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Guide to LASIK in Singapore (2021)

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Lasik in Singapore is such a common surgery today. Almost everyone knows someone who has had Lasik done. Getting your eyes lasered no longer evokes so much fear as before — in fact, telling your friends you’ve decided to go for Lasik will earn you nothing more than a nonchalant shrug.

Also read: 12 best eye clinics to do LASIK in Singapore

In other parts of the world though, myopia is considered an eye disease that is one of the leading causes of blindness in the world. [1] A study by American Academy of Ophthalmology found that almost 10 million Americans are severely short-sighted and are at higher risk of a complication called myopic choroidal neovascularization that can lead to vision loss. [2] Singaporeans are so used to myopia that we don’t see it as an eye disease anymore. The solution? Lasik, the one-off method to cure our myopic woes.

But how much does LASIK cost in Singapore? How is LASIK surgery actually done? Can I get it done at a LASIK clinic or do I have to go to a hospital? In this comprehensive LASIK guide, we cover everything you need to know about LASIK surgery in Singapore and more.

I’ve decided to do LASIK in Singapore! Now what?

LASIK in Singapore

A brief background: Like you, I found a contact lens free life too good to resist and got my eyesight fixed in 2016. I used to have over 600 degrees of high myopia on each eye and I was blind as a bat without my glasses or contact lenses. I wore contact lenses on a daily basis; it was such a hassle cleaning them and making sure that I’m not putting a tiny petri dish of bacteria onto my eyeballs every day.

If you’re also thinking of taking the leap to correct your myopia permanently, the good news for you is that Lasik in Singapore is so advanced today that you now have different options to choose from. A quick Google search of LASIK Singapore will bring up a myriad of medical procedures and technology names which can be confusing and overwhelming for the uninitiated. With technical jargon like “wavefront Lasik”, “Excimer laser” and “Femtosecond laser” being thrown all over the place by Lasik centres in Singapore, it’s no wonder that Lasik research can be confusing.

The thing is, Lasik is only one method of laser vision correction that can correct eye refractive errors — i.e. myopia, astigmatism, hyperopia and presbyopia — in one sitting. There are also other methods of vision correction, namely: ReLEx SMILE, TransPRK and Implantable Collamer Lens (ICL).

Lasik, ReLEx SMILE and TransPRK are corneal-based procedures which use a laser   to burn off cornea tissue to correct your eye’s refractive errors; while ICL involves planting an intraocular lens into your eye, as its name suggests. The cornea is the clear transparent topmost layer of our eyes.

To decide which Lasik procedure is best for you, you will have to first understand more about each of the four methods of laser vision correction.

How is LASIK surgery done?

Lasik is short for Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis (what a mouthful!). In Singapore, Lasik has been the most popular method of laser vision correction since it was introduced in the 1990s. Millions of people worldwide have done it, and many of us Singaporeans are very familiar with Lasik.

How LASIK is done: Your eye surgeon uses a Femtosecond laser to cut the surface of your cornea and create a flap. He then folds the corneal flap open and uses an Excimer laser to reshape the cornea curvature underneath the cut flap. This changes the way light bends into the eye, correcting refractive errors. The corneal flap is then folded back into place, adhering to your eyes with tissue pressure.

For a better picture, see Lasik infographic below:

Main Steps of LASIK surgery, it starts with local numbing eye drops, and then creation of flap with either a blade or laser, reshaping of cornea curvature with excimer laser, and then putting the flap back to its original position
How LASIK surgery is typically done in Singapore

It is a 15 to 20 mins day surgery which only requires numbing eye drops. Your vision is usually clear within a day or two so you are able to go back to work in about 3 days.

If you are opting for Lasik, you should note that you will have to refrain from rubbing your eyes and doing water sports for around a month. It is best to avoid contact sports for life after doing Lasik. This is to prevent complications such as corneal flap dislodgement and flap wrinkles. [3] The other major risk of Lasik is permanent Lasik-induced dry eyes.

What is ReLEx SMILE and is it new in Singapore?

In Singapore, ReLEx SMILE is the newest laser vision correction method out of the four methods mentioned, but is fast gaining in popularity due to its short recovery time. ReLEx SMILE stands for Refractive Lenticule Extraction, Small Incision Lenticule Extraction.

During the ReLEx SMILE procedure, the eye surgeon uses the same Femtosecond laser which is used to cut an open corneal flap in LASIK — only this time, he uses it to cut a lenticule within the cornea bed.

He then uses a blade to cut a small incision at the side and uses forceps to pull out this lenticule from the cut slit.

