What is ReLEx ® SMILE laser eye surgery2020-11-19T19:44:41+00:00

What is SMILE laser eye surgery?

The most minimally invasive form of LASIK to maximise comfort and speed-up recovery

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What is SMILE laser eye surgery?

SMILE, also known as ReLEx ® SMILE, is the latest generation of laser vision correction with a 10-year history and 1,000,000 successful procedures and counting

Who can SMILE help?

Can you see yourself below?

YOU’RE 20 TO 39

You’re frustrated with blurred or double vision, haziness, glare, halos around bright lights, squinting, headaches, or eye strain. You find glasses a hassle or worry about contact lens dangers. If that describes you, I can help you see better without the need for glasses and contact lenses.

YOU’RE 40 TO 49

You have been frustrated with your glasses or contact lenses all your life. Or, you have just begun to become annoyed with your new need for reading glasses. If that’s you, I can help you see clearly without either.

Live a richer life without glasses or contact lenses

SMILE is an ideal solution if you want a safe and effective treatment for short-sightedness, long-sightedness or astigmatism


Imagine seeing the world without the need for wearing glasses or contact lenses. You’ll have a freedom that some patients call “life-changing”.


Most patients say they wish they’d done it sooner. You may feel more confident and will certainly experience more convenience.


Awaken ready to face the world free from spectacles. Take a shower without the blurriness. Work and exercise without glasses or the dryness of contact lenses. Avoid the everyday chance of contact lens infection. Fall asleep, without worrying about leaving your lenses in.


Whether we like it or not, other people rate people based on appearances. Glasses can be an appendage that needlessly divides us. Ditch their limiting nature and live glasses-free.


ReLEx SMILE offers you the same visual results of LASIK, without any of risk of historical complications associated with the flap used in LASIK. It is, without a doubt, the most advanced approach to treating short-sightedness and astigmatism.

Affiliations and memberships

I am proud to be associated with these organisations as a member or consultant

Vision correction enables you to experience a richer life without spectacles or contacts

Take one of the first steps and find out if you are suitable

Supplementary information about SMILE eye surgery

In my expert hands, you certainly don’t need to know all of the information I’ve included in the toggles below. If you’d like to know how it all works, however, open them and learn more.

SMILE (Small Incision Lenticule Extraction) is a minimally invasive procedure, which can correct higher degrees of myopia (short sightedness). For this reason, SMILE is suitable for individuals with or without astigmatism.

When we are assessing someone for laser eye surgery, we need to make sure that they have a stable prescription, a healthy eye and they have a cornea that is the correct shape and strength to withstand the effects of surgery.

So, the types of conditions that stop people from having laser eye surgery are divided up into eye conditions where people have either severe dry eye or any other abnormality of the shape of the cornea such as keratoconus.

Typically, we also avoid doing laser eye surgery on patients who are on certain systemic medicines, that is tablets or injections which could include a substance that could be deposited in the cornea or which could prevent the healing of the cornea.

The last group of reasons that we have for not wanting to do laser eye surgery on patients is systemic conditions, including bodily diseases such as diabetes or conditions where the collagen in the body is abnormal, such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome or Marfan syndrome.

We assess the suitability of someone for laser eye surgery in three steps.

  1. The first step is to have a series of very sophisticated scans which examine the health of the eye but in particular focus on the cornea to see whether the cornea is sufficiently thick, is a suitable shape and sufficiently strong to withstand the effects of laser eye surgery.
  2. The second step is then for you to see one of our Optometrists, who is a specialist in prescribing glasses. We will check your glasses prescription, ensure that the glasses you are wearing or the contact lenses you are wearing are at the correct prescription and that there has been no change that could affect the outcome of laser eye surgery.
  3. The third step is for you to see me, your Consultant Ophthalmologist, who ultimately is responsible for your care and for performing the surgery on you. I will discuss with you your scans, ensure that it is safe for you to have laser eye surgery and help you decide which form of laser eye surgery is the correct form for you. In some cases, laser eye surgery is not suitable for you, and in that case, we have other alternatives, such as lens implant surgery, which I will discuss with you.

Relex SMILE is the name given to the third generation of laser eye surgery. It was developed to overcome many of the drawbacks of previous generations of laser eye surgery.

The procedure itself involves a Femtosecond laser to sculpt and correct the shape of the cornea into the shape that is required to focus light on the surface of the retina without any need for glasses or contact lenses.

The way the laser does this is it works deep within the cornea to free up and shape what we call the lenticule that is effectively the shape of a lens within the cornea.

Following this, the laser then makes a tiny 3 mm incision in the edge of the cornea and with a very tiny pair of forceps we reach into the cornea and remove the excess tissue and thereby the shape of the cornea alters and the glasses prescription is corrected.

SMILE is the third generation of laser eye surgery and combines the benefits of both LASEK and LASIK without any of the drawbacks of either.

