LASEK vs LASIK

Vision Center is funded by our readers. We may earn commissions if you purchase something via one of our links.

LASEK vs. LASIK: Which is Better for You?

Both LASEK and LASIK surgeries can correct vision problems. This article covers everything you need to know to determine which option is best for you.

What is LASIK?

LASIK stands for Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis. It is an eye surgery that permanently corrects your vision by reshaping your eye’s corneal tissue. The cornea is the part of your eye that helps to bend and focus light to create an image. However, it is not always perfectly shaped, which can cause refractive errors that impact your eyesight.

diagram showing six steps of lasik eye surgery

LASIK surgery only takes about 10 minutes in each eye. And it can treat these three primary refractive errors:

  1. Myopia (also known as nearsightedness). With myopia, you have difficulty seeing distant objects clearly.
  2. Hyperopia (also known as farsightedness). With hyperopia, you have difficulty seeing close up objects clearly.
  3. Astigmatism. Astigmatism refers to irregularities in the shape of the cornea or the lens of the eye. These can cause your vision to distort on the retina.
graphic comparing normal vision, myopia refractive error, and hyperopia refractive error

Laser eye surgery is a long-term, permanent solution that ultimately corrects your vision. Compared to reading glasses and contact lenses, LASIK is ideal.

LASIK eye surgery is not for everyone. For example, you should not get LASIK eye surgery to correct your vision if you are under 18 years old. There’s a chance that your eyes are still developing, which means your vision can change with time.

The best age to get LASIK eye surgery is somewhere between 20 and 40 years old. This is after you have had a stable prescription for at least about two years. Consult your eye doctor about whether or not you are a good candidate for LASIK eye surgery.

What Happens During a LASIK Procedure?

LASIK causes little to no pain during the procedure. Your surgeon will administer local anesthetic eye drops to numb your eyes before the LASIK eye surgery begins. Many patients describe feeling a "slight pressure sensation" during the surgery. But in most cases, patients feel no pain throughout the procedure.

Here's what to expect during LASIK surgery:

Step 1: Your eyelids are held open with a tool so the eye surgeon can work. First, your eye doctor places eye drops that contain a numbing agent in your eyes.

Step 2: The surgeon uses a small blade or special laser to cut a thin flap in your cornea. This is the part that may cause some discomfort for the patient. Many people report feeling "a sensation of pressure" during this part of the surgery.

Step 3: The excimer laser gently reshapes your cornea. It is guided by a computer that has a map of your eye preloaded into it.

Step 4: After the excimer laser finishes, the surgeon smooths the corneal flap back into place.

Step 5: If you are getting both eyes operated on, this process will immediately be repeated on the other eye.

Step 6: That's it, your LASIK eye surgery is complete! Once you're finished, your eye surgeon, or a team member, will provide you with an eye shield, along with detailed instructions for recovery.

What is the LASIK Success Rate?

"The latest research reports 99 percent of patients achieve better than 20/40 vision and more than 90 percent achieve 20/20 or better. In addition, LASIK has an unprecedented 96 percent patient satisfaction rate – the highest of any elective procedure"

American Refractive Surgical Council

Plus, the effects of LASIK surgery last forever. This is because the surgeon actually reshapes your cornea, physically removing the imperfections that are at the root of your refractive error. So it is a permanent solution.

However, because your vision changes throughout your life, you may develop other unrelated refractive errors down the line. So you may experience new refractive errors after LASIK surgery, but this is not a result of regression following the surgery. 

LASIK does not correct age-related changes to the vision, such as presbyopia (age-related farsightedness) or cataracts.

Common Side Effects of LASIK 

With LASIK surgery, there are some side effects and risks involved. Here are some of the risks associated with LASIK surgery:

  • You may have dry eyes for up to three months following surgery (eye drops can help).
  • You may experience what’s known as a nighttime glare or see halos in the dark.
  • The flaps that the surgeon created during your surgery aren’t secured, so it is possible to dislodge them while they heal if you rub your eyes or get debris in your eye.

Consult your eye doctor about getting a LASIK consultation to see if the surgery is right for you.

Benefits of LASIK

The benefits of LASIK are obvious. LASIK is a permanent solution to fix myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism. You will be able to see clearly again, and this can help relieve other symptoms like headaches, that come with blurred vision.

What is LASEK?

LASEK, which stands for laser-assisted subepithelial keratectomy, is a modification of PRK. PRK has been around much longer than LASIK, but both are still widely used today.

LASEK, like LASIK, also corrects major refractive errors.

What Happens During a LASEK Procedure?

There are different techniques that can be used for this procedure, but the general steps of LASEK surgery include:

Step 1: A topical anesthesia is placed directly on your eye to make it numb.

Step 2: The epithelium (top layer of cells on your cornea) is treated with alcohol for about 30 seconds

Step 3: The epithelium is detached from the underlying tissue and rolled back to provide the surgeon access to the corneal tissue

Step 4: The same type of laser that is used in LASIK treats the cornea to correct your vision

Step 5: The top layer of cells is put back in place.

