Life Wellbeing Should you consider getting LASIK eye surgery?
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Should you consider getting LASIK eye surgery?

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Spectacles are a rare sight among the celebrity set.

When your face is your fortune, it seems, it’s better to hide the fact that you need glasses to stop yourself from tripping on the red carpet or catwalk.

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Most recently, Australian model Jessica Hart opted to improve her optics and lose the optometrist’s prescription.

A little internet investigation reveals that quite a few other famous names would need to wear their specs like the rest of us if they hadn’t undergone laser eye surgery, including Brad Pitt and Nicole Kidman.

Jessica Hart recovers from her laser eye surgery in bed.
Jessica Hart recovers from her laser eye surgery in bed.

Who should get it?

More than 500,000 laser eye procedures have been performed in Australia since it was introduced twenty−five years ago. Today, the most common form of laser eye surgery is LASIK, Laser In Situ Keratomileusis, which corrects your vision using a computer-guided laser.

“It’s a low−risk, relatively straightforward procedure and, for the right candidate, results in complete independence from glasses and contact lenses,” says VISTAeyes founder, surgeon Dr Rick Wolfe.

The right candidate, according to Wolfe, is someone over the age of 18 who has a stable (long-term) prescription for short-sightedness (myopia), long-sightedness (hyperopia) or astigmatism.

Does it hurt?

Since the nineties there have been vast improvements in recovery times, which have been pared back from a month to around a day in most cases.

The technology has been refined so that more eye types and conditions can be treated − and pain is a thing of the past. The current success rate sits at an astounding 96 per cent – most patients are happy with the results achieved after a single treatment, while the remaining few may require a second procedure.

So what can you expect during treatment? “An incision is made on the surface of the cornea to allow the surgeon to access the deeper layers of the cornea,” says Wolfe. “No scalpel is necessary – everything is done with a laser.”

The entire LASIK procedure takes about 15 minutes and recovery time is on to two days. Photo: Getty
The entire LASIK procedure takes about 15 minutes and recovery time is on to two days. Photo: Getty

A computerised high-speed tracker ensures that treatment can continue even if you move your eyes, making it a virtually flinch-free experience. Discomfort is minimal, and is managed with topical anaesthetic eye drops.

“Today’s procedures are painless for the vast majority of patients,” Wolfe says.

The entire procedure takes about 15 minutes, and you can be back at work in two days, though complete healing can take up to a week.

How much does it cost?

As rough guide, surgery can cost between $2,750 and $3,000 per eye.  If you have private health insurance, it pays to check if your provider covers any of the cost of your procedure, remembering that costs vary over time and waiting periods may apply.

“I am a huge fan of laser eye surgery. It has overwhelmingly positive outcomes for the right patients,” says Kelly Wilsmore, an OPSM optometrist who has witnessed the changing needs of eye patients over her twenty years in the business.

“The sort of patient this surgery suits is ideally young and active, with a mild to moderate prescription and a lifestyle that doesn’t suit glasses.”

Wilsmore refers about eight to ten people a year for laser eye surgery – but she says that both the numbers of people interested, and the numbers she actually refers, are increasing.

Think long and hard before you give up the chance to wear spectacles. Photo: Getty
L-R: Joe Jonas, Karlie Kloss and Jennifer Aniston have stuck by their spectacles. Photo: Getty

“Twenty years ago I hardly ever saw patients who gave their eyes the work out they get today. These days, you get people with a 30cm focal point – the distance from their eyes to their phones.”

“The important thing to remember about laser eye surgery is that it sets your eyes at a permanent prescription,” says Wilsmore. “Eyesight changes over time, so surgery will only correct your eyes to the prescription you need at that point in time.

So are we really staring down the end of the eyewear era? Wilsmore doesn’t think so.

“A patient has to have the right prescription and the right visual demands for laser surgery – it’s not going to suit everyone,” she says.

That said, Wilsmore doesn’t think glasses have the stigma they had in the bad old days: “They are much more trendy now – they can give a face character.”

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