LASEK vs LASIK: What Are the Differences?

5 November 2021

By Author: Alex J Shortt

Medical jargon can sometimes be confusing, and there’s no shame if research into laser eye surgery has left you wondering about the terminology. Most prospective patients aren’t unaware of the different vision correction procedures available to them or the difference between LASIK and LASEK.


The near-identical names don’t help, but there are simple, salient distinctions between LASIK and LASEK that patients need to understand before moving forward with laser eye surgery.

At Optegra, our priority is ensuring that all of our patients benefit from treatment that is right for them. Read on as we review the basics of laser eye surgery and explain the major differences between LASEK vs LASIK technologies.


So, What Exactly is Laser Eye Surgery?


Laser eye surgery is a vision correction procedure designed to make patients less reliant on glasses or contact lenses. Different people will qualify for different types of laser surgery.

Sometimes referred to as laser vision correction, laser eye surgery uses lasers to reshape the cornea (the front surface of your eye), allowing for improved focus. Laser eye surgery can effectively correct both long-sightedness and short-sightedness and astigmatism. Thanks to advances in technology, people with diabetes can now also consider laser eye surgery. Despite its description as ‘surgery,’ it does not involve incision.

The two main types of laser eye surgery are LASIK and LASEK. Their primary difference lies in the way the top corneal layer is removed.


What is LASIK?

Laser-Assisted In-Situ Keratomileusis (LASIK) is the most common laser eye procedure. It involves the use of two separate lasers. The first (a femtosecond laser) creates a thin, round flap on the cornea, which the doctor then folds back to access the stroma or underlying part of the cornea.

Once this step has been completed, the doctor uses an excimer laser to reshape the stroma. This removes tissue from the cornea to allow for better vision and focus.

LASIK is typically a painless procedure whereby both eyes can be treated in as little as 15 minutes. Patients usually recover within 24 hours.

Recovery from LASIK tends to be faster and less uncomfortable than other forms of laser eye surgery, like LASEK. This quicker recovery is primarily because LASIK involves creating a thin flap in the cornea, which is then lifted to reshape the underlying corneal tissue with a laser, and the flap is replaced, allowing for rapid healing.


What is LASEK?

Laser Assisted Sub-Epithelial Keratectomy (LASEK) differs from LASIK in that the process only uses one laser. Instead of using a laser to create a flap in the top corneal layer, the doctor applies an alcohol solution, which softens the surface layer, allowing it to be moved to the side of the eye.

Once this top corneal layer has been dislodged, the doctor can reshape the cornea with a laser. The top corneal layer is then returned to its original position, and a protective contact lens is placed on the eye to maximise comfort during the healing process. In most cases, this can be removed after four days.

LASEK is a particularly attractive option for those with thin corneas or other issues that might render traditional laser eye treatment risky or complicated. As with LASIK, both eyes can be treated on the same day, but the recovery process is slightly slower, typically lasting up to two weeks.

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    What Are the Differences Between LASEK or LASIK?

    The biggest difference between the LASIK and LASEK procedures is how the cornea is exposed. With LASIK, this is done with a laser; in the case of LASEK, the top layer of the cornea is dislodged using an alcohol solution.

    LASIK is particularly suited for patients with a thicker cornea, stable vision, and no history of dry eyes or corneal conditions, as the corneal flap creation requires sufficient corneal thickness for a safe procedure.

    LASEK may be better suited for individuals with thinner corneas, those involved in contact sports, or professions at higher risk of facial injury, as there’s no risk of corneal flap complications. LASEK can also be a preferred option for patients with dry eyes or other minor corneal issues, as it avoids the creation of a corneal flap, thus preserving more corneal tissue.

    free consultation with one of our experts can help you decide which treatment is best for you.


    The Pros and Cons of LASIK

    LASIK is popular due to its effectiveness in correcting vision and quick recovery time. However, like any medical procedure, it has pros and cons, and its suitability varies depending on individual patient factors.


