Aug. 24, 2009 -- Question: What is the difference between LASEK and LASIK, and is one procedure better than the other for vision correction?
Answer: LASIK and LASEK share some things in common and have certain differences. The goal of both surgeries is to change the shape and power of the front part of the eye called the cornea, which is the clear window of tissue overlying the colored iris and pupil, such that light travels through the cornea and then the lens, and will then be focused on the retina, achieving clear vision.
This is accomplished in both surgeries, LASIK and LASEK, using a device known as an excimer laser. This cool beam, computer driven, ultraviolet laser changes the shape of the cornea by a chemical process known as photoablation. In LASIK, a corneal flap is created followed by application of the laser. In LASEK, the outer layer of the cornea is first removed or loosened using a dilute alcohol solution. It is then brushed away followed by the application of the laser, and then in some patients, the outer layer may be repositioned, and in others it may be discarded, but in both conditions the outer layer will rejuvenate and replace itself in three to five days. Visual recovery is faster in LASIK than LASEK; however the end result is very similar and the differences are so minor not to be clinically significant.
The recommendation as to proceed with LASIK or LASEK can be only be made by your ophthalmologist after an examination specific to your measurements. For example, if you have a thin cornea or a particularly dry eye, or participate in contact sports, it's possible that the ophthalmologist may recommend LASEK versus LASIK. In other cases, LASIK may be recommended because of the faster visual recovery.