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Laser Vision Correction in Singapore: Which procedure is best for me?

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LASIK in Singapore used to be synonymous with laser vision correction. Yet with medical advancements over the years, we have other laser vision correction surgery options today apart from LASIK surgery. If you are feeling confused over the different LASIK technology and medical jargon, you’re not alone!

A myriad of questions begins to surface: Which laser vision correction procedure is best for me? How are they different? Is LASIK safe in 2020? How much is the cost of LASIK in Singapore?

Also read: 12 best eye clinics to do LASIK in Singapore (2020)

All laser vision correction surgery methods have the same aim: to correct refractive errors such as myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism so that we can be free of vision aids such as our spectacles and contact lenses.

For the sake of simplicity, we can boil it down to four different vision correction methods namely:

    1. LASIK,
    2. Advanced Surface Ablation (ASA) group of procedures such as:
      • PRK
      • LASEK
      • Epi-LASIK
      • TransPRK
    3. ReLEx SMILE, and
    4. Implantable Collamer Lens (ICL)

The former three are done using laser, hence the term laser vision correction, while the latter – ICL – does not involve a laser, but rather a lens implant.

In this article, we’ll cover how each laser vision correction procedure works, its pros and cons and its cost. Remember – each procedure has its pros and cons, so do weigh both and also consider each option based on your lifestyle and habits.

1. LASIK

LASIK is also medically known as Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis. What a mouthful! Better known as its acronym, LASIK is the procedure that popularized it all. Millions worldwide have undergone LASIK surgery. Thus, it is not uncommon to hear people use the terms “laser vision correction” and “LASIK” interchangeably.

During LASIK, the eye surgeon first uses a Femtosecond laser to cut a corneal flap and lift up the flap. He applies an Excimer laser to reshape the cornea curvature, correcting the eye’s refractive errors. After that, he then closes back and repositions the corneal flap back into its original place.

You will not need your glasses anymore after LASIK surgery.

Pros of LASIK surgery:

The biggest benefit is its fast recovery, taking only around 1 to 3 days. Most LASIK patients in Singapore are able to go back to work after 3 days of rest and MC and also resume most of their regular routines. However, it will take 2 to 3 months to return to active sports, especially heavy-duty physical activities like contact sports.

Cons of LASIK surgery:

The biggest disadvantages of LASIK surgery are the risk of dry eyes and corneal flap complications. For some, these may be temporary problems, but for others, it may be problems they have to cope with throughout their lives. That said, the risk of permanent LASIK-induced dry eyes is not high. Corneal flap complications include flap wrinkles and misalignment, causing vision to be blurry.

LASIK Singapore Costs:

The cost of LASIK surgery in Singapore is estimated at around $3,500 to $4,500 for both eyes at both public hospitals and private practices. This does not include other additional costs such as the LASIK eye evaluation, cost of medications as well as GST.

Also read: LASIK Singapore Price Guide (2020) – Costs revealed

2. Advanced Surface Ablation (ASA) Group of Procedures

ASA represents a group of eye refractive surgery methods which are surface-based in nature, with the principle of no-flap surgery. This eliminates all risk of corneal-flap complications that was present in LASIK, such as corneal flap dislodgement.

There are in general four types of ASA procedures. What differentiates one type from another is the way it deals with the epithelium, the most outer layer of our cornea. Our corneal epithelium cells are akin to our surface skin cells – they have regenerative ability and would grow back after being removed.

PRK (Photorefractive Keratectomy)

PRK was actually the first laser vision correction method ever done in history – even before LASIK surgery was born! In PRK, the eye surgeon manually scraps away the epithelium cells on the cornea to remove it before applying the Excimer laser to reshape the curvature. It was said to be painful and was hardly a popular procedure with PRK patients. PRK today is already phased out and no eye doctors in Singapore we know about actually do this procedure anymore.

LASEK (Laser Assisted Sub-Epithelial Keratectomy)

In LASEK, your eye surgeon applies alcohol to soften the epithelium cells and then scrape it away. The cornea curvature is then corrected using an Excimer laser.

Epi-LASIK (Epithelial Laser in-situ Keratomileusis)

Epi-LASIK is the next evolution of the ASA group of procedures. In Epi-LASIK, the eye surgeon uses an epithelium separator – a kind of medical device that vibrates at ultrasonic speed – causing the epithelium cells to be shaken off. Next, an Excimer laser will be used to reshape the cornea.

TransPRK

TransPRK is the most advanced version of the lot – it can only be done using a special laser called the Schwind Amaris Excimer Laser. This laser is able to ablate the epithelium cells and then go on to reshape the cornea curvature, correcting refractive error. The entire procedure is done using one laser, meaning greater precision and accuracy than all the other ASA procedures.

