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12 things you didn’t know about laser eye surgery


12 things you didn’t know about laser eye surgery

Modern laser eye surgery has been around for around three decades now and is becoming an increasingly popular procedure.

Whether you’re reading this because you’re considering laser eye surgery, or you’re one of the millions of people across the globe who have undergone a laser vision correction procedure – there’s no doubt that it can be a life-changing procedure.

But despite its mainstream popularity, there are still a lot of myths (and questions) surrounding the procedure.

Here are twelve things that you may not know about laser eye surgery.

  1. Vision correction surgery has been around since the 1930s. Before laser technology, there was a procedure called ‘radial keratotomy’. The surgeon would use a scalpel (and a steady hand) to make incisions on the cornea (the surface of the eye) that would radiate out, much like the pattern created when slicing a pizza. This allowed the surgeon to improve the patient’s vision by flattening and reshaping it in the centre.
  2. Laser eye surgery technology wasn’t initially used for eye surgery. In 1980, while using an excimer laser to make microscopic circuits in microchips, one IBM scientist had a revolutionary thought: Could the excimer laser be used to cut organic tissues without damaging the surrounding tissue? Fortunately, he was correct.
  3. Modern laser vision correction was first performed over thirty years ago. The first procedure was performed on a human patient in Dresden, Germany in 1985; however, this procedure (PRK, also known as ASLA) was not widely practised for several more years.
  4. Technology never stays still. There have been a number of generations of laser systems introduced over the years – SMILE® being the latest. Laser technology software continuously undergoes platform upgrades.
  5. Today, there is more than one type of laser vision correction procedure. Three to be exact – ASLA (also called PRK), LASIK and SMILE.
  6. The majority of people can legally drive the day after their procedure. Those who have had LASIK usually discover during their follow-up consultation that their vision is the same (or better) than the legal minimum for driving. People recovering from ASLA or SMILE may take a bit longer, but the ultimate result will still be the same.
  7. Some careers aren’t always suitable for glasses or contacts lenses. People who want to join the Defence Force or Police Force often have laser eye surgery because both glasses and contact lenses present logistical issues in the line of duty.
  8. Yes, laser vision correction CAN treat astigmatism. Laser eye surgery can be used to treat astigmatism either on its own or in combination when treating another refractive error such as long-sightedness and short-sightedness.
  9. Vanity is NOT the most popular reason for having laser vision correction. The reasons are usually more practical: professionals such as sportspeople, chefs and IT workers often have laser eye surgery to help them perform better and make their lives easier. New parents also frequently find themselves on a path to choosing laser eye surgery after growing tired of the 3am rummage to find their glasses in the dark.
  10. In the long run, laser eye surgery isn’t as costly as most people think. Ongoing replacements of prescription glasses and/or contact lenses and associated costs may actually exceed the cost of laser eye surgery over the years. Many clinics also offer financial payment plans to make it easier to pay for laser eye surgery over an extended period of time (make sure you read any terms and conditions first).
  11. Blinking during laser vision correction won’t affect the procedure. People can even sneeze during treatment and it won’t matter at all. Today, eye-tracking technology makes the laser follow even the smallest eye movement. As a further reassurance, a surgeon can override the system in a split second at any time if needed.
  12. Laser eye surgery isn’t painful. The eye is numbed before surgery with anaesthetic drops. Some people say they feel slight pressure or a moment of discomfort, but others feel nothing at all during laser eye surgery.

If you’re considering laser eye surgery, why not book your free initial assessment now?
Call us on 1800 1 LASER to book or take our online eligibility quiz (VIC|NSW|QLD) to book.

SMILE® is a registered trademark of Carl Zeiss Meditec


  1. Choice. A guide to laser eye surgery. NSW, 11 August 2020. Available at https://www.choice.com.au/health-and-body/optical-and-hearing/optical/articles/guide-to-laser-eye-surgery [Accessed 6 January 2021].
  2. Healthdirect. Laser eye surgery. NSW, 2019. Available at https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/laser-eye-surgery [Accessed 6 January 2021].
  3. Lawless M. Refractive Laser Surgery: Who’s Interested Now? mivision 2019;141:33–37.
  4. Wilkinson JM, Cozine EW, Kahn AR. Refractive Eye Surgery: Helping Patients Make Informed Decisions About LASIK. Am Fam Physician 2017;95(10):637–44.
  5. Liu T, Lu G, Chen K, Kan Q, Bai J. Visual and optical quality outcomes of SMILE and FS-LASIK for myopia in the very early phase after surgery. BMC Ophthalmol 2019;19(1):88.
  6. Xu Y, Li S, Gao Z, Nicholas S. Reasons for Laser in Situ Keratomileusis in China: A Qualitative Study. Optom Vis Sci. 2019 Mar;96(3):206-212.
  7. McGhee CN, Orr D, Kidd B, Stark C, Bryce IG, Anastas CN. Psychological aspects of excimer laser surgery for myopia: reasons for seeking treatment and patient satisfaction. Br J Ophthalmol. 1996 Oct;80(10):874-9.

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The information on this page is general in nature. All medical and surgical procedures have potential benefits and risks. Consult your ophthalmologist for specific medical advice.

Date last reviewed: 2024-04-11 | Date for next review: 2026-04-11

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