If you’ve started to think about having laser eye surgery and you’re now researching in more detail, the chances are that you’ve probably been a little bit bewildered by some of the medical terminology out there. One of the things that can confuse a lot of people is the difference between the two types of laser eye treatment that we offer— LASIK and LASEK.
We don’t blame you; they’re almost the same word! Here we’ve provided a short guide to give you the basics. Of course, our clinic teams can take you through the procedures in more detail and recommend the most appropriate procedure for you.
Laser eye surgery
To understand the difference between the two treatments, you first have to understand a bit about the concept of laser eye surgery in general.
Essentially, laser eye surgery refers to the process of reshaping the clear layer of your eye (known as the cornea) with a concentrated beam of light known as a laser. It’s often referred to as ‘surgery’, there are no incisions involved; what you’re really having is laser eye treatment.
There are two laser eye treatment methods: Lasik and Lasek. The main difference between them is how your cornea is opened to allow the laser through.
LASIK stands for Laser-Assisted In-Situ Keratomileusis. It’s been performed for over 20 years and it’s helped to improve the vision of millions of people in that time. Believe it or not, the treatment is considered so effective that NASA has even approved it for use on their astronauts.
During LASIK treatment, the first laser will create a very thin protective flap on the clear layer of your eye (your cornea). This protective flap will then be lifted, and the second laser will then be used to correct your vision. Both eyes are usually treated on the same day.
The recovery process is fairly quick and you should be able to drive and return to work within 24 hours of the treatment. Many people notice an immediate improvement in their vision but for others it may take a few weeks for their vision to settle properly.
LASEK stands for Laser Assisted Sub-Epithelial Keratectomy. It’s a better choice if you have a thin cornea or a medical condition that makes laser eye surgery more challenging to complete. During the surgery only one laser will be used to correct your vision— rather than the two that are used in LASIK.
An alcohol solution is put on to the surface of your eye and an ultra-thin sheet applied. This alcohol solution loosens the thin layer of cells on your eye’s surface called the epithelium. These cells then stick to the sheet, which is then gently moved to the side of your eye, giving your surgeon access to the layer of your cornea which will be treated by the laser.
After the laser has reshaped your cornea, a special protective contact lens will be put on your eye to increase your comfort whilst it heals. This lens is normally taken off after about four days. Like LASIK, both eyes can be treated on the same day. A lot of patients can see an immediate improvement in their vision, but it may take a number of days for your vision to settle.
The main difference is how the cornea is opened to allow access for the laser and the most appropriate method depends on the current thickness of your cornea. Therefore, the procedure types suit different people.
Sometimes the unique characteristics of your eye can make you unsuitable for LASIK treatment— for example, if you have a thin cornea. If you are unsuitable for LASIK treatment, you might be recommended LASEK treatment as an alternative.
Only a medical professional will be able to tell you what type of laser eye surgery you’re suited to. Both treatments provide exactly the same quality of results and both are as effective as each other.