When deciding on how to address a vision problem, many people may find themselves debating between contact lenses and LASIK eye surgery.

millennial woman thinking about getting LASIK

LASIK (Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis) and SMILE (Small Incision Lenticule Extraction) are both refractive surgery procedures designed to correct common vision problems, such as myopia (nearsightedness). Both procedures aim to reshape the cornea to improve vision, but they differ in their approach and certain aspects of the surgical process. Here’s a detailed comparison of LASIK vs SMILE:

LASIK (Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis):


  • Flap Creation:
    • How It Works: A thin flap is created on the cornea using a microkeratome or femtosecond laser.
    • Corneal Reshaping: The flap is lifted, and the underlying cornea is reshaped using an excimer laser.
  • Recovery Time:
    • Quick Visual Recovery: Patients often experience rapid visual improvement within the first 24 hours
    • Stabilization: Full stabilization of vision may take a few weeks.
  • Postoperative Discomfort:
    • Mild Discomfort: Patients typically experience minimal discomfort the first few hours after treatement .
  • Suitability:
    • Common Refractive Errors: Suitable for myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism.
    • Presbyopia: Can be combined with monovision to reduce the need for reading glasses after treatment
  • Pros:
    • Rapid Visual Improvement: Quick recovery and often immediate improvement in vision.
    • Minimal Discomfort: Patients usually experience minimal discomfort during and after the procedure.
  • Cons:
    • Flap-Related Complications:  Although rare, flap-related complications may include dislodgement or inflammation or stopping the procedure for safety.
    • Dry Eyes: Some patients may experience temporary dry eyes.

SMILE (Small Incision Lenticule Extraction):


  • Corneal Lenticule Creation:
    • How It Works: A femtosecond laser is used to create a lenticule within the cornea, which is then extracted through a small incision.
    • No Flap Creation: Unlike LASIK, no corneal flap is created.
  • Recovery Time:
    • Extended Visual Recovery: Visual recovery is slower compared to LASIK.
    • Stabilization: Full stabilization of vision may take several weeks to months.
  • Postoperative Discomfort:
    • Mild Discomfort: Patients may experience mild discomfort during the initial healing phase.
  • Suitability:
    • Myopia Correction: Primarily designed for the correction of myopia.
    • Corneal Thickness: May be suitable for individuals with thinner corneas or those not eligible for LASIK.
  • Pros:
    • Minimally Invasive: SMILE involves a small incision and no flap creation, potentially reducing complications.
    • Potential Preservation of Corneal Strength: Early studies indicate that the SMILE procedure  aims to preserves more corneal tissue, which may benefit the structural integrity of the cornea.
  • Cons:
    • Limited Availability: SMILE may not be as widely available as LASIK.Extended Visual Recovery: Visual recovery is slower compared to LASIK.
      Similar complications to LASIK:  In studies, complications can be similar to LASIK including infection, dry eyes, and changes in vision.Potential for Dry Eyes: While reduced compared to other procedures, SMILE can still cause temporary dryness.
    • Cost:  The SMILE procedure can cost significantly more than LASIK or PRK.

Choosing Between LASIK and SMILE:

  • Corneal Thickness: If you have a thinner cornea, SMILE may be a safer option.
  • Flap Creation Preference: Some individuals may prefer the absence of a corneal flap, making SMILE a suitable choice.
  • Quick Recovery: If rapid visual recovery is crucial, LASIK may be preferred.

Both LASIK and SMILE are effective refractive surgery options, and the choice between them depends on individual factors, patient preferences, and the surgeon’s recommendation. Consulting with an experienced ophthalmologist is crucial to determine the most suitable procedure based on your unique needs and circumstances.

Schedule A Free LASIK Consultation At One of Our LASIK Vision Centers Near You!

If you’re interested in learning morning about LASIK vision correction, schedule your free consultation at on of our local LASIK Vision Institute locations to speak with your LASIK team about your candidacy, learn all of the details about laser eye surgery, and get answers to all of your key questions.

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