One of the key obstacles preventing many people from getting laser eye surgery is their worry about how long they’d be out of action. They’re worried that they’ll be bedridden and be unable to work for weeks.
Uncertainty about the duration of healing is why people often have questions about what is the best laser eye surgery procedure that produces the quickest results. Let’s find out.
The Main Types of Laser Eye Surgery
Depending on your condition and the advice of your surgeon, you’ll be receiving one of the following kinds of laser eye surgery:
If you’re looking for immediate results that let you get on with your life as soon as possible, then this might not be for you. It can normally take around two months for the patient to no longer need topical steroid drops and other post-surgery requirements, though lubricating eye drops will usually be used for longer.
By the end of one to two weeks, post treatment patients will be experiencing clear vision, although results vary from person to person.
LASEK works by removing the thin outer layer of the cornea, which is called the epithelium. LASEK and LASIK are similar in more ways than just their name, as the excimer laser application is the same in both procedures, but a key difference is the way in which the eye is prepared for surgery.
LASEK involves partially separating the corneal epithelium from the other underlying layers and peeling it back. The epithelium is usually removed, which is the classic PRK technique. The surgeon then uses a laser to reshape the tissue.
If the epithelium is repositioned back on the surface of the cornea, this is technically called LASEK. However, the LASEK approach is used much less now, due to the advent of mitomycin C (MMC) to control corneal haze formation. Most surgeons perform PRK, even if the term LASEK is used due to its familiarity in usage.
Patients sometimes experience less discomfort when having LASEK, and the procedure takes only 5 minutes per eye. LASIK is also 5 minutes per eye but can involve a feeling of pressure for 20-25 seconds that isn't part of the LASEK/PRK technique. However, the post-operative days after LASEK can involve significant pain or discomfort.
In addition to the steroid drops, patients are also given a bandage contact lens to protect the eye as it heals.
Because of the longer recovery period, LASEK isn’t for you if you’re looking for immediate results and minimal impact on your daily life.
SMILE stands for Small Incision Lenticule Extraction and is primarily used to treat short-sightedness and some astigmatism.
A femtosecond laser is used to create a small incision on the surface of the cornea before a small section is extracted. By removing this lens-shaped tissue, the shape of the cornea changes, which corrects the patient’s short-sightedness.
The procedure is similar to LASIK, although LASIK involves the creation of a larger opening. Similarly to LASEK, the whole process takes only 5 minutes per eye and the laser is only used during a fraction of that time.
Visual recovery is slower with SMILE than with LASIK (which has the fastest recovery of any laser eye technique). LASEK/PRK takes the longest to recover, needing several days.
With SMILE, patients can see significant results as soon as the day after the surgery has taken place, and certainly by the end of the first week.
As a smaller incision is made and fewer corneal nerves are affected, initial discomfort after surgery is similar to LASIK, usually settling in around four hours.
SMILE’s treatment range is currently more limited. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only approved SMILE up to -8.00 dioptres of short-sight. In comparison, the WaveLight lasers are approved up to -14.00 dioptres.
In October 2018, the FDA also approved SMILE for astigmatism correction but details were not available at the time of writing as to how many dioptres could be corrected. The WaveLight laser is approved up to 6.00 dioptres of astigmatism.
Both LASEK and LASIK can also treat long-sightedness and a wide range of astigmatism. SMILE is not approved for long-sightedness of any degree.
If you’re looking for a treatment that offers immediate results with the fastest recovery time, then LASIK is the surgery for you.
Over 90 percent of all patients that need laser eye surgery of some kind are eligible for LASIK, making it the most popular and widely-performed option.
Patients that have LASIK eye surgery see improvements in their vision almost instantly, it really is that fast. They’re able to go back to work within one or two days, ensuring that it doesn’t have too great an impact on your schedule.
The LASIK procedure works by creating a very thin, extremely precise flap in the cornea. This is done by a state-of-the-art femtosecond laser. After this flap has been created, it’s folded back so that an excimer laser can emit pulses to reshape the cornea.
Once this is completed the flap is placed back onto the cornea. All of this only takes around five minutes per eye and the healing process begins within a few hours.
The lasers are actually only active for around 10 percent of the whole procedure, which is why it’s so important that you have an expert surgeon, as they carry out the rest of the procedure manually.
Find the Right Surgeon and Surgery to Suit You
LASIK is the best laser eye surgery if you’re looking for a quick and effective procedure that offers immediate results. The recovery period is hours, rather than weeks, allowing you to get on with important family and work commitments.
SMILE eye surgery has a slightly slower recovery period which can take several days. LASEK/PRK has the slowest recovery of all three techniques.
Focus Clinic has the highest trust rating of any eye hospital or clinic in the UK. We’re incredibly proud of the client-focused service we provide, ensuring each patient receives the same outstanding level of treatment and care.
Focus Clinic is ranked #1 on Trustpilot for eye treatment across the whole UK.
We have a 100 percent success rate for 20/20 vision, something that no other clinic has. Our world-class surgeons offer a 10-year guarantee for short-sighted treatments, with re-treatment being free of charge during the following decade.
Most clinics only offer one year of aftercare. In the unlikely event that you need further treatment, you won’t have to pay a penny.
If you’re considering LASIK or just want to know more about laser eye surgery, make sure to download our comprehensive information pack. It’s packed with useful information on the procedures we offer, perfect for putting any concerns you have to rest. You can get your hands on a free copy of the pack by clicking on the download link below.