SMILE Near Birmingham, AL

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What is SMILE?

SMILE stands for small incision lenticule extraction. It is a highly specialized procedure that uses cutting-edge ZeissVisuMax® femtosecond laser technology to correct vision impairments, like nearsightedness and astigmatism. It is also known as ReLEx or FLEx, and given its unique, technical nature, it is only performed by a handful of specialists in the Southeast region. Dr. Young H. Choi is the only board-certified ophthalmologist to offer SMILE in the state of Alabama. SMILE strategically reshapes the cornea to dramatically improve refractive errors and eliminate the dependence on traditional eyeglasses or contacts. It is similar to LASIK surgery but is less invasive as it does not require a flap to be made in the cornea to reshape the eye. With SMILE, only a small incision is needed, which also reduces the common risks that are associated with laser vision correction. The talented staff at Young H. Choi, M.D. Eye Surgery Center has years of experience utilizing this procedure to improve the eyesight of our patients in Birmingham, AL.

How Does ZEISS VisuMax Improve Your Experience?

The Zeiss VisuMax femtosecond laser is a groundbreaking technology designed to improve the patient experience during SMILE procedures. With an extremely comfortable docking process, high-precision lasers, and an interface designed to streamline the operation, it ensures a procedure that is both gentle and efficient. As the sole medical provider using Zeiss VisuMax in the state of Alabama, Dr. Choi is one of the state's leading innovators in the field of ophthalmology.

Who is a good candidate for SMILE?

The first step in determining if you are a good candidate for SMILE is to undergo a thorough consultation with Dr. Choi. Only a seasoned ophthalmologist can confirm whether you are eligible for laser vision correction surgery. Candidates should be over the age of 22 and have not experienced any changes in their visual acuity over the past year. SMILE may not be an option if your vision is unstable or you have severe astigmatism or certain eye conditions. 

How is SMILE performed?

ZeissVisuMax femtosecond laser is the only FDA-approved light-based technology for SMILE. It offers optimal precision, reduces potential complications, speeds up recovery, and allows for shorter treatment time compared to LASIK. SMILE is an outpatient procedure that takes about 10 – 15 minutes to perform. To start, the eye will be numbed, and a special ocular holder along with a suction ring will be used to keep the eye stable and to prevent blinking. The VisuMax laser will then be used to create a small circular disc (corneal lenticule) within the cornea. The tissue is then removed via a small keyhole incision. Unlike LASIK, SMILE is a flapless surgery.

What to expect after surgery

Although SMILE is considered an outpatient procedure, you should arrange for a responsible adult to drive you home as your vision will be blurry for the first 24 hours after surgery. Patients should plan to take the remainder of the day off from work or school. Once you get home, we recommend that you take a long nap to allow your eyes to rest. Most patients are able to resume activities, like swimming and contact sports, after one week of recovery. During the initial recovery period, it's normal to experience inflammation and halos or glares. Dr. Choi will usually schedule several follow-up visits to keep track of your progress.


How much does SMILE cost?

SMILE is a premium procedure that is often not considered medically necessary, which is why it is generally not covered by insurance. When you first visit our office, our billing team can estimate your overall costs and review all of your payment options. We accept most major credit cards and CareCredit®. We can also build a payment plan that offers some flexibility to help make your treatment more affordable.

Is SMILE better than LASIK?

Generally, there is a higher risk of scarring with LASIK than SMILE. Additionally, unlike SMILE, LASIK cannot be performed on those with thin corneas. Therefore, SMILE is usually the preferred form of treatment for patients. However, there are a few factors that may make LASIK more fitting for certain people.

Can SMILE be performed on patients with astigmatism?

Yes. SMILE has been FDA approved to be used on patients with astigmatism of up to -3.00 diopters. If your astigmatism is outside of this range, our team may recommend other options to help with your eyesight. If you have astigmatism, schedule a consultation today to learn what we can do for you.

Innovative Eye Care

Dr. Choi is the only board-certified ophthalmologist in Alabama to offer the ZeissVisuMax femtosecond laser, and he is excited to provide such premier eye care to his local patients. If you want to improve your vision through a less invasive option than LASIK, SMILE may be a great solution. Call Young H. Choi, M.D. Eye Surgery Center in Birmingham, AL, to schedule an appointment today to see if SMILE or any of our other state-of-the-art solutions are right for you.

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*Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary from person to person. Images may contain models.