LASIK, LASEK or SMILE: Which Type of Laser Surgery is Right for You?

Patient receiving eye surgery

Would you like to improve your vision without glasses or contacts but aren't sure which laser surgery option is the best choice? Learning a little about LASIK, LASEK and SMILE procedures can help you make your decision.

Laser-Assisted In-Situ Keratomileusis (LASIK)

LASIK is an excellent choice if you're nearsighted, farsighted or have astigmatism or presbyopia, an age-related condition that makes it hard to see close objects clearly. During LASIK surgery, your eye doctor uses a laser to create a flap in your cornea, the clear layer of tissue that covers your iris and pupil.

After lifting the flap, he or she uses another laser to make a few changes to your cornea. Reshaping the curvature of your cornea changes the way light rays are focused on your retina, which makes your vision clearer. After the cornea is reshaped, the flap returns to its normal position and heals naturally. No stitches are required for LASIK surgery.

The surgery only takes a few minutes and significantly improves your vision. More than 90 percent of people have 20/20 to 20/40 vision after LASIK, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Most people notice the beneficial effects of the treatment within 24 hours.

Laser-Assisted Epithelial Keratomileusis (LASEK)

LASEK may be a better choice if you have a thin cornea, dry eyes or a high level of nearsightedness. Unlike LASIK, only one laser is used to perform LASEK surgery. Before the laser is used, your eye doctor loosens a thin layer of corneal cells called the epithelial layer with an alcohol solution. He moves these cells to one side of your cornea and uses a laser to reshape the cornea.

The epithelial layer is then moved back to its original position and covered with a special contact lens that acts as a bandage. You'll wear the contact lens for about four or five days after the procedure.

It takes a little longer for your vision to improve if you have LASEK instead of LASIK. Although your vision will be much better within a week, it may take weeks or months to achieve the final results.

Small Incision Lenticule Extraction (SMILE)

During a SMILE procedure, there's no need to create a flap or dislodge the epithelial layer. After tiny incisions are made in the cornea with a laser, your eye doctor removes a thin, disc-shaped layer of corneal tissue called a lenticule. Removal of the lenticule changes the shape of your cornea and improves your visual acuity. The small incisions in your cornea will heal on their own without stitches.

Currently, SMILE is only being used to treat nearsightedness. Although you may not notice improvements quite as soon as with LASIK, your vision will be much clearer in just a few hours and will improve more and more every day. Final results may take a few weeks to appear.

Questions to Ask Before You Make a Decision

Asking a few of these questions can help you decide if laser surgery is right for you:

Will I Have 20/20 Vision?

Although 20/20 vision is the goal of laser surgery, it may not be possible to achieve perfect vision in some cases. If you won't be happy with 20/30 or 20/40 vision, you may want to reconsider laser surgery.

Will There Be Any Side Effects?

Your vision may be a little blurry initially no matter what type of surgery you choose, although it should gradually improve. Glare and halos around lights can occur for several weeks or months after laser surgery. Dry eye is another potential side effect depending on the type of laser surgery.

Will I Still Need Glasses After Surgery?

You may need glasses for reading and other activities if your vision isn't quite 20/20 after laser surgery. If you have presbyopia, you will need reading glasses unless your surgeon adjusts one eye for near vision and one for far. Although this is certainly an option, it can make some people feel a little dizzy.

Are you ready to improve your vision with laser surgery? Contact us to make an appointment to discuss your options.

Sources:

All About Vision: SMILE Laser Eye Surgery, 12/17

All About Vision: LASEK Eye Surgery, 9/17

American Academy of Ophthalmology: LASIK - Laser Eye Surgery, 12/12/15

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