SMILE v LASIK v PRK – What are the different types of laser eye surgery?

If you have to deal with the hassle of corrective lenses, ditching them for perfect eyesight sounds like a dream come true. The best way to achieve that goal is through laser eye surgery.

There are a few different laser procedures to choose from, three of the most common being PRK, LASIK, and SMILE.

Even if you think your eyes are too difficult to correct with surgery, this may not be the case. Read on to find out which type of laser eye surgery is best for you.

What is PRK?

Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK or LASEK) is one of the oldest types of laser eye surgery. The procedure can correct both short- and far-sightedness as well as astigmatism. It involves removing parts of your outer cornea and then reshaping the eye with a laser.

The biggest con to PRK is how long it takes for patients to recover, ranging from 2-6 weeks on average. Because of this, many surgeons have stopped performing PRK in favour of LASIK. Even so, it’s helpful for some patients who don’t qualify for LASIK due to chronic dry eyes or thin corneas.

What is LASIK?

Laser-Assisted Stromal In-situ Keratomileusis (LASIK) is a less invasive version of PRK. It treats the same conditions but, unlike PRK, most post-op symptoms will resolve within a week.

LASIK surgery starts by the surgeon creating a thin flap from the corneal surface. They then fold this flap back so the laser can reshape your cornea underneath. The surgeon will then replace the outer flap.

Because the average recovery time is so much faster for LASIK than PRK, it’s often the preferred choice for patients. But, if you have thin corneas, chronic dry eye, or high-risk occupations, you may not qualify.

What is SMILE?

ReLEx SMILE (small incision lenticule extraction) is one of the newest, least invasive laser eye surgery types. It restores near-sightedness and astigmatism without the need for a corneal flap.

During a SMILE operation, surgeons use a femtosecond laser to make a tiny incision in the cornea. The laser then reshapes the cornea through this incision. It is the least invasive option available. Many athletes choose SMILE because it carries less risk of flap-related complications. The ReLEx SMILE procedure also decreases your risk of post-operative dry eyes and has a fantastic success rate of 98%.

Do you qualify for one of these types of laser eye surgery?

Laser eye surgery is a wonderful tool that can free you from the hassle of corrective lenses, but not everyone qualifies. If you’re wondering whether you could be a good candidate for LASIK, SMILE, or PRK, start by taking this suitability quiz. It takes a few minutes and will give you a good idea of which treatment is best for you.

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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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