New Eye Surgery Gains Popularity During COVID-19

Monday, February 1st 2021, 4:20 pm
By: CBS News

If you wear glasses, you know mask wearing can sometimes be annoying between your glasses fogging up and the uncomfortable straps behind your ears. Now some people are turning to surgery during the pandemic for a fix.

A relatively new form of eye surgery for people who want to stop wearing glasses or contacts has been gaining popularity in Maryland during the pandemic. "It's called SMILE laser eye surgery and SMILE is short for small incision lenticule extraction,” says Dr. Sonny Goel, medical director at Goel Vision.

Dr. Goel says SMILE is an alternative to Lasik. It was approved by the FDA in 2016. “Think of it as like, small-incision Lasik. We’re able to treat a patient without making a large corneal flap. Just making a very small, four-millimeter incision up under the upper eyelid,” Dr. Goel says.

“Glasses, especially with masks now, fogging up constantly and just so uncomfortable on the back of the ears with the mask and stuff, and so I just thought I'd been thinking about this for so long, it’s time to just do it,” says patient Melissa Nelson. She recently had the surgery, which doctors say is less invasive and patients recover faster. “By the next day I was able to drive, wear eye makeup, rub my eyes,” Nelson says.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology says that, like other eye surgery, there is a risk of complications including glare and halos, particularly at night. There is also a chance of debris where the corneal disc was removed, inflammation, and infection.

But despite the risks, Dr. Goel says his patients have been very happy with the surgery's results. “This has just been a game changer for them. I mean, they have been really impressed by how quick and easy the procedure is,” he says.

Research has shown that SMILE also results in less dry eye symptoms than Lasik.

The surgery costs about $4,500 for both eyes. Laser eye surgery is typically not covered by insurance.