Considering laser eye surgery, but not sure which treatment is right for you?
In this article, we’ll be comparing three of the best options available to bring you up to speed with the pros, cons, and differences between SMILE vs LASIK vs LASEK/PRK eye surgery.
A overview of the prices differences are below. More details about prices can be seen in our guide to laser eye surgery costs here.
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Prices per eye accurate as of May 2021.
In the price table above ‘Bladeless’ has been used to indicate the use of 3D scanning technology but this will often have a different name depending on the clinic and exact technology used (ie. iDesign for Optical Express, Intralase for Optimax, Wavefront for other clinics). Bladeless / Wavefront Surgery costs tend to be higher than standard surgery.
What is SMILE Surgery?
Introduced in 2011, SMILE – which stands for small incision lenticule extraction – is one of the newest forms of laser eye surgery available. It’s minimally invasive, bladeless, and can be used to correct short-sightedness.
SMILE eye surgery is designed to treat short-sightedness by removing tissue on the cornea.
It works as follows:
All in all, the procedure takes no longer than 20 minutes, and the laser is only used for a small fraction of that time.
SMILE surgery is one of the least invasive eye surgeries available and doesn’t require much recovery time. You will be able to return to day-to-day activities within a few days.
In terms of aftercare, you’ll usually be asked to wear bandage contact lenses overnight as a precaution. You will also be given safety goggles to drive home in.
The cost of SMILE surgery will depend on your surgeon and clinic, but you should expect to pay between £2,000-3,000 per eye.
LASIK stands for laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis, and is a type of laser eye surgery that works by reshaping the cornea and changing the way light enters the eye. It’s suitable for those who are long or short-sighted or have astigmatism.
There are three main steps to LASIK eye surgery:
The procedure usually takes around 15-30 minutes.
Recovery from LASIK eye surgery is usually quick. You should be able to get back to your usual activities within a few days or so after the initial side effects (such as blurry vision and dry eyes) have passed.
Your surgeon will give you specific advice and instructions on what you can and can’t do after your surgery, based on your specific needs.
This might include:
You will also be prescribed eye drops and bandage contact lenses as part of your aftercare plan, as well as follow-up appointments.
Remember: every patient is different, and you should always ask your surgeon what precautions you need to take after surgery, and for how long.
LASIK treatment usually costs between £1,500-2,700 per eye, depending on your prescription and choice of clinic. See our overview of LASIK costs in UK clinics here.
LASEK surgery (laser assisted subepithelial keratectomy) and PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) are both ‘flapless’ surgeries that do not cut into the cornea, which makes them an ideal alternative for those with thin corneas or corneal scarring.
Both LASEK and PRK involve the same steps:
The key difference between LASEK and PRK is that LASEK preserves and then replaces the epithelial layer, whilst PRK completely removes the epithelium and waits for a new layer to grow back after surgery.
Both procedures take around 15-20 minutes and are pain-free.
LASEK and PRK surgery usually require a slightly longer period of recovery than LASIK.
You are likely to experience blurred vision and mild discomfort for a week or so, and will be asked to avoid certain activities like driving, rubbing your eyes and showering.
Aftercare techniques will include wearing bandage contact lenses, taking eye drops and resting your eyes as much as possible.
Your surgeon will provide more specific advice based on your specific prescription.
LASEK surgery usually costs around £1200-17000 per eye, while PRK costs around £800-1000 per eye. Prices will depend on your prescription and choice of clinic.