U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. --
Service members and cadets at the Air Force Academy may be eligible to receive a new eye procedure designed to improve their sight.
The small incisional lenticular extraction, or SMILE, procedure is less invasive than LASIK, a common laser eye surgery, according to Lt. Col. Marcus Neuffer, the Academy’s chief surgeon assigned to the 10th Medical Group.
“The LASIK procedure makes a flap which acts like a Band-Aid,” he said. “But the issue with the flap is that people worry about it getting wrinkled. SMILE is similar to LASIK but without the flap.”
During the SMILE procedure, an ophthalmologist removes part of a patient’s eye tissue with a laser and reshapes the cornea to correct their vision.
“The beauty of it is that the patient gets to have a quick recovery time, minimal pain and no flap they have to worry about,” Neuffer said. “They don’t need to wear glasses anymore and their recovery time is usually around two days.”
Staff Sgt. Zachary Martini, a SMILE patient, said the procedure improved his quality of life.
“I’ve had to wear glasses since I was four, so being able to see without them is awesome. It’s life changing,” he said. “I don’t need to use gas mask inserts anymore, which are uncomfortable and just doing regular things like sports and working out are easier too.”
The Air Force has approved SMILE for pilots but they must obtain a waiver afterwards. Medical groups at Air Force Bases in Maryland, Ohio and Texas also offer eligible patients the SMILE procedure. The 10th MDG does not offer the procedure to dependents or retirees.