A common cause of visual complaints is uncorrected refractive errors, which is a vision problem that makes it hard for you to see clearly. It occurs when the shape of your eye prevents light from focusing correctly on your retina, which is the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of your eyes.

There are several types of refractive errors (myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism, and presbyopia) which are commonly corrected with prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses. The problem with these solutions is that they require maintenance, can be uncomfortable, and may not work well as a long-term solution.

The answer to this, is LASIK or SMILE treatment, two popular laser vision correction techniques. But, what’s the difference between them?

Understanding LASIK & SMILE Treatment Differences

1. Refractive Error Correction

One difference between LASIK and SMILE treatment is the type of refractive errors that the two vision correction surgeries treat. LASIK can treat all refractive errors, including nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. On the other hand, SMILE can treat nearsightedness with or without astigmatism. It cannot treat farsightedness or astigmatism alone.  

2. Technique Used in Correction

Both of these procedures are laser vision correction treatments that involve making incisions to reshape the cornea, correcting the refractive error. However, LASIK requires two different lasers; a femtosecond laser and an excimer laser. While SMILE only uses one, the Visumax laser from Zeiss.

3. MLV Advanced LASIK

With MLV Advanced LASIK or laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis, a specialized femtosecond laser creates a small flap in the epithelium layer, the ultra-thin tissue that covers the front of the eye. From here, a small portion of your corneal tissue is removed with an excimer laser to reshape the cornea. The amount of removed tissue depends on what refractive error you have. Once the cornea is reshaped, the light will correctly refract onto your retina at the back of your eye.

4. SMILE or small incision lenticule extraction

SMILE, small incision lenticule extraction, does not utilize a flap. Instead, it uses a pre-programmed map of your cornea to create a small, lens-shaped piece of tissue called a lenticule. Once the lenticule is created, a femtosecond laser makes a tiny incision in the cornea, allowing the lenticule to be removed. The removal of this small, lens-shaped piece of tissue is what reshapes the cornea and improves your vision.

5. Incision Size Used

Another notable difference between LASIK and SMILE is the size of the incision made. Because LASIK creates a corneal flap, the incision must be much more significant at approximately 20 mm in length. With SMILE, the incision in the cornea is incredibly tiny, measuring around 4 mm. The smaller incision with SMILE reduces the risk of complications, as no flap is needed.

6. Patient Comfort and Safety

While all laser vision correction procedures use anesthetic drops, you are likely to feel some sensations such as light pressure. With LASIK and SMILE, both options are very comfortable. Magruder Laser Vision uses the VisuMax femtosecond laser causing the lowest stress in the eye. Meaning patients are unlikely to feel any pressure sensations during either procedure. 

In terms of patient safety, all forms of laser vision correction techniques are FDA-approved and considered safe when performed by experienced and trained laser vision correction surgeons. 

Treatment Availability 

LASIK and SMILE vision correction procedures are well-known around the globe. LASIK was approved for general use since 1999 and has been refined over the last few decades as new technology became available. SMILE has only been in practice worldwide since 2012 and approved for widespread use in the United States as of 2016.

To find out which vision correction procedure is right for you, book your free consultation online now. You will meet with a surgeon to discuss your vision goals, lifestyle, and eye health. You can also give us a call at 407-843-5665 for more information about our other procedures.