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LASIK vs LASEK Eye Surgery: Which One is Right For You?

August 14, 2015

Would it surprise you if we said that 14 million people in the United States are visually impaired? How about that within that 14 million, more than 11 million people have uncorrected visual impairment? With the advances in eye surgery over the past couple of decades, these statistics are not only startling, but worrisome too. From glasses and corrective lenses to corrective laser surgery, eye care in the 21st century is available and accessible to many. However, it’s vital to know what type of eye conditions you have before diving headfirst into treatment.

For example, you might be thinking currently that laser eye surgery might be your next move, but you must consider what type of surgery is best for your set of eyes. Maybe, you’re weighing the risks of laser eye surgery, or you are simply asking how laser eye surgery even works? We know people have questions about the surgery options available to them, so we devised a list of the major differences between LASIK and LASEK eye surgery, so that you can find out which one is right for you.

What Do the Terms Mean?

LASIK stands for Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis.

LASEK stands for Laser Assisted Sub-epithelial Keratomileusis.

In Greek, “Kerato” means “corneal”, referring to the transparent layer that forms the front of the eye. “Mileusis” means “carving”, or in our case, the separation of certain components of the cornea in an eye. In other words, both refer to the surgical procedure performed by an ophthalmologist and an eye surgeon in order to alleviate eye conditions such as myopia (nearsightedness) and hyperopia (farsightedness) as well as astigmatism.

Surgical Procedure

LASIK: In Lasik surgery, eye surgeons use either a microkeratome (mechanical blade device) or a laser keratome (laser device) to separate a flap of tissue on the patient’s cornea, also known as a corneal flap. By lifting and folding back this flap, a computer-controlled laser is then able to reshape the stroma underneath by removing tissue beneath it. This process results in light focusing more precisely on the retina, which improves vision overall.

With new advances in custom wavefront LASIK surgery, the risks of many complications arising from LASIK surgery have been greatly reduced while the increased precision of wavefront LASIK technology has improved how well a patient can see. Check here for more information on wavefront LASIK technology and our practice’s use of the WaveLight Eye-Q System.

LASEK: For patients who have corneas that are too thin or flat for LASIK surgery, LASEK surgery offers an effective alternative. Rather than creating a corneal flap, the eye surgeon instead applies an alcohol solution to the eye which loosens the outer layer of the cornea, also known as the “epithelium”. Next, the surgeon peels the epithelium off of the eye, in order to reshape the stroma underneath it. Once the stroma has been reshaped, the eye surgeon repositions the epithelium over the stroma to let the eye heal and just like a band aid, a contact lens is placed over the epithelium to keep it in place. Overall, this results in dramatic improvements to the patient’s vision.

Recovery Procedure

LASIK: Patients may return home 10-15 minutes after the surgery. While most patients report improved vision immediately after the surgery, eyes can take multiple months to recover fully from LASIK surgery. For this reason, it is important to take good care of your eyes during the recovery process. Try to resist the urge to rub the eye, as the corneal flap is still healing and could become displaced resulting in more discomfort (although this is quite rare). Your surgeon will give you different types of eye drops to lubricate, protect from infection, and quicken the healing process. Keep your eyes lubricated by using eye drops 3-4 times a day, and wear protective sunglasses while outdoors and while sleeping so you do not expose your eyes to too much light early on in the recovery process.

Common side effects include blurred vision, slight discomfort commonly referred to as an “eye lash” in the eye, watery eyes, and bloodshot eyes. Do not be alarmed as these are all quite common to the healing process. 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 six months to ensure that your eyes are healthy. Please note that as with many operations, LASIK eye surgery can have various other side effects which are listed here.

LASEK: After a brief period of rest following the surgery, patients may return home. During the initial few days after the surgery, most patients report mild discomfort. While the surface epithelial cells regenerate, you must keep the bandage contact lens in place on your eye for approximately four days. 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 eye surgery as the alcohol solution causes damage to the tissue of the epithelial cells immediately after surgery. However, your surgeon will prescribe topical steroids and antibiotics for the initial weeks in order to help the healing process and reduce chances of infection.

Side effects can include blurry vision, dry eyes, irritation, stinging, and in some cases, eye infection. Most surgeons will require a follow up visit 1-2 days after your surgery. Also, regular post ops may be scheduled for the following couple of weeks.


Both procedures produce similar visual results and are just as likely as the other to produce 20/20 vision or better. Check out these real testimonials from our satisfied patients if you want to know more.

Which should you choose?

In order to know which procedure to choose, you should see a qualified surgeon who can provide consultation on the conditions of your eyes. While LASIK surgery is more common since people can return to daily normal life quicker than after undergoing LASEK surgery, surgeons are able to decide which procedure will work best after determining the thickness of your cornea. Also, contact sports players usually choose LASEK surgery to avoid the chances of their cornea being weakened. If you or someone you know is experiencing eye problems, stop by at our practice in East Hanover, New Jersey so that we can provide eyecare for you! You can also register online.

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