LASEK vs LASIK

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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?

In LASIK surgery, a surgeon will use a mechanical microkeratome (which is a blade) or a femtosecond laser to cut a flap in your cornea. They will leave a hinge at one end of that flap and fold it back to reveal the stroma (which is the middle section of your cornea). 

The surgeon will then use pulses from a computer-controlled laser to vaporize part of the stroma and replace your corneal flap.

While this may sound intense, the whole surgery can be done in as little as 10 minutes on each eye.

What is the LASIK Success Rate?

LASIK is very successful, and it is generally considered to be quick and safe. A reported 99 percent of LASIK patients achieve better than 20/40 vision. More than 90 percent achieve 20/20 vision or better following laser vision correction.

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.

When Should You Choose LASIK Over LASEK

Whether or not you should go with LASIK or LASEK is up to you and your doctor. Your doctor may recommend one surgery over the other, which is why it is important to consult them first.

LASEK eye surgery is a safe and effective alternative to LASIK eye surgery. But most doctors will only perform it if you are not a good candidate for LASIK.

What is LASEK?

LASEK, which stands for laser subepithelial keratomileusis, 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?

In a LASEK procedure, the eye surgeon creates a thin flap in the top layer of the cornea, which is known as the epithelium or the epithelial layer. Then, they use lasers to reshape the other layers of the cornea and fix irregular curves in the eye. 

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 the same 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 after. 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

Your insurance may or may not cover your 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. Similar to PRK, LASEK uses an alcohol solution to loosen the epithelial tissue.

Resources
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“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/.

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