common errors or diseases of the eye. Essentially, laser eye surgery uses a beam of light (a laser) to re-shape the eye's surface.
Successful laser eye surgery can remove the need for glasses or contact lenses but, as with any surgery, there are some risks to consider (outlined below).
How does laser eye surgery work?
A laser eye procedure is pretty quick: it often takes between five and 10 minutes per eye and is typically performed by a specialist eye surgeon called an ophthalmologist. Most people go to a private laser eye clinic for the surgery.
Your GP, optometrist or ophthalmologist may be able to recommend a good clinic that is experienced in the procedure. It's a good idea to research a number of clinics, so you can compare the services they offer and get a second opinion.
What types of laser eye surgery are there?
An ophthalmologist can tell you which technique is suitable for you based on your requirements, along with any limitations, risks and side-effects. Some of the more typical options include:
LASIK. The majority of laser eye surgery patients will need Laser-assisted in situ Keratomileusis (LASIK). This procedure re-shapes an eye's cornea using a computer-guided laser to treat short- and long-sightedness and astigmatism.
ASLA. Advanced Surface Laser Ablation (ASLA) is also used to correct short-sightedness, long-sightedness and astigmatism. It's usually reserved for those with thin corneas or patients who have other conditions which aren't suitable for LASIK treatments. This process removes surface cells from a cornea using a topical solution to soften the top layer of corneal cells, allowing them to be easily removed.
ICL. The surgeon creates a custom ICL, or thin clear lens similar to a contact lens. The lens is then surgically implanted directly into the eye, rather than sitting on the eye like a normal contact lens. This type of procedure may be offered to patients with high prescriptions whose cornea is lacking the thickness for a safe treatment with those listed above.
In addition to having a fixable type of 'refractive error', you must meet some additional basic criteria to be eligible for laser eye surgery.
At a minimum you must:
- Be over the age of 18, although some clinics will suggest waiting until your mid-twenties to ensure long term results as your eye can continue to change into early adulthood.
- Have a glasses prescription that hasn't changed significantly in the last 12 months.
- Not be pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Not have an active or recurring eye infection, history of eye scarring or severe dry eyes.
- Have good general health.
What are some of the benefits of laser eye surgery?
Many patients also experience the following benefits from laser eye surgery:
- Cost savings. Though laser eye surgery isn't cheap, neither is paying for a yearly supply of contacts and getting a new pair of glasses every couple of years. So, investing in laser eye surgery can help you save in the future.
- Flexibility. Laser eye surgery can give you the chance to live your life without worrying about your glasses breaking or your contacts drying out.
- Physical activity. It may be easier to participate in physical activities, and you might even find your athletic performance improves when you no longer have glasses or contacts holding you back.
- Safety. Don't underestimate the importance of not having to spend time searching for your glasses or contacts in an emergency.
- Eye health. Many organisations have voiced concerns over the risks associated with long term contact lens usage, which can increase the risks of eye infection and eye dryness.
What are some of the risks involved?
According to The Royal College of Ophthalmologists, more than 95% of patients are satisfied with the outcome of their laser eye surgery. Most patients say their vision after surgery is the same as, or better than when they wore contacts or glasses prior to surgery. But while the risk of serious complications is low, the procedure will be physically changing your eye and, with the exception of ICL, the results are irreversible.
As with any medical procedure, discuss your concerns with your doctor prior to surgery.
Potential side-effects and complications include:
- Dry eyes. LASIK is most likely to cause this side-effect, so if you're prone to dry eyes your surgeon will most likely recommend another procedure.
- Undercorrection or overcorrection. The undercorrection or overcorrection of corneal tissue may require an additional corrective procedure after healing.
- Visual regression. This might include poor night vision, light sensitivity, glare, and halos around light. The regression will usually resolve itself as the eye heals, but some patients experience lasting effects.
- Corneal abrasion. Corneal abrasions are more commonly a side-effect of procedures that use micro-scalpels, or microkeratome. The chance of corneal abrasion during a laser-only treatment are rare.
- Infection. As with all surgeries there is a chance of infection, although there's also a risk of infection associated with contact use.
- Corneal ectasia. This is bulging of the cornea, leading to blurred vision. People with abnormal corneal shapes are most at risk for ectasia, and it's most common after LASIK.
What's the typical cost of laser eye surgery procedures?
|Procedure||Average price per-eye|
Many potential laser eye surgery candidates find the cost to be prohibitive. While spending thousands on laser eye surgery might seem unnerving, in the long term it can be significantly cheaper than a lifetime of contact use and about on par with the price of average lifetime glasses use.
Many clinics offer payment plans so you won't have to worry about draining your savings to pay for the entire procedure upfront. Others offer a free assessment to determine your suitability for laser eye surgery and answer any questions you may have.
How to compare laser eye surgery clinics
With so many surgeons in Australia offering laser eye surgery it can be overwhelming to sort through them all. It's a good idea to start with a recommendation from your GP or optometrist, and then contact a few other clinics to compare services.
Consider these key factors when deciding on a clinic or a specific ophthalmologist:
Technology. Does your ophthalmologist use the latest state-of-the-art technology? Is their facility fully accredited? You can usually find this information by calling or visiting their practice's website.
Experience. Look for an ophthalmologist who specialises in laser eye surgery and has a long track record. You may also want to ask about their success rate and proof of patient satisfaction.
Certification and licensing. Check to make sure your ophthalmologist is fully licensed to practice in your state. Ask if they are registered with the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists.
Staff. Are the clinic's staff easy to reach and able to answer questions? Are they willing to put you in touch with your ophthalmologist if needed?
Costs. Find out exactly what is (and isn't) included in the cost. For example, are eye drops included? Check of any follow-up appointments are included in the initial price and whether or not what you've paid for lets you access after-hour care in the event of an emergency.
Credible reviews. What do past patients have to say? One bad review doesn't mean anything, but consistent complaints could mean you may want to stay away.
Frequently asked questions
How much can I expect to pay for laser eye surgery?
There's no set price for laser eye surgery. The cost can vary a great deal based on a range of factors, including the type of procedure and the experience of the ophthalmologist; the most accomplished surgeons typically charge higher rates. Our guide has more on the cost breakdown for laser eye surgery.
How could I meet the cost of surgery?
Those looking to meet the cost of eye surgery procedures may have options including to pay with their savings, using a credit card or by taking out a personal loan.
Generally, laser eye surgery isn't eligible for any Medicare benefits, unless it's used to treat certain eye diseases.
Some health insurance providers offer varying degrees of laser eye surgery coverage with their top hospital or extras policies, but there's usually a waiting period of at least a year.
What should I do after my laser eye surgery?
Following your surgery, it's important to heed any advice from your ophthalmologist. They may instruct you to take a few days off work, use eye drops or antibiotics and avoid some activities for a certain time such as contact sport.