LASEK (Laser epithelil keratomileusis) is a relatively recent innovation in surgery which combines several benefits from many traditional types of laser vision correction surgeries. It combines two of the most popular procedures, LASIK and PRK. LASEK can be used to effectively treat eye problems such as astigmatism and near or farsightedness. The main difference between LASEK and its forerunners is the way in which the outer layer of the cornea (epithelium) is cut. Whereas in traditional LASIK surgery a microkeratome cutting tool is used, in LASIK a finer blade known as a trephine is used in conjunction with an alcohol solution. The LASEK method has several advantages over its predecessors including the fact that complications associated with cutting or reattaching the corneal flap are avoided. Similarly LASEK has been shown to cause dry eyes much less frequently than the LASIK method. However there’s also some drawbacks to the LASEK method, chiefly, that there is a noteably longer recovery period than the LASIK method. Many LASEK patients don’t fully recover their functional vision for upto two weeks while their eye is healing, a similar recovery period to the PRK method. In the LASIK method patients often report having good vision as soon as 24 hours after surgery. Additionally LASEK patients report that there is a lot more pain involved in than the LASIK method. With many LASEK patients reporting that the discomfort associated with the surgery lasts only two days or less. LASEK patients will need to wear a contact lens for around three days after surgery. This will help to serve as a protective barrier between your eyelids and the treated eye surface and isn’t required when using the LASIK method. Similarly, patients are required to use topical steroid drops for a few weeks following surgery, much less than required in the LASIK method.
LASEK is best suited for patients who have very thin or steep corneas as this can create difficulties for the surgeon when making a corneal flap in the LASIK method. Patients who engage in activites where trauma to the eye is a danger, such as sports, often opt for the LASEK method. This is because any trauma occuring after surgery is much more serious after undergoing LASIK treatment. Similarly, for those suffering from dry eye syndome LASEK is better suited. This is because in not using a deeper flap, your surgeon can avoid damaging any corneal nerves.
Preparing for LASEK surgery
Before your operation you will have met with your surgeon who will talk to you about what to expect during and after laser eye surgery. It’s normal for your medical history to be reviewed and have your eyes tested during this session. The most commonly used test include measuring corneal thickness, refraction and pupil dilation. If you normally wear certain types of contact lenses, then it’s commonly advised that you don’t wear them for at least three weeks before surgery. It’s important to bring your glasses to your surgeon in order to review your prescription. On the day of your LASEK eye surgery, only eat a light meal before going to the surgery and make sure to take all your prescribed medications. Don’t wear any eye makeup and don’t wear any bulky accessories in your hair as these may interfere with the procedure.
The Procedure of LASEK
LASEK laser eye surgery is perfomed under a local anasthetic, meaning you will be awake throughout. During the process, the top layer of cells (the epithelium) is firstly treated with alcohol which enables it to be detached from the underlying tissue. It’s then rolled or lifted back so that your surgeon can access the corneal tissue. This tissue is then treated with the same type of laser used in the LASIK and PRK methods of eye surgery. The top layer of cells is then replaced. LASEK differs from the PRK method as it preserves the top layer of cells instead of scraping them away and waiting for them to grow back naturally. This is thought to facilitate the healing process and cause less discomfort than is associated with PRK.
Aftercare for LASEK
After LASEK eye surgery, the expected results will be similar to those of LASIK. Despite the fact that the flap created by LASEK heals in roughly a day, patients are usually required to wear a special contact lens which acts as a bandage for around four days after surgery. Some patients experience irritation in their eye in the first couple of days following surgery. Whereas in the LASIK method, good vision is usually apparent after a couple of days the results from LASEK can take upto a week to become noticeable. It’s normal to have a number of follow up visits with your surgeon to check your healing and monitor your progress. Although side effects are much less frequently reported from LASEK patients when compared to the PRK of LASIK methods, they may still occur. You may experience the sensation of having a something stuck in your eye for a couple of days following surgery. Some patients also experience difficulty seeing in dim conditions for a few months after LASEK treatment. Although rare, dry eyes may occur for a few months afterwards, fortunately, these are highly treatable with eye drops. In some rare cases patients experience a clouding or hazing for vision which usually disappears after six months.
The Risks of LASEK
All surgical procedures come with risks and LASEK is no different. Although procedures like LASEK don’t lead to problems associated with the microkeratome used to scrape away cells, they have a higher risk of hazing and corneal scarring. Also many patients report greater postoperative pain than is associated with traditional methods. Fortunately, complications with LASEK eye surgery are quite rare and any that do occur are highly treatable.