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LASIK and LASEK: How Are They Different?

July 8, 2019

On the surface, LASIK (Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis) and LASEK (Laser-Assisted Sub-epithelial Keratomileusis) seem fairly similar. Both of these surgical procedures alleviate eye conditions, like myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism, ultimately leading to improved, clearer vision without the need for glasses or contact lenses. And they both provide patients with the same high-quality level of results.

So if LASIK and LASEK appear to be pretty much the same, what exactly separates the two of them? 

The Surgical Difference

In LASIK eye surgery, eye surgeons use either a microkeratome (mechanical blade device) or a laser keratome (laser device) to separate a layer of tissue on the patient’s cornea, also known as a corneal flap. By lifting and folding back the corneal flap, a computer-controlled laser is then able to target and reshape the stroma by removing tissue beneath it. This process allows the light that enters the eye to focus more precisely on the retina, which improves vision overall. And with modern advances in custom wavefront LASIK surgery, the risks of many complications arising from LASIK have been greatly reduced, while the increased precision of wavefront LASIK technology has resulted in superior treatment outcomes.

With LASEK eye surgery, rather than creating a corneal flap, the eye surgeon isolates a thin layer in the outer portion of the patient’s cornea (the epithelium). An alcohol solution is then applied to the eye to loosen the layer. After the alcohol solution is removed, the epithelial flap is delicately peeled back, and an excimer laser is used to carefully reshape the cornea. By properly re-sculpting the cornea, the eye surgeon is able to improve the ability of the eye to focus on images. This results in dramatic improvements to the patient’s visual acuity.

The Recovery Process

Most patients report improved vision immediately after LASIK eye surgery, but eyes can take multiple months to realize the treatment’s full potential, which means that patients can look forward to continued improvement following their procedure. After 1 – 2 days, your doctor will likely want to confirm that your eyes are healing properly. Afterwards, regular follow-up visits will likely be scheduled for up to 6 months to ensure that your eyes are healthy.

With LASEK eye surgery, patients usually report initial visual recovery after about a week of healing, but full recovery can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. The healing process for LASEK eye surgery will usually take longer than LASIK, as the alcohol solution causes damage to the tissue of the epithelial cells immediately after surgery. But don’t worry! Your doctor will prescribe topical steroids and antibiotics for the initial weeks in order to support the healing process. Your doctor will also likely require a follow up visit 1 – 2 days after your surgery (similar to LASIK), with regular post ops scheduled for the following couple of weeks.

So Which One is Right For Me?

For many patients, LASIK eye surgery remains the primary choice and perfect solution for their vision correction needs. LASEK eye surgery comes into play when a patient isn’t an ideal candidate for LASIK. Additionally, LASEK may also be a good option for you if you’re actively involved in activities (boxing, mixed martial arts) or occupations (special forces, construction) that might lead to an eye injury and your cornea being weakened.

Ultimately, in order to find out which procedure is right for you and your lifestyle, you should see a qualified surgeon, who can provide consultation on the conditions of your eyes and decide which one will work best after determining the thickness of your cornea.

If you’re ready to live life without the need for glasses or the risk of getting eye infections from contacts, our highly qualified eye surgeons at OCLI can help you achieve the crystal clear vision you’ve been seeking.

Contact us today to schedule a free, no-risk consultation!

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