Read more about TransPRK here: A personal anecdote of my TransPRK experience – the good and the bad

Pros of TransPRK:

The biggest advantage in TransPRK is its no cutting and no flap approach, which translate into no risk of corneal flap complications nor LASIK-induced dry eyes. Another benefit is that it is more structurally safe, especially for sportspeople who engage in high physical impact type of sporting activities. TransPRK is a great choice for athletes, military personnel, pilots, divers and martial artists.

Cons of TransPRK:

The biggest disadvantage of TransPRK is its slower recovery process. Of all the laser vision correction procedures, it takes the longest to heal as the epithelium cells need time to grow back. TransPRK patients can only go back to work in 5 to 7 days. The recovery process can also be more uncomfortable. Full visual recovery can take around 3 to 6 months, depending on the patient’s eyes and condition.

Cost of TransPRK surgery in Singapore:

The price of TransPRK in Singapore can be estimated at around $3,600 to $4,200 for both eyes. This does not include other additional costs such as the TransPRK eye evaluation, cost of medications and eye drops as well as GST.

3. ReLEx SMILE (Small Incision Lenticule Extraction)

ReLEx SMILE is the newest technology in the world of refractive eye surgery. Instead of using an Excimer laser to resculpt the cornea curvature, a Femtosecond laser is used instead to cut an internal lens-shaped tissue within the cornea.

This lens-shaped tissue – also called a lenticule – is then removed from a 2 to 4mm incision at the side of the cornea. The topmost cornea then collapses down into the empty space vacated by the lenticule, adhering to a newly created curvature.

Pros of ReLEx SMILE:

Since ReLEx SMILE does not create an open cut flap like LASIK, it is also considered a no-flap surgery, thus there is no risk of corneal flap complications. The cornea is also not cut as widely as in LASIK, so there is minimal risk of dry eyes. Recovery for ReLEx SMILE is also relatively fast and patients can go back to work in 2 to 3 days.

Also Read: Perfect eyesight without LASIK? It’s possible and it’s (joyously) called ReLEx SMILE.

Cons of ReLEx SMILE:

The downside is that ReLEx SMILE can only correct a limited bandwidth of eye degree, so not everyone is suitable for this procedure. It is currently unable to correct farsightedness. Another con is that ReLEx SMILE is the most expensive surgery of the lot.

Costs of ReLEx SMILE in Singapore:

ReLEx SMILE is relatively more expensive and costs around $5,000 to $7,000 for both eyes in Singapore. This does not include other additional costs such as the ReLEx SMILE eye evaluation, cost of medications as well as GST.

4. ICL (Implantable Collamer Lens)

ICL a vision correction surgery that is often known as a last resort, when the patient is unsuitable for all three laser vision correction procedures mentioned above. It is best suited for those with extremely high eye power (more than 1,200 degrees of myopia per eye), such that laser vision correction is unable to correct it fully.

ICL is relatively more invasive compared to the other procedures. It involves a lens implant operation that goes beyond the cornea surface and deep into the eye. The artificial lens is implanted between our natural lens and our iris.

Pros of ICL:

ICL can correct extreme eye powers and is generally safe. Hundreds of thousands of patients worldwide have undergone ICL surgery. The recovery is also relatively fast, taking about 3 to 4 days of downtime.

Cons of ICL:

The biggest con of ICL is that it increases the pressure in the eyes, causing a risk of glaucoma. The artificial lens can also disturb the natural crystalline lens as it rubs against it, causing early cataracts. Another con is ICL is the most expensive procedure since it is a relatively more complicated operation.

Costs of ICL in Singapore:

The cost of ICL in Singapore is around $14,000 to $20,000 for both eyes, due to the fact that the artificial lenses are costly and higher surgeon fees for this operation. The cost does not include other additional costs such as the ICL eye evaluation, cost of medications as well as GST.

So, which vision correction procedure is best for me?

As you can see, each laser vision correction procedure has its pros and cons, so do weigh them accordingly. LASIK in Singapore has been well-loved for years due to its convenience and fast recovery; many surgeons still see it as the gold standard of laser vision correction after so many years of practicing it. TransPRK in Singapore is catching on as it is considerably less invasive than the others. ReLEx SMILE in Singapore, although the newest and latest, is also catching on as it is an elegant procedure without the risks of LASIK but with the advantage of fast recovery. Last but not least, ICL is the only procedure which is able to correct high powers of myopia with a relatively safe track record. So don’t worry about following the “trend”! Instead, pick a procedure that suits your personal lifestyle and situation best – after all, everyone is unique and we all have different needs.

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