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LASIK has been the go-to refractive surgery to improve eyesight in the 21st century. It’s effective, safe, and offers a very short recovery time. But is there a new contender to finally rival LASIK?

SMILE, or Small Incision Lenticule Extraction, has only been available to the American public for a little over a year. In fact, the first ReLEx SMILE procedure in the US was performed in early 2017. It promises results similar to or better than LASIK surgery while providing a safer option for nearsighted individuals who lead active lifestyles. Athletes, parents, and people with physically-intensive occupations may find the SMILE procedure better suits their needs than LASIK.

What Is LASIK?

LASIK is currently the most popular form of permanent vision correction in the United States. It works by reshaping the cornea to improve how incoming light is projected onto the retina (located at the back of the eye). When light is not properly focused in the eye, vision becomes blurry. Your surgeon will reshape the cornea to allow light to hit the correct part of the retina.

To do this, Dr. Hamilton will create a thin, circular corneal “flap” on the surface of the eye using a femtosecond laser. This flap is then peeled back to expose the inner layers of the cornea. To do the reshaping, Dr. Hamilton will use an excimer laser to remove very small amounts of tissue. The lasers act extremely quickly, taking only a couple seconds to excise the tissue. The flap is smoothed over and the surgery is then complete.

What Is SMILE?

The SMILE procedure, while not currently as popular as LASIK is (mostly because it’s brand new), is only slightly different from LASIK. Both surgeries involve reshaping the cornea to allow for the proper refraction of light onto the retina. However, the method to achieve this goal is different.

Zeiss Laser

During SMILE eye surgery, Dr. Hamilton will use the VisuMax femtosecond laser to apply pulses of energy to a specific layer of the cornea. This will create a disk-shaped “lenticule” composed of corneal tissue. The laser is able to create the lenticule without harming the first layer of the cornea. Through a small incision, Dr. Hamilton will remove this disc of tissue, thereby changing the shape of the cornea!

The SMILE procedure completely eliminates the need for a corneal flap, and only requires a single, small corneal incision. This is a huge benefit for individuals such as athletes, who are at a higher risk for damaging or shifting the flap.

Which Is Right For Me?

Determining which procedure is best for you would require a visit to our Santa Monica office. If you are interested in learning if you are a SMILE procedure candidate or would like to see if LASIK is better for you, contact Dr. Hamilton at the Hamilton Eye Institute today!