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.
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Ophthalmologist performing LASEK on a patient.
Ophthalmologist performing LASEK on a patient.
LASEK Quick Details
WHO IS THIS FOR
People with nearsightedness.
People with farsightedness.
People with astigmatism.
People who don't want to manage their chronic vision problems with spectacles or contact lenses.
The surgery usually takes between two and three hours.
Most LASEK wounds heal within seven days.
Patients have to wear protective bandages after surgery for at least four days.
Between 90% and 99% of patients report a significant improvement in their vision.
Around 80% of patients report near-perfect vision after LASEK surgery.
Around 40% of patients report 20/20 vision after surgery.
The vast majority of patients who undergo LASEK surgery can stop using their spectacles or contact lenses almost immediately.
POTENTIAL RISKS & SIDE EFFECTS
Some patients report the sensation of having a foreign object in their eye. This usually subsides after a week or so.
A temporary deterioration in vision, particularly in low-light environments.
Cloudy or blurred vision, which normally subsides after six to 12 months.
What Is LASEK?
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.
How Does LASEK Work?
Although LASEK is a very successful and almost routine procedure, it involves a high level of skill and the very latest technology.
1. 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 anesthetic 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 anesthetic. 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.
4. Laser Sculpting
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.
Are There Different Types of LASEK?
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.
What Should I Expect?
In most cases, a local anesthetic 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.