LASEK vs LASIK: What Are the Differences?

5 November 2021

By Author: Alex J Shortt

Medically reviewed on 17-August-2023

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 aware of the different vision correction procedures available to them, nor of the difference between LASIK and LASEK.

The near-identical names doesn’t help matters – 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 LASIK and LASEK technologies.

So, what exactly is laser eye surgery?

Laser eye surgery is a vision correction procedure designed to make the patient less reliant on glasses or contact lenses.

Sometimes referred to as laser vision correction, laser eye surgery makes use of lasers to reshape the cornea (the front surface of your eye), allowing for improved focus. Laser eye surgery can effectively correct both long and short-sightedness, as well as astigmatism. Despite its description as ‘surgery’, it does not involve making an 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.

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 which 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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    The differences between LASIK and LASEK

    The biggest difference between the LASIK and LASEK procedures is the way that 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.

    Some potential patients, especially those with thin corneas, will find that their eyes are unsuitable for LASIK treatment and will prefer to opt for a LASEK procedure.

    Pros and cons of LASIK

    The benefits of LASIK are clear: the procedure can be completed in as little as fifteen minutes, and the patient will often recover within 24 hours.

    The main drawback of LASIK is its unsuitability for those with thin corneas, and its inferior efficacy in treating those with severe short-sightedness. Those who are at high risk of suffering an eye injury may also want to avoid LASIK, since there is a danger of the corneal flap being dislodged.

    Pros and cons of LASEK

    LASEK’s greatest benefit is its suitability for all patients – including those with thin corneas, severe short-sightedness, and pre-existing medical conditions, who may find LASIK an inappropriate solution. Since the procedure does not involve creating a flap in the cornea, there is less chance of suffering from dry eyes than with LASIK. This also means LASEK patients can resume contact sports sooner than is advised with LASIK.

    LASEK’s biggest drawback is the recovery time – which is longer, and typically more uncomfortable than LASIK’s.

    Cost of LASEK vs LASIK

    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 £1,495 per eye, while LASIK procedures start from £1,795 per eye.

    Before making a final decision on what kind of procedure to move forward with, we always advise speaking to a medical professional. At Optegra, we offer free infopacks, call services and virtual consultations – which take less than a minute to book.

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

    By Author: Alex J Shortt

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


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