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LASIK Alternatives: Comparing Vision Correction Options

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LASIK is one of the most well-known surgical procedures used to correct a range of vision problems, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. But LASIK eye surgery is not right for everyone. 

LASIK alternatives include Evo Visian ECL, PRK, RLE, LASEK, Epi-LASIK, wavefront-guided LASIK, IOL, and SMILE. The type of procedure you choose will depend on various factors that are unique to your vision correction needs.

Top Alternatives to LASIK

Surgery is an effective way to reduce your reliance on glasses and contacts. Several different types of procedures exist, including these eight alternatives to LASIK:

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Evo Visian ICL 

Evo Visian ICL involves placing a very thin lens within the eye to correct nearsightedness. The surgery takes about 20 minutes per eye, and incisions are made with a laser. Side effects are minimal, but recovery can take several months. 

Evo Visian ICL is ideal for people with thin corneas or chronic dry eye. People like this may not be suitable for LASIK, but they can get the results they need with Evo Visian ICL. 

PRK

Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) is a form of laser surgery in which doctors reshape the cornea and improve common vision problems. To access deeper tissues, doctors remove outer cornea layers with a laser or brush. People who don’t qualify for LASIK due to thin corneas may benefit from PRK instead. 

Recovery from PRK can be long and painful. But since the surgery doesn’t require a flap (as LASIK does), it could be a better choice for athletic people or pilots. 

RLE

Refractive lens exchange (RLE) is a surgical procedure in which doctors replace the lens inside your eye with a synthetic version. The lens implanted is specifically designed to correct your individual vision problem. If your vision changes after surgery, your doctor can replace the lens. 

RLE can be a good option for people with prescriptions that are too strong for LASIK correction. The FDA hasn’t approved the surgery, but it’s considered safe and effective. 

LASEK

LASEK eye surgery is a procedure that permanently reforms the shape and thickness of the cornea. Conditions like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism can all be treated with LASEK. To access deep cornea tissues, doctors remove outer layers with alcohol, push the cells aside, and replace them after surgery.

LASEK is a good option for people with thin corneas who don’t qualify for LASIK. Recovery time is slightly prolonged, as the tissues need time to heal. Your vision may be blurry for a week or longer. 

Epi-LASIK 

Epi-LASIK uses lasers to permanently change the shape and thickness of the cornea. Surgeons use this procedure for nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Doctors access deeper tissues by using a specialized tool to shear away outer cornea layers. They are replaced when the surgery is complete. 

Epi-LASIK can reduce post-surgical pain, due to the way deeper tissues are accessed. It can be a good solution for people who don’t qualify for LASIK due to large pupils or dry eyes. 

Wavefront-Guided LASIK 

Wavefront LASIK is a revolution in vision correction. Doctors measure how light moves through your eye and use that data to guide tissue removal during LASIK. Precise cuts can mean even better results than those seen in standard LASIK. 

If you’re a candidate for LASIK, you qualify for the wavefront-guided version. The surgery, risks, recovery time, and more are all the same. But the price of wavefront tends to be much higher. 

Phakic IOLs

Phakic intraocular lenses (or phakic IOLs) are synthetic lenses permanently implanted within your eyes to correct nearsightedness. If you’re not a good candidate for LASIK due to thin corneas, too-high prescriptions, or other factors, this surgery could be a good choice. 

Phakic IOLs are expensive, and the healing time can be extensive. But they are a good solution for people who want permanent vision correction and can’t get LASIK. 

SMILE

Small incision lenticule extraction (SMILE eye surgery) is a new version of LASIK that works explicitly on myopia and astigmatism. The two surgeries cost about the same, have similar healing times, and have similar side effects. 

In SMILE, doctors cut a disc-shaped piece of cornea in the eye to reshape your eye permanently. The surgery technique is relatively new, so it’s not as easy to find doctors to perform it.

Comparing LASIK Alternatives: Which Option Is Right for You?

Conditions TreatedIdeal CandidateRecovery Cost Approved by the FDAProcedure Duration 
Evo Visian ICLNearsightednessThin corneas or chronic dry eye 7 days for clear vision, 3 months for full healing $3,500–$5,000 per eye200520 minutes per eye 
PRKNearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism Thin or steep corneas At least a week for clear vision; 6 months for full healing$1,500–$3,000 per eye 199610 minutes per eye
RLENearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, presbyopia Prescriptions too high for LASIK Several weeks $2,500–$4,500Not yet approved15 minutes per eye 
LASEKNearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatismThin corneas A week or more for clear vision, several months for full healing$1,500–$3,000 per eye199610 minutes per eye
Epi-LASIKNearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatismThin corneas, large pupils, moderate myopia  A week or more for clear vision, several months for full healing$2,000 per eye 199610 minutes per eye
Wavefront-Guided LASIKNearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatismPrescriptions too high for LASIK Up to 12 hours for clear vision; 6 months for full healing $2,000–$2,500 per eye200315 minutes per eye 
Phakic IOLsNearsightedness People who are not good LASIK candidates Up to 48 hours for clear vision; several months for full healing$3,000–$5,000 per eye 200515 minutes per eye 
SMILENearsightedness and astigmatism People who are not good LASIK candidates24–48 hours, with longer times for full healing$2,000–$3,500201610 to 15 minutes per eye 
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Which LASIK alternative is right for you? Or should you have standard LASIK instead? These aren’t questions you can answer alone. It’s essential to reach out to a medical professional, such as NVISION Eye Centers, to determine the best vision correction procedure for you.

During a LASIK consultation, doctors will test your eyes and determine which surgical procedure is right for you. At the end of that appointment, you’ll understand the risks and benefits of each option clearly. With that information, you can make an informed decision about your future.

LASIK Alternatives Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the best alternative to LASIK eye surgery?

It depends. Each option is designed to address a different problem or treat a specific type of eye. Your doctor can help you decide which is right for you.

What’s the alternative to LASIK for astigmatism?

Several LASIK alternatives can address astigmatism, including PRK, RLE, LASEK, epi-LASIK, wavefront-guided LASIK, and SMILE.

What’s the alternative to LASIK for myopia?

The top alternatives to LASIK for myopia are phakic IOL or Evo Visian ICL. An artificial lens replaces the one you were born with, permanently correcting your nearsightedness.

What’s the alternative to LASIK for farsightedness?

Several LASIK alternatives can address astigmatism, including PRK, RLE, LASEK, epi-LASIK, wavefront-guided LASIK, and SMILE.

References

  1. The Current State of SMILE vs. LASIK. (April 2021). Review of Ophthalmology.
  2. Comparison of Clinical Outcomes of LASIK, Trans-PRK, and SMILE for Correction of Myopia. (February 2022). Journal of the Chinese Medical Association.
  3. Refractive Eye Surgery: Helping Patients Make Informed Decisions About LASIK. (May 2017). American Family Physician.
  4. Alternative Refractive Surgery Procedures. (April 2023). American Academy of Ophthalmology
  5. Long Term Results of Epi-LASIK and LASEK for Myopia. (June 2014). Contact Lens & Anterior Eye.
  6. Long-Term Outcome of Epi-LASIK for High Myopia. (August 2011). European Journal of Ophthalmology.
  7. Phakic Intraocular Lens Myopia. (February 2023). StatPearls.

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