What is Refractive Surgery?

Refractive surgery or vision correction surgery refers to any surgical procedure used to fix refractive errors such as myopia (short-sightedness), hyperopia (long-sightedness) or astigmatism. Refractive surgery helps you see better and reduce your dependence on glasses or contact lenses.

Most types of vision correction surgery reshape your cornea, which is the clear front window of your eye (LASIK and PRK). Other procedures involve implanting a lens in your eye (ICL) or replacing your eye’s natural lens with an artificial lens (RLE). All of these procedures do one thing in common; they alter the focusing power of your eye so that light entering the eye focuses sharply on the back of the eye, giving you clear vision.

Treatment Options

The options for refractive surgery include:

  • LASIK (Laser In-Situ Keratomileusis)
  • PRK (Photorefractive Keratectomy)
  • ICL (Implantable Contact Lenses)
  • RLE (Refractive Lens Exchange)


In LASIK (laser in-situ keratomileusis), a corneal flap is first created using a femtosecond laser. The flap is then lifted and folded back on its hinge and a different laser (excimer laser) is used to reshape the cornea, correcting for your prescription. The flap is then placed back in its original position at the end of the procedure. Vision recovery is very quick with most patients seeing very well by the next day.


In PRK, the excimer laser reshapes the cornea after the epithelium (surface layer of the cornea) has been debrided by the surgeon. Trans-PRK (transepithelial photorefractive keratectomy) is an advancement on PRK, whereby the excimer laser removes the epithelium and reshapes the cornea in a single step. This allows for faster healing than traditional PRK.

Implantable Contact Lens

Implantable contact lens (ICL) is a soft, foldable lens that is placed in the eye, in front of the natural lens and behind the iris. The ICL is inserted in the eye through a very small incision which is self-sealing and does not require stitches. ICLs are very effective for treating high levels of myopia, hypermetropia and astigmatism that are beyond the range of laser, or for those who are not eligible for laser vision correction. Vision recovers rapidly within a day or two.

Refractive Lens Exchange

Refractive lens exchange is a procedure much like cataract surgery whereby the natural lens of the eye is removed and replaced with an artificial lens implant. The power of the lens implant and the lens design is chosen to give you the desired refraction and visual outcome. For example, multifocal lenses will give you clear distance and near vision, reducing the need for glasses. A discussion with your refractive surgeon will determine the best lens choice for you.

Which procedure is best for me?

The procedure that is best suited to you depends on various factors such as your age, glasses prescription and health of your eye. Anyone over the age of 18 who has not had a significant glasses or contact lens prescription change for at least 12 months are eligible for a refractive surgery assessment. A consultation with your refractive surgeon will determine your suitability for refractive surgery and the procedure that will give you the best outcome.