    Pros of LASIK:

    Quick Recovery: Most patients experience a rapid improvement in vision, often within 24 hours, and can return to normal activities shortly after the procedure.

    Minimal Discomfort: The procedure is associated with minimal pain during and after the surgery, with most discomfort subsiding within a few hours to a day.

    High Success Rate: LASIK has a high success rate in correcting various levels of near-sightednessfarsightedness, and astigmatism, with many patients achieving 20/20 vision or better.

    Reduced Dependence on Glasses or Contact Lenses: Most patients significantly reduce or eliminate their need for glasses or contact lenses.

    Quick Procedure: The surgery is fast, typically taking only about 10 minutes for both eyes.

    Suitable for more patients overall than LASEK. Due to quicker recovery times and less discomfort. 


    Cons of LASIK:

    Not Suitable for Everyone: Patients with thin corneas, severe refractive errors, dry eye syndrome, or certain corneal diseases may not be suitable candidates.

    Potential Complications: Although rare, complications such as dry eyes, glare, halos, and under-corrections or overcorrections can occur.

    Irreversible: The procedure involves the removal of corneal tissue, which cannot be replaced, making the surgery irreversible.

    Risk of Flap Complications: The creation of a corneal flap can lead to complications, such as flap dislocation if the eye is hit with significant force.


    Pros and Cons of LASEK

    LASEK naturally comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.


    Pros of LASEK:

    Suitable for Thin Corneas: LASEK is an option for patients with thinner corneas, for whom LASIK might not be safe due to the insufficient corneal thickness required for creating a flap.

    Less Risk of Dry Eyes: LASEK typically has a lower risk of causing or exacerbating dry eye symptoms post-operatively compared to LASIK, as it preserves more corneal nerves.

    No Flap-Related Complications: Since LASEK does not involve creating a corneal flap, there is no risk of flap complications, such as flap dislocation or ectasia (a condition where the cornea becomes progressively thinner and begins to bulge outward).

    Suitable for Certain Lifestyles: It’s often recommended for individuals engaged in contact sports or professions that increase the risk of facial injuries, as there’s no concern about flap displacement.


    Cons of LASEK

    Longer Recovery Time: Recovery from LASEK is typically longer and more uncomfortable than LASIK. It may take several days to a few weeks for vision to stabilise and discomfort to fully subside.

    More Post-Operative Discomfort: Patients may experience more pain and discomfort following LASEK than LASIK, as the epithelium needs time to heal.

    Delayed Visual Recovery: Unlike LASIK, where visual improvement is often noticed within a day, the visual acuity with LASEK gradually improves over weeks as the epithelium heals.

    Risk of Haze: There is a slightly increased risk of corneal haze after LASEK, particularly in patients with high myopia, although this risk is minimized with the use of post-operative medication.

    Whichever procedure you opt for, at Optegra, you are in the safest possible hands.


    LASIK vs LASEK Costs

    Since LASIK requires more complex equipment than LASEK, the cost of the procedure tends to be slightly higher. At Optegra, LASEK procedures are priced from £1,795 per eye, while LASIK procedures start from £1,995 per eye.

    Before deciding what kind of procedure to move forward with, we always advise speaking to a medical professional. At Optegra, we offer free info packs, call services, and virtual consultations, which take less than a minute to book.

    Remember that costs should not be the primary consideration when considering laser eye surgery. Optegra’s prices reflect our renowned surgeons, great facilities, and five-star technology. We also offer 0% financing options on our laser procedures.

    We’re here to help, so why not get in touch today and take the first step towards a clearer vision and a more comfortable future?

    What Next? Give Us a Call.

    To learn more about laser eye surgery, arrange a free virtual consultation with one of our experts.


    Alex Shortt Headshot

    By Author: Alex J Shortt

    Mr Shortt is a leading ophthalmic surgeon and an expert in the fields of cornea, cataract and refractive surgery.

    Medically Reviewed Date: 15th February 2024


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