With SMILE, no flap is created, so the eye is more comfortable postoperatively than other laser eye surgery techniques and there is no risk of tearing open the LASIK flap with a blow to the eye.

It is, therefore, an excellent choice for those who play contact sports and watersports.

The procedure takes a matter of minutes.

Benefits of ReLEx SMILE:

  • A proven vision correction method with over 1.5 million patients having been treated over 11 years
  • Research indicates that 98 per cent of patients achieve their desired vision after ReLEX SMILE treatment
  • Quick procedure
  • Rapid results
  • Painless treatment
  • No stitches required
  • If necessary, further adjustments can be made years down the line to correct vision
  • No smell of burning
  • No loud sound during treatment
  • No flap
  • Less dry eye
  • A stronger cornea
  • No risk of tearing open a LASIK flap
  • Suitable for sportspeople.

Some people are anxious about “new” procedures. Despite being the most recently introduced laser eye surgery procedure, SMILE is on the syllabus of the Certificate in Laser and Refractive Surgery introduced by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists in 2007. So, it’s clearly a widely-accepted refractive surgical method.

The recovery is just as rapid as LASIK with 97% of my SMILE patients having 20/20 vision within 48 hours of surgery and 99% after one week.

Additionally, the long terms benefits of SMILE are that the cornea is biomechanically stronger and there is no risk of damage from a blow to the eye causing the LASIK flap to tear open which can happen even many years after LASIK.

In an analysis of 118 consecutive SMILE procedures carried out at Optegra Central London during 2017:

  • 100% of patients achieved driving standard or better without glasses
  • 100% of patients achieved 20/20 or better without glasses.

Take the first step

Find out if your eyes are suitable for vision correction

Book a free screening now or get us to give you a call back to answer questions

How it works

Enjoy a life free from glasses and contact lenses in 3 easy steps




Talk to us


Book an appointment or give us a call on 020 3808 7758 and we’ll help guide you towards a free screening.


I’ll see you before treatment to ensure you’re a good candidate and treat you at one of my Harley Street London facilities.


I’ll supervise your aftercare as you begin to experience a life free of glasses and contact lenses.

Even more information about the SMILE eye surgery

I frequently write articles and publish videos to answer people’s most common questions and keep them updated on the latest developments in vision correction. Find out more below…

Can I get laser eye surgery?

If you dislike your glasses and contact lenses, you might be wondering "can I get laser eye surgery?" To find out whether you may qualify for this life-changing procedure, read on.

A clear look into the types of laser eye surgery in London

All laser eye surgery has the same general idea - a surgeon uses a laser to reshape your cornea, improving your vision. There are multiple ways a surgeon can do this, though. You need to know if you’re getting the right type of surgery. Take a look at these top types of laser eye surgery in London.

You don’t choose eye surgery from a menu

Some patients worry they will have to do a whole heap of work to choose the best eye surgery. Not on my watch. Below are some alternatives that you might have heard about, however, I believe it is my duty to choose which eye treatment is best for you after conducting a thorough examination


LASIK is the most common form of laser vision correction. It’s a safe and effective treatment for short-sightedness, long-sightedness and astigmatism. If you have long-sightedness, LASIK will be more suitable for you at the moment.


PRESBYOND, also known as “laser blended vision” is a laser vision correction treatment aimed at treating presbyopia and other refractive errors. I may recommend you have PRESBYOND with LASIK.


LASEK is a type of laser eye surgery, often used as an alternative treatment for those who are not suitable for LASIK eye surgery. In most cases, I will recommend SMILE to patients who can have LASEK. LASEK may not be suitable for you if you have a high prescription, very high astigmatism or keratoconus.

Implantable Contact lenses (ICL)

If you are one of the rare patients for whom laser eye surgery is not suitable, ICL lens implants offer a safe and extremely accurate option to free you from needing glasses.

This option is particularly suitable for you if the shape/thickness of cornea makes you ineligible for laser eye surgery; or, if you are so short- or long-sighted that you are out of the treatable prescription range with laser eye surgery.

Lens Replacement (RLE)

Lens replacement or Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE) is an advanced form of vision correction surgery which we use to treat patients over 50 years of age who need glasses for both distance and for reading.

Refractive cataract surgery

If you have a cataract, removing that cataract and replacing your natural lens with a multifocal artificial lens will negate the need to have SMILE.

Complex cataract surgery

If you have a cataract and another complicating eye condition, removing that cataract and replacing your natural lens with an artificial lens will negate the need to have SMILE.

About the author

Mr Alex J. Shortt | Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon

MB BCh MSc PhD FRCOphth PGDipCatRef

I’m Alex Shortt, a highly trained academic researcher and Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon based in London’s famous Harley Street medical district. I trained and worked as a consultant for 14 years at London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital. I specialise in advanced technologies for correcting vision, including cataract surgery, implantable contact lenses and laser vision correction.

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