New laser tech eye surgery SMILE making waves around the globe

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For those of us who are lucky to have the gift of sight naturally, it is something wondrous to behold – and something that we often take for granted (intentionally or not). For those that are not so lucky, there is the realisation that they would do anything to have their eyesight back is abundantly dominant all the time. Thankfully, we exist in a time where there are various technologies and programs that allow for something as life-changing as gaining eyesight to be possible. But it is not without its challenges, its trials and tribulations. When it comes to the relationship between health and technology, to say that it is a delicate one would be putting it mildly. In fact, the very nature of the relationship between visual health and technology indicates that it is a lot of delicate, easily (and literally) scrapable work to get from blurry vision to 20/20 eyesight. And at the forefront of this relationship is laser eye surgery, a visionary correction procedure that corrects eyesight.

The reality of health is that we are not all evenly gifted. It is unfortunate, it is unfair, but it is the way that life works. We cannot change the cards we are dealt, only how we play the hand, as they say. When it comes to issues of visual health and technology intertwining with one another, this is a multi-billion-dollar industry that is continuing to expand at a rapid pace around the world. Whether it is the retail companies (think Glasses Gallery, for example) that do the research to provide the highest quality frames and lenses, or the corrective surgeries that quite literally give the gift of sight, visual health technology is astounding – and it is continuing to improve, even now, when it seems like it could not possibly get any better. It is an exciting time to be alive, and visual health technology is changing the game rapidly for those who are unfortunate enough not to have their eyesight. It is a marvel, a miracle of drastic proportions made possible by science and technology.

The concept of laser eye surgery is not new, but it has been going through something of a reiteration as of late. This is a technology that has literally given the vision of sensory replenishment, and for that reason it is priceless. And there is also a new player in town, making it even easier on all fronts. For years, LASIK (Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis) was the leading laser eye correction surgical procedure there was. The procedure involves a large opening (i.e. a flap) to be created in the eye itself. This flap enables the excimer laser used in the procedure to reshape the underlying cornea. The goal, of course, is to correct the eyesight of the patient undergoing the surgery. It sounds life-changing, and it is – if you can stand someone touching the eye excessively. This is the reason that so many glasses-wearers are putting off undergoing the procedure, even though it could very well remove the need to wear glasses ever again.

This is where SMILE (Small Incision Lenticule Extraction) comes in. SMILE is the latest and greatest iteration in visual replenishment, and it is proving itself to be stronger, better, faster, and bolder than LASIK already, in its relatively short lifetime thus far. At its core, SMILE is far less invasive than LASIK in multiple ways. First, the procedure takes even shorter a time than LASIK does to be completed (around fifteen minutes tops – even quicker if there are no delays from any party in getting started). Second, SMILE is carried out using a VisuMax femtosecond laser (smaller than the laser used in LASIK). This laser creates a small, lens-shaped bit of tissue (i.e a lenticle) within the cornea itself. This is then removed from the inside of the eyeball manually with forceps. Because no large flaps are created during SMILE, it reshapes the eye, the procedure is much less invasive than other laser eye procedures (including LASIK), and it also allows the correction of even higher myopic prescriptions than was previously thought possible.

Further, most patients’ vision is 80% better instantly, reaching 100% within a matter of days, not weeks. But what are the fine details of the surgery? Well, anaesthetic eye drops numb the eye completely before a state-of-the-art Carl Zeiss VisuMax laser projects a series of precise pulses to the centre of the cornea. This is done with astonishing 3D placement accuracy, and these pulses form microscopic bubbles (less than a hundredth of the width of a human hair, to be exact) that outline the tissue (lenticle) that is to be removed to improve the individual’s sight. This is when the laser creates a small tunnel that the surgeon can remove the damaged tissue, reshaping the cornea in the process. No flap is created, and so the healing times are faster and safer. This is the magic of SMILE, and it is the reason that it is becoming a global sensation, a life-changing revolution in visual health technology.

When it comes to something as fundamental to peak whole health as eyesight, there is something profoundly comforting in knowing that there are options out there to right the ship, for those who have been short-changed when it comes to their visual health. Laser eye surgery is not a new concept by any means, but the ways that it has been changed and improved over time are always elevating and renewing themselves. For many years, LASIK has been the leading laser eye surgical procedure, and it has yielded significant results many a time throughout the years. Now, however, there is a new player in town, and it is not only more efficient in the surgical room, but after as well. It is (aptly) called SMILE. Being less invasive in nature, SMILE takes less time to heal, is less painful, and has far greater potential for 20/20 success every time. This is the new frontier in visual health and tech, and it is proving itself to be priceless already.

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