Table of Contents
SMILE (Small Incision Lenticule Extraction) Pro is an advanced laser refractive surgery that corrects vision problems effectively. Its minimally invasive nature, quick recovery, improved visual outcomes, and reduced risk of complications make it a preferred choice for individuals seeking to improve their eyesight.
However, like any other surgical procedure, patients have questions and concerns regarding the recovery process after SMILE Pro eye surgery. One of the common questions that patients have is whether the cornea heals after undergoing this surgery.
Understanding SMILE Pro Eye Surgery
Before diving into the healing process, it’s essential to understand what happens during a SMILE Pro eye surgery. During a SMILE Pro eye surgery, a femtosecond or AI-driven robotic laser creates a small, precise incision in the cornea, forming a Lenticule—a thin layer. The removal of this Lenticule through the incision reshapes the cornea, correcting refractive errors like nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. This precise and controlled process leaves the eye’s surface untouched, enhancing visual acuity. The small incision is sealed afterward, and the cornea begins its healing process. It promotes a quick healing process without stitches or bandages.
Compared to traditional LASIK surgery, where a flap is created on the cornea, SMILE Pro is a minimally invasive approach as it involves making a smaller incision in the cornea.
Understanding the Cornea
The cornea, a clear, dome-shaped layer, covers the iris and pupil at the eye’s front. Serving as the outermost protective barrier, it shields against dirt and dust. It does not contain any blood vessels but receives its nourishment from tears and aqueous humor, a fluid present in the front part of the eye.
It is vital for ensuring clear vision by refracting and focusing light onto the retina, where it is converted into visual signals interpreted by the brain as images. Additionally, it plays a key role in determining the quality of vision.
Corneal Layers Healing Timeline
Following SMILE Pro eye surgery, the cornea undergoes a swift healing process, quicker than other laser eye surgeries. The corneal structure remains predominantly unchanged, promoting stable healing and minimizing the risk of regression. Importantly, most anterior corneal layers remain unaltered, preserving their biomechanical strength and stability, crucial for maintaining optimal vision. This approach reduces the risk of corneal nerve damage, lowering the chances of dry eye, infection, and corneal flap issues post-vision correction. Scar tissue formation obstructing vision is unlikely.
The cornea consists of multiple layers, including the epithelium, stroma, and endothelium. Each of these layers has a different healing timeline after SMILE Pro surgery.
The epithelium is the outer layer of the cornea, protecting it from germs, debris, and infection. In SMILE Pro surgery, the laser may cause temporary damage to this layer, but it heals quickly. Some patients may experience temporary blurry vision during recovery.
Research indicates that the epithelium can fully regenerate within 24 hours after SMILE Pro surgery, sealing the incision and protecting the underlying tissue. This is much faster than traditional LASIK surgery, which may require up to three days for complete flap healing.
The stroma is the thickest layer of the cornea and the central layer, and during SMILE Pro surgery, it is reshaped. This layer consists of collagen fibers, which provide strength and shape to the cornea.
During surgery, a laser creates a lenticule in the stroma. After its removal, the stroma undergoes remodeling as the remaining collagen fibers reorganize to fill the gap created by the removed tissue.
Studies have shown that this process occurs within a week to ten days after surgery. During this time, corneal tissue regenerates and strengthens, resulting in improved vision and a stable, permanent change in the cornea’s shape.
The endothelium is the innermost layer of the cornea and is responsible for maintaining its clarity by pumping out excess fluid. While SMILE Pro surgery does not directly affect this layer, it may experience stress due to corneal shape changes.
Fortunately, the endothelium has a low turnover rate and can function with minimal damage.
Studies show no significant change in endothelial cell density after SMILE Pro surgery, indicating that it remains relatively stable and healthy.
Healing Process of Cornea After SMILE Pro Eye Surgery
Initial Healing Phase
In the immediate post-operative period, the cornea may appear hazy or cloudy due to swelling and inflammation. This is normal during healing and can last a few days. It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions on eye drops, rest, and avoiding strenuous activities.
Once the initial healing phase is over, the cornea starts to stabilize, usually within a week after surgery. The cloudy appearance of the cornea gradually fades, and your vision may improve.
Final Healing Phase
The final healing phase after the procedure can last weeks or months. During this time, the cornea adjusts to its new shape. Your doctor will monitor your progress and may suggest corrective lenses until the cornea is fully healed.
It is important to note that every individual heals differently, and the recovery time may vary from person to person.
Factors That Affect Cornea Healing
The cornea heals well after SMILE Pro surgery, but certain factors can affect the healing process:
Older patients may have slower healing due to decreased cell turnover and metabolism.
Conditions like diabetes and autoimmune diseases can slow down healing.
Proper care is crucial for healing. Failure to follow instructions can cause complications and delays.
Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption impede healing.
Activities like reading or using electronic devices for long periods strain the eyes during healing.
Tips for Faster Corneal Healing
- For a smooth and speedy recovery after SMILE Pro surgery:
- Use prescribed eye drops as directed by your doctor to prevent infection and keep your eyes lubricated.
- Avoid rubbing or touching your eyes, as it can irritate the cornea and affect healing.
- Wear protective eyewear, especially outdoors, to shield your eyes from dust and UV rays.
- Take prescribed pain medication to ease discomfort or irritation in the first few days after surgery.
Although SMILE Pro Eye Surgery has a high success rate and low risk of complications, it’s important to be aware of potential risks. In rare cases, patients may experience complications like dry eye syndrome, corneal haze, or infection. These can affect cornea healing and may need extra treatment.