“If you have ever looked up laser eye surgery, you will probably have come across these two terms: LASIK and LASEK. If you’re interested in undergoing laser eye surgery, it’s very important for you to find out what these two terms mean.”

LASIK and LASEK are the two general types of laser eye procedure. LASIK is the option taken for around 95% of laser eye procedures. This doesn’t mean, however, that LASEK is any less safe. Both procedures have a 1 in 1000 complication ratio.

Let’s take a closer look at these procedures.

What laser eye surgery does


The key to understanding the difference between LASEK and LASIK is knowing what laser eye surgery aims to do. The target of laser eye surgery is your cornea, the clear dome-shaped outer layer that covers the front of your eye. The cornea is the refracting tool of your eye, bending light rays as they hit the surface of the eye.

The shape of your cornea determines the type of vision that you have. People whose corneas are too steep suffer from short-sightedness or myopia, while those with flat corneas have long-sightedness or hyperopia. People with irregularly shaped corneas suffer from astigmatism, a condition in which certain parts of the objects the eye looks at tend to be out of focus.


Similarities between LASEK and LASIK

Both LASEK and LASIK start out with a anaesthetic drops being put on the eye to be treated. Once the anaesthetic has taken effect, a speculum is placed over the eye. This is a clamp that keeps the eye open and stops the patient from blinking.

LASEK and LASIK centre on the creation of a flap in order for the surgeon to access the cornea. But the similarity ends there. In LASEK, the flap is created on the outermost layer of the cornea, the epithelium. LASIK, on the other hand, is more invasive as the laser cuts the deeper layer—the stroma—of the cornea in order to reshape it.


What it stands for Laser in situ Keratomilieusis

How the procedure is carried out In LASIK, the surgeon creates a flap in the cornea and peels it back to expose the deeper layer of the cornea, the stroma. The laser cuts and reshapes the stroma and the flap is replaced.

1. A suction ring is placed over the eye to stabilise the position of the eye and provide the pressure in order for the microkeratome to cut the flap properly.


2. The microkeratome, a high-precision blade, is passed over the cornea and creates the flap as it goes.


3. The corneal flap is carefully peeled back on its hinge to expose the deeper layer of the cornea.


4. The laser cuts and reshapes the cornea.


5. Afterwards, the corneal flap is repositioned.


6. The healing process starts straight away.


What this treatment is used for LASIK can correct 95% of visual impairments, including myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism. It can also repair damaged blood vessels. It is the preferred laser eye procedure because patients experience little discomfort and the healing process is swift.

Degree of pain or discomfort You will likely experience little or no pain at all after your LASIK surgery. Some patients have reported a bit of dryness in the treated eye, but this normally lasts for just a day or two.

Recovery period The eye starts healing straight after the surgery. Useful vision is restored within 1 to 2 days, and the vision stabilises from within a week to a month. In some rare complicated cases, vision stability is achieved from 3 to 9 months.

Epi-LASIK—a procedure in which the flap is created on the epithelium, and involves the use of a vibrating plastic blade to create the flap

Intralase or bladeless LASIK—uses a laser called femtosecond instead of a microkeratome to create the corneal flap; gives better visual results and less complications

Custom LASIK or Wavefront LASIK—uses a special computer program to map the contours of the eye prior to surgery, rendering a highly accurate treatment

Cost From £800 to £1500 per eye


What it stands for Laser Epithelial Keratomilieusis

How the procedure is carried out In LASEK, the epithelium?the thin, outermost layer of the cornea, is loosened with alcohol and moved to the side. This allows the laser to access the cornea. After the cornea has been reshaped, the epithelium is repositioned.


1. Alcohol drops are applied on the cornea. The alcohol softens the epithelium so it can be bent back.


2. A precision instrument called trephine is used to make an indentation on the epithelium.


3. The epithelium is pushed to the side.


4. The exposed layer of the cornea is then reshaped with a laser.


5. The epithelium is carefully repositioned.


6. A special contact lens is placed over the cornea to protect it while the epithelium heals.


What this treatment is used for LASEK is effective in treating a range of myopic, hyperopic and astigmatic disorders. These days, it serves as an alternative procedure for patients who can’t undergo LASIK because their corneas are too thin or who engage in sports that carry a risk of facial injury.

Degree of pain or discomfort You will most likely experience a mild stinging pain for the first 24 hours. The surgeon will give you painkillers to take when you get home. Some patients have also reported light sensitivity in the initial stages of recovery.

Recovery period It will take 3 to 6 days for you to regain your useful vision. Your vision will stabilise within a week, but it could take up to a month. In some complicated cases, it takes 3 to 9 months for the patient’s vision to stabilise.

Epi-LASEK—involves the use of a bladeless machine to lift the epithelium

Custom LASEK with Wavefront technology—uses a special computer program that maps out the contours of the eye, ensuring a procedure that is highly accurate

Cost From £800 per eye