What is the most advanced Laser Eye Surgery?
You know when you buy a new car, upgrade your phone, or get a new washing machine, that you typically want the most advanced version available.
You know advanced here is a good thing, because it means greater performance and all-round better experience.
But what does advanced mean in the world of Laser Eye Surgery? And does it even matter?
As Laser Eye Surgery is a technological procedure, the short answer is absolutely. But even its earliest treatments look advanced compared to other vision correction methods such as glasses and lens surgery.
With that in mind, we’re going to have a look at three of the main types of Laser Eye Surgery: PRK/LASEK, LASIK and ReLEx SMILE, exploring in which particular cases they are each the best options and how they compare to one another.
As the first generation of Laser Eye Surgery, PRK/LASEK has been around longer than any of the other treatment options on this list. As such, it’s no longer used as frequently as it once was. However, it still has a place and may be considered the safest treatment for some patients.
Known as a “surface treatment”, PRK and LASEK are two similar treatments that involve manually removing or pushing aside the outer layer of the cornea, also called the epithelium. The surgeon then uses an excimer laser to reshape the underlying tissue, and the eye regrows the outer layer over the following few days to weeks.
When is PRK/LASEK a Good Option?
PRK/LASEK may be a good option for patients who aren’t suitable for other laser treatments.
For instance, PRK/LASEK may be a possibility for someone who has thin or irregularly shaped cornea. It may also be suitable if you have chronic dry eye or engage in high-impact sports or activities, in which the LASIK flap may be a potential risk factor.
PRK/LASEK is therefore often used as an alternative to LASIK for patients who aren’t suitable for the treatment due to thin corneas, dry eye, and high-risk occupations. Of course, there is now a third option on the table — ReLEx SMILE — and so it is not as commonly performed as it once was.
The main downside with PRK/LASEK is the recovery process.
Not only does PRK/LASEK have the longest recovery period out of all three of the laser eye treatments, it typically involves some discomfort and irritation. With the outer layer of the cornea disrupted, it takes about a week until the cells grow back. It can then take a further two to six weeks until you achieve clear and comfortable vision.
Someone undergoing PRK/LASEK is typically advised to take a week off from work and driving. To aid the recovery process, there are also many things such as screens and alcohol which should be avoided for a certain period of time.
When most people mention Laser Eye Surgery, chances are they’re talking about LASIK.
LASIK is the most commonly performed laser eye treatment in the world, with tens if not hundreds of thousands of treatments carried out every year. As such, it’s also the most commonly performed elective surgical procedure overall.
It can safely and effectively treat a wide range of near-sightedness, far-sightedness, astigmatism, and presbyopia.
Whereas PRK/LASEK involves pushing the outer layer of the cornea to the side or removing it completely, LASIK involves creating a thin flap which can then be folded back to access the tissue underneath.
This means that in LASIK, there is less disruption of the cornea and a much faster and smoother recovery process compared to PRK/LASEK.
When is LASIK a Good Option?
As it involves creating a flap, one of the requirements for being a good LASIK candidate is having thick enough corneas.
There are also factors that may make you unsuitable for LASIK. For instance, if you experience chronic dry eye, then you may be better suited to PRK or SMILE.
LASIK still involves manipulation of the outer layer of the cornea by means of making a thin flap. This means there’s potential for flap-related complications post-surgery.
Today, the chances of experiencing flap-related complications as a result of LASIK can be greatly reduced, if not avoided, by going to a high-quality clinic that has a thorough postoperative follow-up protocol. If, on the rare occasion, a flap complication does occur it can easily be managed in most cases by an expert surgeon.
The third option for Laser Eye Surgery is ReLEx SMILE. In SMILE, one laser performs the entire procedure without any flap being created. First, a small 2 mm laser incision is created. Next, a thin layer of tissue inside the cornea is separated by the same laser. The surgeon then removes the thin layer of tissue through the small incision and the procedure is finished.
The pioneering technique was first performed over ten years ago, and today, there are over 2,000 SMILE-registered surgeons who have performed the procedure at close to 700 clinics in over 65 countries.
When is SMILE a good option?
SMILE is an attractive option for a range of people, particularly those with busy and active lifestyles, as with its quick treatment time and rapid recovery, there is minimal downtime.
However, SMILE is an especially good option for those who’ve been told they are not candidates for Laser Eye Surgery due to a thin cornea, dry eyes, or a high prescription.
As it doesn’t involve making a flap, there’s no worry of flap-related complications whatsoever. On top of this, it also only involves one-laser and no changing of position, and so patients typically report the whole experience to be very smooth and comfortable.
Every treatment has its downsides. And for SMILE, the main downside is that the treatment is limited to certain prescriptions, namely near-sightedness. It is also only available in certain clinics worldwide.
Laser Eye Surgery is constantly advancing. To find out more bout the latest advancements in the field and how they can help you gain clear, glasses-free vision, leave us a comment below or get in touch with one of our friendly eye experts today.