How ReLEx SMILE is done

After the lenticule is removed from the cornea, the topmost cornea tissue then collapses into the empty space vacated by the lenticule, changing the way light bends into the eye and thus correcting your vision.

The whole ReLEx SMILE procedure takes around 10 to 15 minutes per eye in general. It actually requires considerably better surgical skills as it requires the surgeon to make a side cut and retrieve the lenticule from within the cornea bed. Some complications during ReLEx SMILE include incomplete lenticule extraction, lenticule tear, etc. [3]

The best thing about ReLEx SMILE versus LASIK is that you won’t have an open LASIK corneal flap, so the incidence of dry eyes is kept low. There will also be no risk of corneal flap complications with ReLEx SMILE.

Due to LASIK complications like dry eyes and problems with the open flap, ReLEx SMILE and TransPRK are quickly becoming more popular options for laser vision correction today.

What is TransPRK and how does it work?

TransPRK comes from a category of laser vision correction called Advanced Surface Ablation (ASA) that has been around since early 1990s. In fact, if you study the history of laser vision correction, you will find that it first began with an ASA procedure called PRK. With ASA procedures, the laser is applied right at surface of the cornea without cutting it.

In Singapore, TransPRK is done via one Excimer laser. The eye surgeon uses the laser to first remove the surface epithelium cells and goes on to reshape the surface of the cornea tissue bed beneath, correcting your eye refractive errors.

Immediately after, the doctor places a high-oxygen content contact lens onto the cornea. He removes them when the epithelium cells have healed, typically 5 days later.

TransPRK surgery process. Firstly, a local anaesthetic in a form of eyedrops is used. Secondly, the removal of epithelium layer using excimer laser. Thirdly, reshaping the cornea structure by using the same excimer laser. Fourthly, temporary placement of bandage contact lens to protect the eye while the epithelium cells are healing
TransPRK in Singapore: 4 main steps

For TransPRK, there is only one specific laser brand that can do this — the Schwind Amaris Excimer laser. This is because the laser technology must be able to ablate the tough corneal epithelium cells, also known as corneal skin cells.

In LASIK, epithelium cells are cut and peeled back as a corneal flap, thus any brand of Excimer laser can be used to reshape the tissue within.

It takes 30 to 40 seconds per eye for the TransPRK procedure, making it a considerably fast procedure. The main benefits of TransPRK is that there is no risk of flap complications and dry eyes. However, there are usually fluctuations with visual acuity while the epithelium cells heal. You will have to take about 5 to 7 days to rest and go back to work.

TransPRK versus ReLEx SMILE

Both procedures mitigate the risks of a LASIK cut flap, and thus are gaining in popularity today. TransPRK is a surface-based procedure, so vision is corrected using primarily with automated technology, i.e. the Excimer laser. ReLEx SMILE on the other hand, involves a Femtosecond laser to cut the lenticule and also requires the surgeon to cut the side of the cornea, go in with surgical instruments to retrieve that cut lenticule. In my personal opinion, TransPRK is safer because there is less room for human error.

Benefits wise, ReLEx SMILE is a great option if fast visual acuity is important to you. You are able to regain very clear vision in about 2 to 3 days, as opposed to TransPRK, where there is a longer downtime of 5 to 7 days.

ICL in Singapore — for those with extreme myopia

The last vision correction procedure of the lot — Implantable Collamer Lenses (ICL) — is the only one that is not laser-based. ICL involves an intraocular eye surgery which implants an artificial lens made of collamer inside your eye.

ICL in Singapore is done by first making a tiny incision in the cornea. The surgeon then inserts a foldable, artificial lens into the eye, between the iris and your natural crystalline lens. This procedure takes about 20 to 30 minutes per eye.

illustration of the implantable collamer lens procedure where surgeon implants the artificial collamer lens on the eye
The ICL implant is inserted into the eye

Unlike the other procedures, ICL occurs inside the eye itself, deeper than the surface cornea. This is why ICL is usually used as an option for those with extremely high myopia (more than 1.2 dioptres per eye), as corneal-based procedures like TransPRK, ReLEx SMILE and LASIK cannot correct the refractive errors fully.

Implantable Contact Lens (ICL) patients should also note that implanting an ICL into the eye is likely to result in an early cataract, as the artificial lens will rub against your own natural crystalline lens overtime.

How much does LASIK cost in Singapore?

Lasik costs about $3,000 to $4,500 for both eyes in Singapore, inclusive of GST. This usually includes the cost of pre-LASIK evaluation and consultation, surgeon fees for the procedure, disposables during surgery as well as a few follow-up review sessions. Additional follow-ups and medications such as eye drops are usually separate, so remember to enquire with your clinic on this.

