LASIK eye surgery was not named after some famous founder but is rather an acronym to describe the procedure: Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis. The surgery involves cutting a flap .001 mm deep into the cornea of the eye and then pulling the flap of corneal tissue back. This cut is through the outer epithelial layer and into the stroma, the supportive tissue of the cornea. Then an excimer laser, guided by a computer, is used to sculpt the cornea to correct the refractory error, whether nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, or presbyopia.
LASEK is a similar laser eye surgery. LASEK stands for Laser Assisted Sub-Epithelial Keratomileusis. It is also designed to correct the same refractory errors as LASIK. LASEK also involves cutting a flap in the cornea and then sculpting the cornea to correct the refractory error. But with LASEK, the thickness of the flap is only half that made in LASIK. A finer blade is used to cut so that the outer epithelium is cut but none of the stroma. As with LASIK, an excimer laser is then used to reshape the corneal tissue and the flap is replaced.
Both procedures take about fifteen minutes total with actual sculpting taking less than a minute. Both procedures involve cutting a flap in the cornea. The main difference, as mentioned above, is the depth of the cut to form the flap. Both require screening to see if the patient qualifies for the procedure. Conditions such as being too young or too old (usually 18 to 40 is recommended), an abnormal degree of refractory error, other eye problems or diseases like glaucoma, cataracts, or diabetes, a thin cornea, insufficient amounts of tears, or being pregnant will likely disqualify someone from either procedure.
LASEK is especially good for patients whose cornea is too thin for LASIK surgery. It usually causes fewer problems with haze. It also offers less risk of dry eye and of complications with the flap before it heals.
LASEK takes longer to heal. While LASIK patients are allowed to drive in one to three days after surgery, LASEK patients are not allowed to do so for about a week. LASIK involves less discomfort and less pain than does LASEK.
Both procedures are relatively safe with a serious consequence arising in only one percent of the cases, and a less serious complication for three to five percent of those undergoing either procedure. Risks can be reduced both before and after surgery. First, choose an experienced surgeon. Check out his track record. Those doctors who have done at least a thousand treatments are far less likely to see complications in their patients. Second, insist on a thorough qualification test to be sure your eyes will most assuredly benefit from the procedure. Third, follow the doctor’s orders exactly. Don’t think you know more than he does about what is best. Fourth, avoid strenuous exercise after the surgery. Also avoid allowing your eye to come in contact with contaminated water such as in lakes or swimming pools. In addition, avoid rubbing your eye for at least two weeks.
Whether LASIK or LASEK is right for you will be a mutual decision between you and your ophthalmologist. If you qualify, the surgery may give you the freedom from glasses that you have longed for.