LASEK and LASIK – What is the Difference?

A common error with regard to laser eye surgery entails confusion between LASIK and LASEK procedures. To begin, the two procedures sound similar and are both generally used to correct the same problems with eyesight – namely, nearsightedness, farsightedness, presbyopia and astigmatism. Moreover, the same lasers are used for both eye operations and the same amount of time is required to carry out either procedure. So what's the difference between the two procedures, and how can you be sure you absolutely opt for the right one?

LASIK (Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis) and LASEK (Laser Assisted Sub-Epithelial Keratomileusis) are similar in a number of ways. However, they also differ in significant ways, extremely demanding mandates and their optical surgeon to seriously consider various circumstances before choosing a procedure.

One of the largest differences has to do with the level of vision correction each procedure offers. Typically, LASIK is recommended for lower levels of correction (between -6 and 3.50 dioptres or under), while LASEK is recommended for higher correction needs. What's more, LASIK requires a certain thickness of corneal tissue to achieve a painful procedure and for fast recovery, while LASEK is more appropriate for thin or flat corneas.

Another difference has to do with the actual procedure. While both types of surgeries use the same lasers, LASIK cuts the epithelium and stroma to a greater thickness – 100-180 – which is why the corneal tissue needs to be thicker. During LASEK, the epithelium is cut to a thickness of 50 microns, while the stroma is left uncut. In addition, it uses a trephine, which is a finer blade than that used in other procedures.

Both procedures use an excimer laser to then remove corneal tissue under the epithelial / corneal tissue flap. Thus, the main difference is the thickness of the flap, which includes corneal stroma tissue in LASIK and only epithelial tissue in LASEK.

Another difference between the two procedures is that LASIK entails less discomfort than LASEK – with virtually no pain – and 20/20 vision can typically be achieved. However, there are no complications of stromal flaps with LASEK, and such patients usually experience less dry eye.

While it is wise to do some research and know the facts behind LASIK and LASEK surgery before choosing to have either procedure done, the best advice you can obtain is from a surgeon specializing in both procedures. An optical surgeon can conduct appropriate tests and suggest a laser procedure based on your unique visual circumstances – ensuring you get the treatment that's right for you.