Step 6: The wound is typically treated with topical steroids and antibiotics, and a soft contact lens is placed over your eye to protect it.

After 3 to 4 days the soft contact lens can be removed once the eye is healed.

What is the LASEK Success Rate?

LASEK is considered to be a very successful surgery. The success rate is around 90 percent.

Common Side Effects of LASEK

LASEK side effects are similar to the side effects from LASIK. For example, you may experience the following side effects.

  • Dry eyes
  • Nighttime glare
  • Halos in the dark
  • Discomfort

Benefits of LASEK

The biggest benefit of LASEK, like LASIK, is a permanent vision solution. It is a minimally invasive, quick, and safe surgery to fix your eyesight immediately.

When Should You Choose LASEK Over LASIK?

You may choose LASEK instead of LASIK if you were not a good candidate for LASIK.

5 Main Differences Between LASEK and LASIK

Here are five key differences between LASEK and LASIK:

1. Surgery Complexity

LASIK is considered an easier surgery than LASEK with less downtime and a quicker recovery time. That is because LASIK is considered to be less invasive than LASEK.

2. Treatment Length

Both refractive surgery treatments can be done in one day — typically within a half hour. While the surgeries may sound long and painful, they are fairly quick and easy. Given today’s technology, they can be done immediately.

LASIK surgery may be quicker because it is typically less invasive. Since the surgeon does not have to cut away at different layers of the eye, the surgery can be done in as little as 10 minutes on each eye.

3. Post-Operative Care

The recovery time for LASIK surgery tends to be a bit quicker than it is for LASEK since the surgery does not involve as much cutting away. With both surgeries, you may feel discomfort for about a month or more. But you should see clearly immediately after.

If you have any issues that arise after either surgery, it is important to reach out to your healthcare provider immediately. Both surgeries are considered safe and effective, so you should not have any major issues following surgery, barring mild discomfort.

4. Candidacy

People who are not good candidates for LASIK (such as those with thin corneas) are generally considered for LASEK instead. It is essential to talk to your eye doctor to weigh both of your options and make an informed decision on which surgery is right for you.

5. Cost & Insurance Coverage

Insurance typically does not cover LASIK or LASEK eye surgery. It’s worth reaching out to your provider to ensure that your plan includes whichever surgery you choose.

Surgery costs can add up depending on the type of surgery you choose, where you have the surgery done, and how complicated your surgery is, including other factors. But vision insurance and some medical insurance may be able to help shave off some of the price.

LASIK vs. LASEK vs. PRK

Both LASIK and LASEK create flaps in the cornea. However, a LASEK flap is much thinner and only involves the epithelial layer of tissue. During PRK surgery, the entire outer layer of the cornea (surface epithelial cells) are removed. After PRK, the eye heals and grows a new epithelial layer.

When Surgery Is Best for You?

PRK, LASIK, and LASEK surgery are all great options for vision correction. The best surgery will depend on:

  • Your corneal thickness
  • Your eye health
  • Your general health
  • Your lifestyle
  • Your age

In order to determine which surgery is best for you, schedule a consultation with a qualified eye surgeon. They will ask about your medical history, take a corneal topography, and make a recommendation based on your personal eye and general health status.

Resources
left pointing arrow icon

“Ask The Doctor: How Long Does LASIK Last?” American Refractive Surgery Council, 24 Apr. 2020, americanrefractivesurgerycouncil.org/how-long-does-lasik-last/.

Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “LASIK.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, www.fda.gov/medical-devices/surgery-devices/lasik

Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “Surgical Procedures Aimed at Improving the Focusing Power of the Eye.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, www.fda.gov/medical-devices/lasik/what-lasik

Frequently Asked Questions - LASIK - Flaum Eye Institute - University of Rochester Medical Center, www.urmc.rochester.edu/eye-institute/lasik/faq.aspx

Joy, Kevin. “Pros and Cons of LASIK: Are the Risks Worth the Cost?” Health & Wellness Topics, Health Tips & Disease Prevention, 13 Dec. 2017, healthblog.uofmhealth.org/eye-health/pros-and-cons-of-lasik-are-risks-worth-cost.

Solomon, Dr. Kerry, et al. “Kerry Solomon, MD.” Dr Kerry Solomon Does LASIK Last Forever Comments, 19 Sept. 2018, www.drkerrysolomon.com/blog/lasik/does-lasik-last-forever/.

S;, Ambrósio R;Wilson. “LASIK vs LASEK vs PRK: Advantages and Indications.” Seminars in Ophthalmology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12759854/

“Video FAQs.” Optegra, 8 Mar. 2021, www.optegra.com/about/video-faqs/answerpack/lasek/lasek-faq/what-are-the-side-effects-arising-from-lasek/.

This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify. This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information:
verify here.

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram