SMILE vs LASIK vs Surface Ablation

Gone are the days of being stuck wearing cumbersome glasses or uncomfortable contact lenses. With the advent of laser eye surgery, there is now an option to improve vision and decrease the dependence on glasses and contacts. However, with so many treatments options and clinics to choose from, people now have another problem on their hands:

Knowing which one is right for them.

Well, the good news is you don’t have to go through it alone. We are going to dive into three of the most common laser eye surgery treatments available.

First, we must remember that every patient is different, and no two eyes are the same. That means all patients require a full consultation before a decision can be made regarding eligibility for laser eye surgery and which treatment option is best.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Join over 5,000 people already receiving the very best advice on Laser Eye Surgery ...

Newsletter CTA
Your personal data is secure


SMILE, or Small Incision Lenticule Extraction, is the newest option — being available at clinics in the UK since 2011 SMILE is quickly becoming known as a revolutionary treatment that is transforming laser eye surgery into a minimally invasive, key-hole procedure.

SMILE differs from the other laser eye treatments in that it only requires a small laser incision to remove the target tissues. SMILE may offer advantages to certain patients such as less dry eye and the ability to treat higher prescriptions. The treatment revolves around the incredibly precise VisuMax femtosecond laser, in which the London Vision Clinic with Prof Dan Reinstein and Mr Glenn Carp helped to develop. More than 1.3 million procedures have now been performed at more than 700 locations across the globe.


  • Little/no sensation during surgery
  • Near complete tissue recovery in less than 24 hours
  • Minimal eye dryness and irritation during the healing process


  • SMILE is not yet available to patients with long-sightedness
  • It is currently only offered by a select few laser eye surgery clinics


Over 15 million patients have had their vision restored through the incredibly popular LASIK eye surgery. Offered around the world for more than two decades, it is arguably the most reliable, effective, and widely proven method of vision correction in the world.

In LASIK, otherwise known as Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis, the laser forms a circular flap in the outer layer of the cornea in order to access the underlying tissue. That tissue is reshaped with the laser to correct the desired prescription.

LASIK is used for a wide range of treatments including near-sightedness, far-sightedness, and astigmatism. The laser portion of the surgery takes less than 30 seconds per eye and the full procedure for both eyes is completed in less than 15 minutes.


  • Fixes a wide range of refractive errors
  • Offers almost three decades of results
  • Widely available


  • Symptoms of dry eye may last longer than after SMILE, usually about 6 months
  • Although extremely rare, the flap might be displaced if there is trauma to the eye, so LASIK may not be recommended for patients practising contact sports.

Surface Ablation

Today, only about 10% of laser eye surgery patients are treated by surface ablation– and surface ablation is used for less than 1% of patients at London Vision Clinic. However, there was a time when surface ablation was the leading treatment on the market.

There are a number of different forms of surface procedure, these include: PRK, LASEK, epi-LASIK, and transPRK. These are all essentially the same procedure. The surface skin is removed so the excimer laser can then reshape the underlying tissue. The main difference between them is the method in which the skin layer is removed. However, studies have shown that there is virtually no difference in the results between any of these techniques.

Nowadays, surface ablation is generally reserved for use with patients that do not qualify for other treatment methods. This may be due to extreme short-sightedness, thin corneas, irregular corneas, or corneal dystrophy where surface ablation can be used as a therapeutic treatment.

The procedure itself is painless. However, the recovery period may include some eye tenderness or irritation as the skin layer has to grow back, which usually takes 4-5 days. Pain medication is prescribed, so there should be little or no discomfort during this recovery period. The longer time required for the eye to heal after surface ablation also means that the vision is slightly blurred for up to a few weeks.


  • Option for patients with irregular corneas or corneal dystrophies.
  • Is widely proven and available in most clinics


  • 1-3 week recovery period
  • May experience discomfort during recovery

At London Vision Clinic, a highly trained team of optometrists, along with your surgeon, will guide you through the process and decide which treatment option is best for you.

Laser Eye Surgery is complicated, but that doesn’t mean it has to be difficult. Get in touch with one of our friendly clinic coordinators today and take a step closer to clearer, glasses-free vision.

SMILE vs. LASIK vs. Surface Ablation

Leave a Comment