If you’ve been researching laser eye surgery, you’ve probably come across the acronym LASEK. But what exactly is LASEK eye surgery? How does it work? And what does it involve?
Here we cover all of the essential information about LASEK eye surgery – from costs to risks to benefits – helping you to make an informed choice about vision correction.
LASEK stands for laser epithelial keratomileusis. It is a type of surgery used to treat vision problems including astigmatism, nearsightedness and farsightedness.
LASEK eye surgery combines methods from LASIK and PRK eye surgery procedures. It’s often the recommended option for patients who are unsuitable for LASIK surgery.
During the LASEK procedure, a surgeon will temporarily remove the surface layer of your cornea. They will then use a laser to change the shape of your cornea and improve your vision.
Before you can be considered for LASEK eye surgery, an ophthalmologist will conduct a thorough examination of your eyes.
They will do tests to measure corneal thickness, refraction, eye pressure and pupil dilation. They will also do a scan to create a detailed map of your cornea and will discuss your medical history.
This evaluation will help a doctor to decide whether you are suitable for LASEK surgery. If you are deemed suitable, you can then schedule your operation.
Around a week before your LASEK eye surgery, you will have to stop wearing contact lenses as lenses can temporarily alter the shape of your cornea. You should also avoid wearing eye make-up on the day of the procedure.
LASEK eye surgery is conducted under local anaesthetic. A doctor will put anaesthetic eye drops into your eyes before surgery begins. They may also give you some medication to help you relax.
Once your eyes are numb and you are comfortable, the surgeon uses an instrument to gently hold your eyelids open. This ensures you don’t blink while the procedure takes place.
During the procedure, the top layer of your eye – called the epithelium – is softened with an alcohol solution for around 30 seconds. The surgeon will then detach this layer from the underlying tissue, lifting or rolling it back to access the cornea.
Next, your surgeon will treat your cornea with the same laser used in LASIK surgery. With each pulse of this very precise laser, tiny amounts of corneal tissue are removed according to your pre-surgery eye scan.
Once your surgeon is happy with the shape of your cornea, they will gently roll the surface cells back into place and place a special contact lens on your eye.
LASEK eye surgery patients need to wear a special contact lens for about three or four days following the procedure. This lens acts as a bandage – a protective layer between your eyelids and the surface of your eye whilst your eye heals.
You won’t be able to drive home from your surgery so will need to arrange for someone to come get you. You will also need to take around a week off work as your eyes heal and your vision improves.
A doctor will give you a course of eye drops, which you’ll need to take for the following four weeks. Eye drops help to prevent inflammation and infection during the healing process.
You will be able to see straight after your surgery, with your vision improving over time. It can take between four and 12 weeks for your vision to fully stabilise.
All clinics will offer a follow-up appointment in the first few days after surgery. You’ll continue to attend appointments over the next six months, as deemed necessary by your ophthalmologist.
LASEK eye surgery can cost anywhere from £595 to £2600 per eye. Prices are often higher if you have a particularly bad vision prescription or if you choose a London-based clinic.
No surgery is ever risk-free. However, LASEK eye surgery is safe and successful for the majority of patients.
Irritation – You may feel like there’s something in your eye for a few days after surgery.
Reduced vision in low light – You may experience glare, halos or double vision around bright lights. This usually only lasts a few weeks. However, there is a risk that, longer-term, your nighttime vision won’t be as good as it was pre-surgery.
Dry eyes – Some patients experience dry eyes after a LASEK procedure. A very small proportion of patients experience long term dry eye problems and have to use eye drops every day.
Over or under correction – Sometimes the laser removes too much or too little corneal tissue. Some LASEK eye surgery patients require additional surgery and may still need to use glasses or contact lenses after surgery.
You can see an overview of the different types of laser eye surgery below in this article.
LASIK eye surgery is often a surgeon’s first port of call, especially Wavefront LASIK eye surgery which analyses the whole of the eye instead of just the surface of the cornea. Wavefront errors make up around 5 percent of our vision, accounting for the finer quality aspects beyond common refractive errors such as long-sightedness, short-sightedness, and astigmatism, which are mainly treated by glasses and contacts.
However, not all patients are suitable for LASIK eye surgery. LASEK is often recommended for these patients.
Here are the key differences between LASIK and LASEK:
LASIK isn’t always suitable for patients with thin corneas. It’s also not recommended for people with a job or hobby that puts them at particular risk of eye injury. LASEK is the safer solution for these patients.
During both LASIK and LASEK surgery, a surgeon will make a flap on the surface of the cornea. During LASEK surgery, this flap is much thinner than with LASIK. They will then use a laser to alter the shape of your eye.
Whilst you’ll have improved vision just 24 hours after LASIK surgery, recovery from LASEK eye surgery takes a little longer.
You’ll be able to see straight away. But it can take between one and two weeks to fully recover your vision.
When your eyes are healing after LASEK surgery, you’ll experience more pain and discomfort than you would with LASIK.
During LASEK eye surgery, a local anaesthetic ensures you don’t feel a thing. However, after the procedure, you are likely to experience some pain.
Patients who have undergone LASEK eye surgery report more pain than those who are able to choose a LASIK procedure. However, this discomfort can be treated with eye drops and over the counter painkillers, and it usually only lasts 48 hours at the most.
LASEK eye surgery can be expensive. Patients also have to prepare themselves for a little discomfort following the procedure and accept the small risk of side effects.
However, many LASEK eye surgery patients find the pros outweigh the cons. If you are fed up with using contact lenses or glasses, LASEK eye surgery provides a permanent improvement to your vision.
Studies have shown that 75% of eyes treated with LASEK eye surgery were within 0.5 D of the intended correction and 92% were within 1.0D three to six months after the procedure.
Recovery from LASEK eye surgery tends to be more painful than recovery from LASIK eye surgery. However, the pain is usually manageable and patients find that taking over the counter painkillers helps.
LASEK eye surgery is a very quick and painless procedure. It takes around ten minutes per eye.