If you’ve been thinking of having LASIK but are also open to alternatives, you may be interested in learning more about “FLEx.” Designed for patients with myopia (nearsightedness), this promising new all-laser vision correction procedure has some experts believing it may have significant advantages over LASIK, and may in fact represent the future of vision correction for nearsighted patients.

It differs from LASIK in that during FLEx, a piece of the cornea (or lenticule) is cut out using the laser before the flap is created. After the flap is created, it is lifted and the lenticule is simply removed.

Possible Advantages over LASIK

FLEx, which stands for femtosecond lamellar extraction or femtosecond lenticule extraction, may have a number of advantages over LASIK.

Because FLEx is an all-laser procedure, you won’t have to worry about the potential complications associated with the surgical blade used in traditional LASIK.

The fact that the surface of the cornea remains untouched is another plus.

Also, the type of laser used in this procedure, called a femtosecond laser, provides increased accuracy — especially if you have high myopia — and creates fewer of the tiny refractive errors that occur with other laser vision correction procedures. This, in turn, may give you clearer vision, particularly at night. Some experts believe that the all-femtosecond-laser approach may give FLEx an edge over procedures like LASIK and PRK.

Because less laser energy is used (as compared to LASIK), the procedure may cause less discomfort.

Moreover, FLEx takes about half the time it takes to perform LASIK.

A version of FLEx called “SMILE” (small incision lenticule extraction) may have additional benefits. Approved by the FDA in September 2016, SMILE requires a specific type of laser (the VisuMax femtosecond laser) in order to be performed. Because no corneal flap is made in this variation of the procedure, the potential complications associated with such flaps are not a factor. The lack of a flap also reduces the risk that you’ll have dry eye following the procedure. Also, your odds of developing a condition called ectasia may be lower with SMILE.

Thanks to advancements in cryopreservation, FLEx and SMILE may be reversible someday, which would make it safer than LASIK and other laser vision correction procedures.

Are You a Candidate?

SMILE has been approved for patients over the age of 22 suffering with nearsightedness (myopia).

As with any surgical procedure, it is also very important that you have realistic expectations of the results, and that you understand the risks of the procedure.

It is possible that other requirements will come up as FLEx continues to be investigated.

How Much Will it Cost?

At present, there’s no way of knowing much FLEx will cost in the U.S. However, the price will likely be comparable to other state-of-the-art laser vision correction procedures such as the cost of all-laser LASIK.

To learn more about FLEx, SMILE and other laser vision correction procedures, contact a qualified eye surgeon in your area.