the difference between LASIK, PRK, and LASEK

Though LASIK is arguably the most common type of vision-correcting eye surgery, it’s not the only one out there. Many people walk into a LASIK consultation only to learn that LASIK isn’t the best option for them. Below, we’re going to explore the benefits and differences between LASIK, PRK, and LASEK.

LASIK

Standing for Laser-Assisted In-Situ Keratomileusis (try saying that five times fast!), LASIK is the most common and well-known vision-correcting surgery. In this procedure, a thin flap is made from the clear lens that covers your eye. The surgeon then uses a laser to microscopically reshape your eye (which is what allows you to now see clearly). Once the procedure is complete, the surgeon will place the flap back down, allowing it to heal and reattach to your eye. 

Pros

  • Because only the edges of the “flap” need to heal, there’s almost no downtime for recovery.
  • Most people see 20/20 vision or better within one day.

Cons

  • Patients with thicker corneas may not be good candidates for LASIK.
  • There’s the small possibility of “flap complications,” an issue where the flap doesn’t heal or reattach to the rest of the epithelium properly.

PRK

PRK, also known as Photo-Refractive Keratectomy, is similar to LASIK in that it also reshapes your cornea using a laser. The main difference between LASIK and PRK is how the surgeon gets to your cornea. With a PRK procedure, the surgeon removes the thin, clear layer surrounding your eye (called the epithelium) completely. Over the next few days after your procedure, your epithelium will grow back.

Pros

Cons

  • Recovery time from PRK surgery is a bit longer because the entire epithelium has to grow back.
  • You’re at a slightly higher risk for infection.

LASEK

In many ways, you can think of LASIK as the child of LASIK and PRK. To reach the stroma (the mid layer of your cornea) in a LASEK procedure, your surgeon will first remove the entire outer layer of your cornea (the epithelium). After your surgeon has reshaped your cornea, he or she will place your entire epithelium back over your eye.

Pros

  • LASEK leaves your cornea more stable.
  • You have no risk of “flap complications.”
  • Patients with thicker corneas may not qualify for LASIK, but will likely qualify for LASEK.

Cons

  • LASEK patients won’t experience clear vision until 1-2 weeks after surgery.
  • They can experience a bit more discomfort than LASIK patients.
  • They will have to use steroid eye drops for several weeks (as opposed to LASIK patients who typically only need them for 1-2 weeks).

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