Why Patients Prefer SMILE over LASIK

The decision to get refractive vision correction simultaneously inspires hope of improved vision with an understandable amount of trepidation. Yes, there is significant upside potential, but what happens if something goes wrong? The truth is that refractive eye surgery has three decades of history with incremental improvement and one of the lowest complication rates of any procedure in the world. The latest version of refractive vision correction, SMILE (small incision lenticule extraction), only adds to the safety, efficacy, and positive outcomes that millions of patients across the world have experienced. LASIK, once the gold standard of vision correction is beginning to be replaced with SMILE–an even safer and alternative that’s just as effective or more effective. 

The Evolution of Vision Correction

IN 1995, PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) was approved for use by the FDA. This procedure, known for its surface-level approach, involves reshaping the cornea by removing the epithelial cells (outer layer) without creating a flap. Given the comparatively invasive nature of PRK, LASIK was developed to treat many (though not all) of the conditions that PRK treats. Whereas PRK totally removes an entire layer of epithelial cells, LASIK (Laser Assisted In-Situ Keratomileusis) keeps this cell layer intact with the use of a flap that remains attached to the rest of the cornea. 

With this technique, LASIK reduced the amount of recovery time and the gravity of side effects significantly. The latest advancement , SMILE, is another improvement above LASIK and PRK. LASIK improved on PRK by maintaining the layer of cells with a flap. SMILE improves on LASIK by eliminating the need for a flap and using a tiny incision to remove the lenticule. As a result, patients are generally able to return to work the very next day and continue with normal activities. SMILE ultimately causes fewer side effects and is considered to be less risky, making it a preferred choice among physicians and patients for vision correction.

Introducing SMILE: A Game-Changer

SMILE stands out as a game-changing alternative to LASIK that achieves vision correction through a small, keyhole incision. This cutting-edge procedure utilizes state-of-the-art femtosecond laser technology to precisely remove a tiny piece of corneal tissue, reshaping the eye’s surface to correct refractive errors. 

This minimally invasive approach offers several advantages that are fundamentally changing patient expectations and experiences. Firstly, the absence of a flap reduces the risk of flap-related complications, a concern for some LASIK patients. This feature of SMILE is particularly appealing to individuals with active lifestyles or those in professions where physical contact and eye injuries are a risk. Additionally, the smaller incision means less disturbance to the cornea, often resulting in a more comfortable post-operative experience and faster healing. Patients undergoing SMILE frequently report a swift return to their daily activities, with many experiencing significant improvements in vision almost immediately after the procedure.

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Patient Experiences and Preferences

When it comes to choosing between SMILE and LASIK, patient experiences and preferences play a pivotal role. A growing number of patients are opting for SMILE where it’s indicated for treatment. Patient testimonials often highlight the reduced incidence of dry eye symptoms post-surgery, a significant factor for those already prone to this condition. Unlike LASIK, which can exacerbate dry eye due to the larger corneal flap and greater nerve disruption, SMILE’s minimally invasive technique preserves more of the corneal nerves, thereby mitigating this risk. 

Patients also frequently comment on the minimal discomfort and rapid visual recovery associated with SMILE as the most important factors in their decisions. Those with active lifestyles opt for SMILE specifically for its quick recovery time, allowing for a faster return to active lifestyles. Those who work in more creative areas are also drawn to SMILE due to its precision and the reduced risk of postoperative complications. Finally, women love SMILE because there are few restrictions on makeup use (like mascara and eyeliner) after the procedure. LASIK, on the other hand, has a two-week period where makeup use is not advised due to the increased likelihood of complications. 

Because of these benefits, patients are increasingly prioritizing procedures that align with their lifestyles and minimize disruption, with SMILE emerging as a top choice for its combination of comfort, convenience, and effectiveness.

Minimizing Discomfort and Recovery Time

SMILE’s minimally-invasive nature is key to minimizing discomfort and expediting recovery. Unlike LASIK, where a significant corneal flap is created, SMILE involves making a small incision that’s about 60-degrees instead of 300-degrees (of a circle). This keyhole approach significantly reduces the surgical impact on the eye and as a result, patients can expect considerably less discomfort during and after the procedure. The reduced irritation of corneal tissue not only lessens the immediate post-operative discomfort but also contributes to a lower risk of long-term complications, such as dry eyes and corneal weakness. 

Many patients also report clear vision within a day which is significantly less than with LASIK. The ability to resume normal activities almost immediately, without the burden of significant post-surgery discomfort, greatly enhances patient satisfaction and quality of life.

Precision and Safety in SMILE

The precision and safety of SMILE surgery are among its most commendable aspects, bolstering patient confidence and contributing to its growing popularity. Central to SMILE’s precision is the advanced femtosecond laser technology it employs. This femtosecond laser is the key piece of technology that allows for such precise targeting of corneal tissues. The Femtosecond laser is able to penetrate precisely without damaging surrounding tissues, whereas LASIK’s excimer laser is less precise and necessitates the use of a flap to successfully complete the procedure.

Studies have shown that SMILE has a complication rate of around 1%, which is comparable to or even lower than that of LASIK. This low complication rate is largely attributed to the procedure’s flapless nature, eliminating risks associated with flap creation and repositioning, such as flap dislocation or irregularities. Additionally, the preservation of corneal biomechanical stability and the reduced incidence of postoperative dry eye further contribute to the procedure’s safety.

The precision and safety of SMILE gives patients the much needed “peace of mind;” after all, it is their ability to see that is on the line. Knowing they are undergoing a procedure backed by the most advanced technology and with Dr. Haddad being the #1 SMILE surgeon in the country, patients feel more confident and at ease with their choice than ever before.

Comprehensive Patient Care at Our Institute

Laser Eye Institute has always provided the highest level of patient-centered care and SMILE is no exception. In fact, Dr. Haddad performed the first SMILE procedure in Michigan in 2017 and has since been recognized as the leading SMILE surgeon in the United States, it’s safe to say that you’re in good hands with Dr. Haddad. 

Beyond world-class surgeons, Laser Eye Institute has partnered with the leading medical device manufacturer in ophthalmology and optometry. Traditional equipment used for both LASIK and SMILE essentially flattens the leading convex edge of the cornea which can cause unexpected and uncomfortable amounts of pressure for the patient. However, at Laser Eye Institute, we use the highest quality interfaces that are already molded to the shape of your eye which minimize the discomfort of the procedure. Our commitment to you has always been “patients first.”

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Wrapping Up

As time continues its forward march, refractive vision correction becomes safer and more convenient for patients. LASIK was the gold standard of safety and convenience, and while it’s still extremely safe, the baton is slowly but surely being passed to SMILE as the clear winner. 

If you’re considering LASIK or SMILE, set up your free consultation with Dr. Haddad today. Thousands of patients across Michigan have made the decision to improve their eyesight and have never looked back. Not ready to commit to a consultation just yet? Take this quick quiz to find out if LASIK, PRK or SMILE is right for you.

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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.