Also read: LASIK Price Guide Singapore (2020) — Costs Revealed

The cost of TransPRK in Singapore is generally on par with Lasik prices. The cost of TransPRK in Singapore ranges from $3,800 to $6,000 for both eyes, inclusive of GST.

ReLEx SMILE is the most expensive of all the laser vision correction procedures in Singapore. The cost of ReLEx SMILE in Singapore is $8,000 to $10,000 for both eyes, inclusive of GST.

As for ICL surgery, this is actually considered an actual eye operation and is the most expensive of the lot. ICL in Singapore costs $12,000 to $15,000 for both eyes, inclusive of GST. This cost not only comprises the surgeon’s operating fees and operating room cost, but also the cost of manufacturing a customised lens implant for you.

Cost of LASIK Xtra in Singapore (i.e. Cornea Cross Linking)

Corneal Cross-Linking (CXL) treatment is a relatively new optional and add-on procedure to your LASIK or TransPRK surgery.

During CXL, your eye surgeon applies Vitamin B12 ribflavin eye drops to your eyes immediately after your Lasik or TransPRK procedure. He then uses the Avedro KXL System machine to shine an ultra-violet (UV) light to activate and “cross-link” the collagen fibres on your cornea, thus strengthening your cornea. It is an FDA-approved treatment that you can opt for.

The Cornea Cross-linking treatment costs an additional $1,200 to $3,000 for both eyes, inclusive of GST, on top of your Lasik or TransPRK surgery bill. You cannot do CXL with ReLEx SMILE.

Cost comparison of Laser Vision Correction (LVC) procedures

Here is a cost comparison table of the LVC procedures:

Laser Vision Correction Procedure (both eyes) Surgery cost
LASIK $3,000 to $4,500
Advanced Surface Ablation (ASA)

e.g. Lasek, epiLASIK, TransPRK

$3,800 to $6,000
ReLEx SMILE $8,000 to $10,000
Implantable Collamer Lens (ICL) $12,000 to $15,000
Cornea Cross Linking (CXL) — Add-on $1,200 to $3,000
Cost comparison table of LASIK procedures in Singapore

It is common practice for most Lasik clinics in Singapore to include 3 to 4 post-op reviews in this Lasik surgery price. Be sure to check if yours is included as this cost can also add up.

Medications like eye drops are usually additionally charged and not included in the Lasik surgery price. Check with your Lasik clinic during the consultation session on the cost of medications you will be expecting.

Pro tip: Ask your Lasik clinic for the instalment plans available that could help you better manage your Lasik surgery bill. It is quite common for Lasik clinics in Singapore to offer 6 or 12 months credit card instalment plans — just check with them what are the credit cards eligible!

Which Lasik clinic in Singapore should I go to?

You can either opt for public hospitals or private clinics to do Lasik in Singapore. Our public eye hospitals such as the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) and National University Hospital (NUH) are renowned worldwide for high standards of ophthalmologic services.

You may be surprised that the prices of Lasik surgery in public institutions may not actually be cheaper than private clinics in Singapore! This is especially so if you are specifying a senior ophthalmologist in a public hospital as your Lasik surgeon. If you would like to opt for subsidised public hospital rates, you cannot choose your operating surgeon.

Pro tip: Prices of Lasik surgery in public versus private clinics do not differ much.

Table of LASIK prices in public hospitals Singapore:

LASIK centre (public) LASIK surgery price (incl. GST)
Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) $1,595 to $1,795
Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) $1,659 to $1,766
National University Hospital (NUH) $1,766 to $2,354
Lasik price list in public hospitals in Singapore. (Source: TTSH, SNEC, NUS)

Table of LASIK prices in private clinics in Singapore:

LASIK centre (private) LASIK surgery price (incl. GST)
Lee Hung Ming / Asia Pacific Eye Centre $3,724.67
Atlas Eye Centre $4,059.00
Shinagawa Eye Centre $4,160.16
Clearvision Eye Clinic & LASIK Centre $3,888.00
W Eye Clinic $3,625.16
Dr Natasha Lim Eye Centre $3,424.00
Jerry Tan Eye Surgery $8,000.00
LSC Eye Clinic $4,375.00
Eagle Eye Centre $3,691.50
Lasik price list Singapore. (Source: Lasik clinic websites)

We would recommend that you:

  1. First, choose your preferred method of laser vision correction (i.e. Lasik, ReLEx SMILE, TransPRK, ICL)
  2. Then, pick the eye surgeon who specialises in that method and has a strong track record of doing that procedure

Each procedure has its own pro and cons, so it’s all about choosing the one that you are most comfortable with and best suits your lifestyle.

