SMILE Near Birmingham, AL

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What is SMILE?

SMILE stands for small incision lenticule extraction. This highly specialized procedure uses cutting-edge Zeiss VisuMax® femtosecond laser technology to correct vision impairments such as nearsightedness (myopia) and astigmatism. It is also known as ReLEx or FLEx, and given its unique, technical nature, SMILE 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 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. So if you're ready to have clearer vision without glasses or contact lenses and are in the Birmingham, AL area, contact our Vestavia Hills, AL practice today to learn more and schedule a consultation with Dr. Choi.

What conditions can be treated with SMILE?

SMILE is specifically designed to address nearsightedness - formally known as myopia - and astigmatism. In patients with myopia, objects in the distance usually appear blurry, while patients with astigmatism may have blurred or distorted vision both up close and at a distance. With SMILE, patients who have either myopia and/or astigmatism can achieve clearer vision and often find it easier to read, drive, work on the computer, and more.

How Does the ZEISS VisuMax laser work?

The Zeiss VisuMax femtosecond laser is a groundbreaking technology designed to improve the patient experience during SMILE procedures. The Zeiss VisuMax platform 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 than LASIK. SMILE strategically reshapes the cornea to dramatically improve refractive errors that prevent you from reading or driving without corrective eyewear. With an extremely comfortable docking process, high-precision lasers, and an interface designed to streamline the operation, our technologies ensure a procedure that is both gentle and efficient.

What are the benefits of SMILE?

Some vision problems astigmatism and nearsightedness (myopia) prevent people from seeing clearly and can lead to additional problems like eyestrain and headaches in Birmingham, AL. When performed by a professional like Dr. Choi, SMILE is a safe, minimally invasive alternative to LASIK that provides many benefits, including:

  • Improved vision without glasses or contact lenses
  • Reduced risk of corneal flap complications compared to LASIK
  • Faster post-operative recovery
  • More predictable results with fewer complications
  • Long-lasting results with proper care

am i a candidate for SMILE?

Ideal candidates for SMILE include women and men with astigmatism or myopia who want to reduce their reliance on traditional eyewear. Candidates should also be at least 22 years old and have a stable vision prescription that has not changed in the past year. People with unstable vision, certain eye conditions, or severe astigmatism may not qualify for SMILE at this time. A consultation with Dr. Choi is required to determine if you’re a good contender for SMILE.

How is SMILE performed?

SMILE is an outpatient procedure that takes about 10 – 15 minutes to perform. Dr. Choi begins by numbing your eyes with anesthetic drops to help keep you comfortable. A special ocular holder along with a suction ring will be used to keep your eye stable and to prevent blinking. The VisuMax laser creates a small circular disc (also called a corneal lenticule) within the cornea. Once the lenticule is removed, the cornea is reshaped to improve your vision. Since no flap is created during this procedure, recovery time is typically much faster than LASIK.

how long is recovery after smile?

Although SMILE is considered an outpatient procedure, you should arrange for someone 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 to recover. Once you get home, Dr. Choi recommends that you take a long nap to allow your eyes to rest. Most patients resume normal activities like swimming and contact sports after one week of recovery. In the meantime, you may experience temporary inflammation or glares and halos around light sources. Dr. Choi will schedule several follow-up appointments so make sure healing is going as planned and to keep track of your progress.


Does SMILE surgery hurt?

No, it doesn't. Before he begins, Dr. Choi will completely numb your eyes with anesthetic drops to keep you comfortable. Most patients feel nothing at all, but some report a slight feeling of pressure.

Is SMILE surgery safe?

Yes, SMILE surgery was approved by the FDA in 2016 and is considered very safe and effective for the majority of patients. You can rest assured knowing your care is in the absolute best hands with our staff and this advanced procedure.

How much does SMILE cost?

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 covered by insurance?

Since SMILE is often considered an elective procedure, many insurance providers do not cover it. Our team can work with your insurance provider to help you determine the extent of your coverage.

Is SMILE better than LASIK?

Generally, there is a higher risk of scarring with LASIK than with SMILE. Unlike SMILE, LASIK cannot be performed on those with thin corneas. Therefore, SMILE is usually the preferred form of treatment for patients.

Can SMILE be performed on patients with astigmatism?

Yes. SMILE has been FDA approved for use 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.

get clearer vision today

With one simple procedure that can take less than 15 minutes per eye, you can get the clearer vision you want without the hassle of glasses and contacts. SMILE offers a safe, gentle, and effective vision solution that is less invasive than LASIK. Contact Young H. Choi, M.D. Eye Surgery Center in Vestavia Hills, AL today to schedule your SMILE procedure with Dr. Choi. Let us help improve your vision and quality of life with a SMILE procedure or one of our many cutting-edge treatments.

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