LASIK, SMILE, and PRK are different surgical procedures that help correct vision problems caused by an improperly shaped cornea. LASIK is a popular type of laser-assisted surgery that reshapes the cornea. This helps to improve how light is focused onto the retina and improves the patient’s vision. During the procedure, a small incision is made to expose the underlying tissue which is then removed by the laser. After the cornea has been reshaped, the flap is replaced, leaving the eyes to heal.
SMILE is the latest in corrective vision procedures. A small incision is made in the cornea and the laser is used to remove a small disk-like piece of tissue (called the lenticule) from the center of the cornea. Removing this little piece of tissue effectively reshapes the cornea and corrects the patient’s vision.
PRK, on the other hand, is another type of refractive surgery that requires no incisions. PRK removes the top layer of the cornea to expose the underlying tissue. The surgeon then uses the laser to reshape the cornea and places a contact lens over the treated area for it to heal. The recovery time for each procedure is different, however, LASIK and SMILE recovery is relatively minimal and takes only a day or two. PRK, on the other hand, may require more rest for a full recovery.
For the first few days following LASIK eye surgery, the patient can expect to feel mild discomfort such as itching eyes. Blurry vision as well as halos around lights at night are common and to be expected within the first several days. During this time, Dr. Haddad will ask you to refrain from strenuous exercise, rubbing your eyes, and a handful of other activities that may lead to adverse outcomes. However, you should be able to drive, return to work, and engage in regular household activities within the first several days following the LASIK procedure. In the weeks and months following the initial days of the LASIK recovery process, the symptoms experienced should subside and give way to improved vision.
The recovery after SMILE eye surgery is quite similar to the recovery after LASIK. For the first couple of days, patients may feel a mild amount of irritation in their eyes due to the incision. Dr. Haddad will caution you to not scratch your eyes which is the main cause of SMILE complications. However, most patients are able to return to mostly-normal routines the very same day of the procedure. SMILE is one of the least invasive and safest laser eye procedures and the recovery time is relatively minimal. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest that SMILE may even be safer than using contact lenses. Once the discomfort has passed, the only mark left by the procedure is greatly improved vision.
PRK differs from LASIK in the way that the eye is prepared before the procedure as well as in the length and kind of recovery. The eye is prepared with an alcohol-based solution which removes the top layer of the cornea before the laser is applied. Once the cornea has been reshaped during PRK eye surgery, Dr. Haddad will place a bandage contact lens to protect your eyes. This bandage will be removed after a week, however, patients may need to take this week off work and avoid activities that strain the eyes. Exposing the eyes to blue light or doing strenuous activity is not recommended during this first week of healing. However, after the first week, many patients slowly start to return to normal day-to-day activities. After about a month, the patient’s vision will have stabilized and blurry vision and itchy eyes will likely cease to be problems. At this point, patients can confidently enjoy their improved vision.
It’s important to remember that patients are active participants in their own well-being and recovery and there are real ways to avoid impeding recovery.
For all three procedures, a full recovery will take anywhere from a month to three months before all irritation and blurry vision has subsided. However, LASIK and SMILE both have relatively short immediate recovery periods which usually last a day or two. On the day of the procedure, patients won’t be able to drive themselves. However the following day, most normal activities can be resumed unless instructed otherwise by Dr. Haddad. PRK, on the other hand, may take slightly longer for initial recovery. Rest is required for the first week after the procedure and patients may experience a more extended period of eye discomfort.
The recovery times for LASIK, PRK, and SMILE all differ. However, when compared to the traditional operations, the recovery period is extremely short. For most individuals, the benefits of the procedures outweigh the risks, especially when considering the shortened recovery times. Regardless of the procedure, it is crucial for the patient to follow post-operative instructions and seek medical attention during the recovery period if necessary.
If you’re considering laser eye surgery, please set up your free consultation today. Not ready to commit to a consultation just yet? Schedule a 15-minute phone call with a LASIK coordinator to find out if LASIK, PRK, or SMILE is right for you.
David Lemieux, BA from Oakland University is a LASIK expert and marketing professional that has worked with Dr. Dan Haddad and the Laser Eye Institute since 2017. David believes in education and cutting through the noise to deliver facts and opinions about LASIK, SMILE, and all things Laser Vision Correction.