Which procedure is best for me?

Each laser vision correction come with its own benefits and downsides, so do take both sides into consideration. Be wary if your eye doctor tells you there are no cons to a particular procedure since it may just be sales talk.

Keep in mind your own lifestyle preferences. For example, if you frequently do contact sports, dive, or play basketball, perhaps a surface-based procedure like TransPRK would be safest. But if you want the fastest and most comfortable recovery, ReLEx SMILE or LASIK might be better options!

First, go for your LASIK eye evaluation

Before you decide on anything, book your LASIK evaluation at an eye clinic or two to check for your suitability first. Not everyone is suitable for laser vision correction! For example, you may also be suitable for TransPRK but not ReLEx SMILE. Listen and consider recommendations from different doctors and get a feel of what each procedure is like.

Infographic showing information about pre-LASIK eye evaluation and things to take not of such as stopping the use of contact lens, and the eye assessment a patient has to take to determine his or her suitability.
Pre-LASIK eye evaluation in Singapore

During the LASIK evaluation, your pupils will be dilated so expect your near vision to be blurry for around 3 to 4 hours or so. You will also undergo eye tests determining your eye degree and measuring key metrics such as corneal thickness and corneal irregularities. The whole thing takes about 2 to 3 hours in general, including a personal consultation with your eye surgeon.

The cost of an eye evaluation in Singapore can range widely from $5 to $300! Most LASIK centres in Singapore allow you to check if you are suitable for laser vision correction at a very low and affordable cost.

Pro tip: ask if they have discounted rates (e.g. student price, referrals, etc) when you book your LASIK evaluation on the phone or email with them. Also, go for their public talks as LASIK centres in Singapore often offer special rates or vouchers for eye evaluation to their talk attendees.

What to expect on surgery day (LASIK, TransPRK, ReLEx SMILE)

some of the things you will have to take note prior your lasik surgery day. To stop wearing contact lens for certain number of days. To not wear any perfumes, deodorant, colognes or after shave on your surgery day. To not drive to the clinic. TO not wear any makeup or face lotions on the surgery days.
4 things to take note of on your LASIK surgery day

Prior to your LASIK surgery, here are a few things you will need to take note of:

  • Stop wearing your contact lens prior to the evaluation (in general, 3 days for soft lens and 14 days for hard lens). This is because wearing contact lenses can temporarily alter the curvature of your cornea and also cause dryness. Your eyes should be in a normal state when doing your laser vision correction surgery.
  • Do not wear perfume, lotions, deodorant, colognes, aftershave on your surgery day. The fine particles or chemicals emitted from these products may come in contact with the laser that is applied to your cornea during laser vision correction.
  • Do not wear any eye make-up on your surgery day. Your eyes should be as clean as possible and make-up free.
  • Do not drive to the clinic; try and get someone to accompany you home after. Your eyes will be very sensitive to light and may feel uncomfortable right after the surgery and you are likely to be unable to drive home.

15 LASIK FAQs to note

  1. What can LASIK correct?

LASIK can correct myopia (far-sightedness), hyperopia (near-sightedness), astigmatism and presbyopia. The degree of correction hinges on the thickness of your cornea. The thicker your cornea, the higher the myopia power you are able to correct. In general, LASIK can correct myopia powers of up to 800 degrees. [4]

  1. What is the best age to do LASIK?

The minimum age for LASIK is at least 18 years old and your eye prescription must have stabilised for at least the past 12 months.

There is no maximum age to have LASIK done. It can even be used to correct presbyopia, which is an age-related near sightedness commonly experienced by those above the age of 40 years old. For those above the age of 60 years old, they would be subjected to additional eye checks to check for any signs of cataracts. If there are signs of cataracts, they would have to go for a cataract removal (phacoemulsification) surgery instead.

  1. Can I undergo the surgery while I am pregnant?

Congratulations on your pregnancy! However, if you are pregnant, do put your LASIK plans on hold as pregnancy hormones may alter your eye prescription. Steroidal and antibiotic eye drops that you will need to apply right after your LASIK procedure is also not great for pregnant mummies. After giving birth, it’s still not advisable to do LASIK if you are breastfeeding as the eye drop medications may affect quality of breast milk. Feel free to check with your doctor beforehand, but it’s still best to play safe and only proceed with your LASIK plans after you have given birth and stopped breastfeeding.

