Laser vision correction can be carried out in two different ways: LASIK or LASEK. LASIK is by far the more popular option, with approximately 90% of candidates opting for this method. The residual 10% either opt, or are advised, to undergo a LASEK process. Visual outcomes are typically excellent with either procedure, and do not vary based on which of the two the patient opts for.
The location at which treatment takes place is the primary difference between the two options. With LASIK, a flap is created in the outer window of the eye known as the cornea, the flap is lifted, the laser is applied to the inner layers of the cornea, and the flap is replaced.
In contrast, with LASEK, the laser is applied to the surface of the cornea to correct the prescription. As a result, those with thinner corneas are typically advised to undergo LASEK. Other patients for whom LASEK is often recommended include those with irregular corneal shape.
After LASEK is performed, a contact lens is applied to act as a bandage for approximately four days as the eye heals. Though the bandage is removed after four days, it may take up to seven days following the procedure for the patient to achieve the expected visual outcome.
In contrast, the flap created by the LASIK procedure acts as a natural bandage, and visual recovery typically takes only 24-48 hours. Not only are visual recovery and healing times faster with LASIK, which allows for less time off work and less disruption from daily life, but there is also less discomfort associated with LASIK than LASEK. In addition, LASIK can be used to treat a wider range of prescriptions than LASEK.
Intralase LASIK is an enhancement upon traditional LASIK and refers to the manner in which the flap is created. Traditionally, a mechanical device would be used to apply mild pressure to the surface of the cornea and to create a flap in a matter of seconds. Intralase, however, is a method by which an invisible laser beam precisely interprets the curvature of the cornea and at femtosecond (superfast) speed, creating a layer of microscopic bubbles. This allows for the creation of an even thinner, safer, protective flap, which is unique to each person’s eye and heals faster and more consistently than traditional means.
Deciding which procedure is most appropriate for a particular patient requires examining a number of factors, including eye health, general health, and lifestyle demands. Though the overwhelming majority opt for LASIK, a significant minority choose to undergo LASEK, and are no less satisfied with their results following the completion of the extended healing phase.