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Laser eye surgery FAQs


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Is laser eye surgery permanent?

LASIK, ASLA and SMILE® permanently reshape the cornea. Some people may require a follow-up procedure to enhance or improve the initial results. It’s important to be aware that presbyopia can develop at around 40–50 years of age. Presbyopia is an age-related condition of your lens, which reduces your ability to focus on near objects and will occur regardless of whether you have laser eye surgery or not. Presbyopia does not involve the cornea.

Laser eye surgery will not prevent the development of presbyopia, although it is sometimes used to delay the need for glasses.

Can I get laser eye surgery if I am pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive?1

Laser eye surgery is avoided in women who are pregnant.

Firstly, your vision may fluctuate during pregnancy. Hormonal changes cause your body to retain fluid, which can cause the cornea to swell. Some women may be more short-sighted while they are pregnant. We recommend waiting until your vision returns to its previous state, generally within a few months after giving birth. Additionally, the medications used during and after surgery could affect your unborn baby.

If you are breastfeeding and wish to have laser eye surgery, you will need to discuss this directly with your surgeon. This will depend on various factors, including the age of your baby.

You should also wait at least 3 weeks after having laser eye surgery before trying to conceive. There is a small chance that the medications could be absorbed into your bloodstream.

Does laser eye surgery hurt?

In the majority of cases, laser eye surgery isn’t painful.2 Most people report feeling mild pressure on their eye. However, all patients are given local anaesthetic drops and often a mild sedative.

How long does laser eye surgery take?

You will be in the clinic for around 2 hours, but the surgery itself only takes about 20 minutes for both eyes.

How quickly does laser eye surgery work?

Many people are surprised that they can see distant objects, such as a clock on the wall, as they are leaving the laser suite. Most people can legally drive without the use of glasses or contact lenses 1 to 2 days after having LASIK or SMILE.

ASLA (PRK) ultimately provides the same outcome as LASIK and SMILE, although recovery time is longer. Your vision can fluctuate for up to 6 weeks before it settles.

Your eyesight will be checked during the post-operative review. This is usually scheduled for later that same day or the day after surgery.

What happens if I blink during laser eye surgery?

You don’t need to worry about blinking during laser eye surgery. During the procedure, an instrument is fitted over your eye and holds it in place. A speculum is also used to keep your eyelids open.

The laser is highly sophisticated and fitted with an infrared eye tracker. This tracker constantly measures your eye movements during surgery. Even the smallest movement will be detected, which the laser will compensate for.

How long do I have to wait after laser eye surgery before playing sport or swimming?

Good visual function is achieved within 24–48 hours with LASIK and SMILE but may take up to 2 weeks with PRK (ASLA).

If surgery was routine and successful, contact sports (including martial art sparring) may be resumed:

  • within 1 week of undergoing SMILE
  • 2–4 weeks following PRK (ASLA)
  • 1 month after LASIK surgery.

For advice on your particular circumstances, speak to a surgeon.

What are the side-effects of laser eye surgery?3

Laser eye surgery is a routine procedure. However, like any surgical procedure, there are always potential benefits and risks.

Side-effects occur in around 20% of cases and are mostly minor. For example, temporary dry eyes that require drops or a less-than-expected visual result that requires an enhancement.

Serious complications are rare and occur in around 1–2% of cases. Very rarely, some patients can get infections or suffer complications that are more serious. The chance of having a serious vision-threatening complication is extremely small (very much less than 1%). Selecting the correct procedure for your eyes (which sometimes means not having surgery at all) minimises the risk of a serious complication. The experience of your surgeon and the clinic staff are also very important considerations.

Vision Eye Institute surgeons and clinics adhere to strict sterility and surgical processes and have access to the latest state-of-the-art equipment and technology. Patients are discharged with the appropriate post-operative medication, which may include antibiotic drops and pain-relief medication.

Always have a comprehensive discussion about the benefits and risks of surgery with your ophthalmologist before proceeding.

Can I go blind from laser eye surgery?

No patient in Australia has ever become blind from laser eye surgery.

The laser cannot cause blindness as it only acts superficially – it targets the outermost layer of the eye (the cornea). If the eye itself develops an infection, which is not treated or managed properly, then there is a risk of significant vision loss. Choosing a reputable laser eye surgeon and clinic reduces your chances of serious complications. Our surgeons and clinics maintain the highest standards of sterile and surgical protocols.

Your ophthalmologist should discuss in detail the potential benefits and risks before you decide whether to proceed with surgery.

How much does laser eye surgery cost?

As a rough guide, laser eye surgery can cost between $2600 to $3400 per eye.4 However, it’s important to understand the true value of your surgery. This means knowing what type of laser eye surgery you are having (e.g. LASIK, ASLA, SMILE), the experience of your surgeon and clinic staff, and whether there are any additional costs (e.g. medications, enhancement procedures, theatre fees).

At Vision Eye Institute, a detailed quote will be provided during your laser consultation after we check the health of your eyes and determine which procedure is recommended for your individual situation. Our costs are completely transparent, and we also offer payment plans through GEM Visa (T&Cs apply).

Read our cost of laser eye surgery article to understand why different providers charge different fees.

Does Medicare or private health insurance cover laser eye surgery?

Medicare does not rebate any of the cost of laser eye surgery (apart from some of the cost of the pre-surgical consultation).

Some private health insurers provide cover for laser eye surgery in some of their products e.g. BUPA members with Ultimate Health cover and Medibank Gold Ultra Health members are entitled to 100% cover for a laser eye surgery procedure (waiting periods apply). This does not cover consultation and diagnostic tests.

Check with your health insurer if your level of cover includes rebates for laser eye surgery.

Are there any special offers for patients having laser eye surgery at Vision Eye Institute?

Medibank members with selected extras and packaged covers can receive 15% off surgical fees at Vision Eye Institute. There is no waiting period for this offer (excludes consultation fees and diagnostic tests). Call Medibank on 1300 520 941 or visit their website for details.

What if laser eye surgery isn’t recommended for me?

There are several reasons why laser eye surgery may not be suitable for some people. Depending on the reason, other vision correction options may be suitable. Examples include replacement lens exchange or implantable lenses. Once you have had your eyes tested and examined, your ophthalmologist will be able to discuss alternative treatment options with you.

Further reading

For more information about laser eye surgery, read the following resources:

General references

Scientific references

  1. Moshirfar M et al. Should I get LASIK if i’m breastfeeding?. Ophthalmol Ther. 2019 Sep; 8(3): 349–352. doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1007%2Fs40123-019-0195-5 ↩︎

  2. El Rami H et al. Patient-perceived pain during laser in situ keratomileusis: comparison of fellow eyes. J Cataract Refract Surg. 2012 Mar;38(3):453-7. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcrs.2011.10.028 ↩︎

  3. Murueta-Goyena A et al. Visual outcomes and management after corneal refractive surgery: A review. J Optom. 2018 Apr-Jun; 11(2): 121–129. doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1016%2Fj.optom.2017.09.002 ↩︎

  4. Choice Magazine guide to laser eye surgery ↩︎

SMILE® is a registered trademark of Carl Zeiss Meditec

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.

Have a question?

IMPORTANT: If you are concerned about your eyes and require an urgent consultation, DO NOT use this form. Please call one of our clinics during office hours or contact your nearest emergency department.

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