Picture: Getty Images

Laser eye surgery has become the most common operation in the world and for good reason - it is effective, quick, safer than ever and has life-changing benefits.

Former president of the WA division of the Optometrists Association of Australia and Lions Eye Institute laser eye surgery expert Andrew Godfrey said more people were getting laser eye surgery.

"It's all about freedom - not wanting to be tied down," he said. "They want a simple life without having to worry about glasses."

Mr Godfrey said safety and security prompted the decision for some.

"There are also things to consider like if you wake up in the middle of the night to a noise in the house and can't see, or you're travelling overseas - you're potentially disabled in a way if you lose your specs," he said.

Mr Godfrey said many clients came in wanting laser to help them in a sporting or exercise capacity.

"Contact lenses can make it very difficult if you're getting sweat in your eyes. And there are people who want to do events like Tough Mudder, triathlons, swimming - contacts are not a good mix. Laser surgery just removes that extra stress. A few years ago we came up with a tagline for the Lions Eye Institute - 'see the world through your own eyes'. Getting rid of glasses and contacts helps you just be yourself."

WA Laser Eye Centre medical director and principal surgeon Rob Paul said laser eye surgery or Lasik had been available for 20 years but it was only in the past five that the technology had made the procedure so quick, simple and safe with excellent results.

"We can now perform laser eye surgery on people who were previously considered unsuitable," he said.

"The fact that you have a 98 per cent chance of being 20/20 the day after the surgery makes it one of the most successful procedures available. Most people are back to their normal activities in 24 hours."

Dr Paul said surgery could enhance people's lifestyles in unlimited ways.

"Only people who use glasses or contact lenses really know how inconvenient it is to be constantly relying on them," he said. "'I wish I had done this sooner' is the most common comment I hear from patients, especially those whose lives have been transformed, and I never get tired of hearing it."

He has had many clients who have been athletes.

"I specifically remember performing laser eye surgery on a young State cricketer who could not tolerate his contacts moving at the vital moment a ball was approaching," he said. "Lasik surgery really made things so much better for him. The AFL players I have lasered have benefited by not having to worry about lost contact lenses during intense physical encounters.

"One of my patients was a national archery competitor and having the surgery made identifying the targets much easier," he said.

Lyn Tan, who works in public relations and media management, was diagnosed with myopia at five and wore glasses for 12 years and then contact lenses for four years.

She had Lasik surgery performed 12 years ago.

"It changed my life completely. For years, I woke to a very blurry world, and all of a sudden, I would wake up and be able to see clearly without help. It was incredible," she said.

"I can also wear sunglasses without prescriptions (it can get rather expensive with the many pairs of sunnies I have). All in all, I feel free. It has bettered my life in an exercise capacity - I snorkel and dive freely without worrying about losing my lenses. I can also go cycling, sailing and stay out late without worrying about the lenses or my eyes drying up, it's great."

Admin assistant Rebecca Nguyen had worn glasses and contacts from 16 to 29 when she was told she could no longer wear contacts.

"An ex-colleague of mine had recently had his eye done and highly recommended it. I think that was the inspiration and assurance I needed."

Ms Nguyen said it had changed her life.

"Imagine not being able to see what you're doing in the shower, being afraid to swim at the beach because you can't see clearly, not being able to stay overnight at a friend's because you forgot to bring your contact solution and case," she said.

"It's not until after you have the ability to see again that you realise how much dependency you had on wearing them."

The West Australian

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