SMILE Laser Eye Surgery- What You Need to Know
Plagued by nearsightedness? Laser eye surgery might be the solution you’re looking for! But aside from LASIK, there is a new procedure called SMILE, that you could qualify for. Keep reading below for what you need to know about SMILE laser eye surgery!
The Basics of SMILE Laser Surgery
As of September 2016, SMILE has been FDA approved for use in the United States as a new laser eye surgery procedure. SMILE is an acronym that stands for Small Incision Lenticule Extraction.
To be a good candidate for this surgery, you must be at least 22 years old, have had a stable eyeglass prescription for at least 12 months, and have no more than -0.50 D (diopters) of astigmatism.
The SMILE procedure itself is minimally invasive. A surgeon using a VisuMax femtosecond laser, which is attributed to Carl Zeiss Meditec, will create a small incision in the cornea to correct your vision. More specifically, the femtosecond laser will be used to create a lenticule (a small, lens-shaped bit of tissue) in the cornea. Then, the laser will be used to create a small arc-shaped incision in the surface of the cornea through which the surgeon will extract the lenticule and discard it. The removal of the lenticule alters the shape of the cornea, thus correcting nearsightedness. You will start to notice sharpened vision within a few days after the incision heals on its own.
The biggest fundamental difference between LASIK and SMILE eye surgery is that in LASIK, a large opening (approximately 20mm) is required to reshape the underlying cornea, whereas in SMILE, only a very small opening is needed (less than 4mm) to remove the lenticule.
Up to -10.00 D (diopters) of nearsightedness can be corrected with SMILE. More than one million SMILE procedures have been conducted worldwide with great results!
Advantages of SMILE Over LASIK
Research has been conducted to determine the differences between the results of SMILE and LASIK eye surgery. In a recent study of 328 people that received the SMILE procedure, almost all had UCVA (uncorrected visual acuity) of 20/40 or better. This study reaffirms other research that has shown SMILE to produce basically the same visual acuity as LASIK for nearsighted correction.
Compared to LASIK, research has shown that there may be less of a risk of dry eye symptoms in patients who underwent the SMILE procedure. This may be attributed to the fact that SMILE doesn’t require a large corneal flap like LASIK because the procedure is conducted inside the cornea and therefore fewer corneal nerves are affected.
There have been reports suggesting that the small incision of the SMILE procedure actually enables the cornea to maintain biomechanical stability.
Research has shown that there is less of a risk of needing additional procedures after SMILE for correction of high amounts of nearsightedness, whereas there is a greater risk for the need for enhancement procedures following a LASIK procedure. This may be credited to the smaller incisions of the SMILE procedure which results in less dehydration of the cornea.
Limitations Of SMILE Over LASIK or PRK
There may be areas where other laser eye surgery procedures excel and SMILE falls short, such as the fact that SMILE can only correct nearsightedness whereas PRK and LASIK can both correct a multitude of other eye conditions. However, the treatment range for SMILE eye surgery will likely expand as technologies grow more innovative.
Higher-order aberrations (HOAs) that can affect night vision can be treated with LASIK and PRK whereas SMILE can’t treat these and might even slightly increase them.
Although your risk of needing additional procedures after SMILE decreases, if you do end up having a residual refractive error following a procedure, research has shown that PRK would be the preferred enhancement procedure.
Due to the fact that SMILE is a new corrective surgery procedure, many surgeons haven’t yet performed a significant amount of SMILE surgeries to master the techniques required for optimal results. Like all new procedures, acclimation takes time, however, you should keep this aspect in mind when considering SMILE and be sure to discuss the procedure and any concerns with your surgeon.
The Cost of SMILE
The total fee a surgeon charges for a laser eye surgery procedure is comprised of many factors such as their experience, the location, and whether follow-up exams and additional procedures or treatments are included.
However, most refractive eye surgeons in the United States charge around the same price for all corrective laser surgeries including SMILE. The price for this procedure would fall in the range of $2,000 to $3,000 per eye.
Are You The Right Candidate for SMILE?
If you struggle with nearsightedness and meet the criteria listed above in regards to age and your eye condition, you may be the right candidate for SMILE laser eye surgery! You should contact your eye doctor to have a comprehensive exam and schedule a consultation with a refractive surgeon.
SMILE may be the right procedure for you!