  1. Will I be suitable for the procedure if I have a previous eye injury?

If you have recovered fully from your eye injury, it is likely that you will be able to undergo LASIK. However, this depends on the severity of your condition and if there is any permanent corneal scarring. Do clarify with your eye doctor during your LASIK eye evaluation so that he can check thoroughly before giving you the green light.

  1. If I am suffering from a medical condition, will I still be suitable for LASIK?

If you are suffering from diseases which affects the healing ability of the body (e.g. diabetes, HIV, lupus, etc), you may not be a suitable candidate. However, if your condition is well-managed and under control, your eye doctor may allow you to undergo vision correction procedures. Again, be sure to check with your doctor regarding this!

  1. If I have dry eyes, will I be able to undergo LASIK?

Even if you have been diagnosed with dry eyes, you will still be able to undergo LASIK. However, your eye doctor may recommend you to do alternative laser vision correction procedures such as TransPRK, Epi-LASIK and ReLEx SMILE as these procedures have lower risk of dry eyes. [4]

It’s interesting to note that some contact lens wearers who complain about dry eye problems tend to solve their dry eye woes after laser vision correction procedures like ReLEx SMILE and TransPRK. This is because contact lenses tend to cause or exacerbate dry eyes.

  1. Can I choose to be put to sleep during the operation?

No. The LASIK surgery will take place under local anaesthesia in the form of eye drops. You will need to be awake throughout the whole procedure to focus on the laser light ahead of you.

  1. Is LASIK painful?

Even if you’re extremely pain intolerant, you don’t have to be afraid as your eyes will be applied with numbing eye drops so you won’t feel a thing. There are also no needles or injections involved, contrary to common belief. The laser procedure is fast and over within minutes.

  1. What happens if you blink during the surgery?

Your eyes will be held open with a retractor device, sort of like an eye holder, so you do not have to worry about blinking. Moreover, the laser machine is equipped with eye tracking technology which will track your eye gaze and stop if your gaze happens to shift out of focus.

  1. How long will the surgery take?

LASIK treatment is very quick — it takes less than five minutes! All you have to do during this period of time is to listen closely to the instructions given by the doctor and focus ahead on the laser light.

  1. Can you go blind from LASIK?

Blindness after a LASIK surgery is often a concern of many patients, probably due to horror movies like Final Destination and extreme cases happening in other countries reported in the news. LASIK in Singapore is generally very safe as most of the work is done by the laser machine itself, thus leaving little room for human error. Laser technology today is highly advanced and accurate. Moreover, the lasering process itself only takes about 30 to 60 seconds. To date, there is no known case of someone going blind from LASIK surgery in Singapore.

  1. Can I use my phone and watch TV after the procedure?

Technically you can, but take it easy for the first few days. Your eyes may feel easily tired and your vision may still be blurry during recovery. Once they feel tired, stop watching TV or using your phone. Try to avoid prolonged periods of near vision work and get as much sleep as possible.

  1. Can I still wear contact lenses after LASIK?

After LASIK, you will not need to depend on their glasses and contact lenses anymore. But if you want, you can choose to your wear soft lenses and even coloured lenses about 3 months after the surgery. [4] You may not be able to wear hard lenses post-LASIK though as they tend to slip off the altered cornea surface.

  1. How long does LASIK last for?

LASIK can give you the freedom of unrented vision without glasses and contact lenses for a long time, since the laser has permanently reshaped your cornea curvature. However, you may experience regression if you subject your eyes to too much prolonged eye strain. You will also experience old age problems such as presbyopia when you get older, and require the aid of reading glasses.

  1. Can you have LASIK twice?

Yes you can. Your suitability depends on your eye condition, cornea thickness etc though, so you will need to undergo another round of LASIK eye evaluation if you want to do an enhancement procedure. You probably won’t need to undergo LASIK twice, since modern laser vision correction is accurate and can last for many years.

Resources

[1] Fredrick, D. R. (2002). Myopia. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 324(7347), 1195-1199. https://www.bmj.com/content/324/7347/1195

[2] Willis, J.R. et al. (2016) The Prevalence of Myopic Choroidal Neovascularization in the United States, Ophthalmology, Volume 123, Issue 8, 1771- 1782. Retrieved https://www.aaojournal.org/article/S0161-6420(16)30140-3/fulltext

[3] Alastair K. O. Denniston, Philip I. Murray (2018), Oxford Handbook of Ophthalmology, Oxford University Press, pg 958-960

[4] Caster A.(2018). Ask The LASIK Surgeon, from https://www.allaboutvision.com/askdoc/lasik.htm

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