LASEK is a type of eye surgery aimed at restoring normal vision. Laser epithelial keratomileusis, to give the procedure its full name, can treat nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.
LASEK surgery is now pretty routine, thanks to advances in technology and the common nature of the procedure.
LASEK surgery involves the use of lasers to sculpt or reshape the outer layer of the eye - commonly referred to as the cornea. Although it's usually referred to as a type of surgery, technically speaking it's not. That's because no incision is required. People turn to this procedure in order to correct their vision without the long-term need for glasses or contact lenses.
Although LASEK is a very successful and almost routine procedure, it involves a high level of skill and the very latest technology.
Consultation with an ophthalmologist or optometrist
The first stage of the process involves a thorough consultation with an eye specialist. This may be with an ophthalmologist (an eye doctor) or an optometrist (an eye specialist who can diagnose eye problems and prescribe protective eyewear). A series of tests will be performed to gauge the cause and extent of your vision problems. If you're suitable for the procedure, your eye specialist will talk you through its steps. However, not everyone with common eyesight problems qualifies for the procedure.
A local anaesthetic is injected into the eye being worked on. This is something your eye specialist will talk you through. It's not a pleasant procedure, but it's essential. This type of procedure can't be administered with a general anaesthetic. If you're nervous, however, ask for a sedative to keep you calm and still throughout.
The first stage of the process involves flooding the top layer of the eye (the epithelium) with alcohol. This allows the specialist to detach the layer from the eye tissue underneath. The epithelium is then rolled back to reveal the cornea. This is the area of the eye that LASEK treatment focuses on.
A highly precise laser is then used to reshape the cornea directly. Changing the shape of the eye changes the angle at which light passes through it and onto the retina. Once this step is complete, the specialist can reattach the epithelium. Keeping this outer layer attached reduces both the recovery period and the likelihood of serious vision problems immediately after the procedure.
There is a very similar procedure for correcting vision problems called LASIK. Still the most common form of corrective eye surgery, this method involves permanently "scraping away" the cells in the epithelium in order to expose the cornea. There is a closely-related variant of LASEK known as epi-LASIK. While almost identical to LASEK, this particular procedure doesn't involve the use of an alcohol wash. Instead, the surgeon separates the epithelium from the rest of the eye with a special tool - almost like a blunt blade. This might be a better option if the surgeon is worried about you potentially having an adverse reaction to alcohol.
In most cases, a local anaesthetic is administered, so there won't be much pain. However, there could well be a lot of discomfort. You may feel like you have a foreign object in your eye during the procedure - and for several days after. This procedure involves temporarily removing the outer layer of your eye. The nature of such a procedure makes a lot of people very nervous. Speak to your surgeon if you have any specific concerns about what lies ahead.
For the first few days immediately after the procedure, expect a lot of irritation in your eye. For a time, it might feel as though you have something quite large in it. You'll have to fight the temptation to rub or scratch your eyes. You'll probably have to wear a bandage for a week or so after the procedure. But don't be disappointed if you don't have 20/20 vision right away. It can take up to 12 months before the full effects of LASEK are apparent. Not all procedures end with 20/20 vision. Temper your expectations. Your eyesight will improve, but by how much depends on a range of factors.