SMILE vs LASIK: What’s the difference?
Chances are it’s happened to you.
You asked a friend to recommend you a film, and without hesitation, they came out with a name you didn’t recognise; one they claim is up there with the best of the year — a “must see” that they guarantee you will love.
In fact, they were sitting on the edge of their seat throughout the whole thing. And when the twist at the end came, it was the last thing they ever expected.
Before they gave you too much information and ruined the thing entirely, you decided to take their word for it — partly because they seemed so sure and partly just to shut them up.
Later that evening, you walked out of the cinema with a disgruntled but chiefly bemused look on your face. You’re amazed you were able to sit through such trash for that long, but what’s more perplexing is how your friend actually enjoyed it. How is it that even possible?
We often don’t realise it, but there’s a myriad of factors that can influence someone’s experience of a particular event, place, or anything. Whether it be what’s going on in their personal lives, what they value most, their particular preferences, or if they have or haven’t yet had a coffee that day.
For this reason, when making a decision — especially ones that will change your life forever — it pays to find out as much information as you can on your own accord. Advice and opinions from friends and reviews are great, but they’ll always be subjective. To balance them out and ensure you’re making the right choice, you also need the cold, hard, objective facts.
In part due to the significant improvement it made on PRK/LASEK, LASIK has skyrocketed to become not just the most popular Laser Eye Surgery treatment in the world, but also one of the most popular elective procedures overall.
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The innovation of LASIK is in the corneal flap — a thin, hinged layer made in the outer layer of the cornea (epithelium) which is opened, like a doorway, to access the tissue underneath. This is unlike PRK/LASEK where the epithelium is completely removed or lifted to one side, resulting in prolonged healing time and some discomfort whilst it regrows. Only the edges of the flap need to heal after LASIK, and so patients enjoy a relatively swift and comfortable recovery.
Although there are very few disadvantages to LASIK compared to its predecessors, patients generally experience a small number of side effects in the 24 hours immediately following the procedure. These can include dry eyes, night vision disturbances, and starbursts and halos, and are often minor and easily managed with lubricating eye drops. One drawback that cannot be avoided, however, is that patients often have to take a few days off before returning to their normal routines.
While the end goal of SMILE is the same as LASIK — to reshape the cornea and allow for proper refraction — its way of achieving it is a little bit different.
The first difference is that it is a flapless procedure. Instead of creating a doorway in the epithelium, like in LASIK, SMILE involves applying short pulses with a femtosecond laser to create what is known as a ‘lenticule’, as in the name, Small Incision Lenticular Extraction (SMILE).
The lenticule is a small disk of tissue in the underlying tissue that is made with minimal disruption to the epithelium. Rather than through a flap, it is easily removed by the surgeon through a small incision in the side of the cornea.
With no switching between instruments and only one required incision, SMILE has evolved Laser Eye Surgery into a key-hole treatment that takes just a matter of minutes to perform. Due to its minimally-invasive nature, SMILE also offers people who may not be suitable for other treatments — such as those with dry eyes, higher prescriptions, and thinner corneas — the chance to have Laser Eye Surgery. Due to the swiftness of the recovery period, its a popular option for athletes, business people, and anyone else with a busy, active schedule.
Due to its age, SMILE has not yet climbed to the heights of popularity and success that LASIK has. But as more clinics realise its benefits and more patients vouch for its effectiveness, it’s only a matter of time before it follows in its footsteps and rises to fame.