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LASIK vs. LASEK: What’s the difference?

LASIK vs. LASEK: What’s the difference — and why should you care?

When it comes to laser eye surgery, you have options. And if you’re not an ideal candidate for one method, you might meet the criteria for another. Here, we review two of the top refractive treatments: the well-known LASIK (laser in situ keratomileusis) procedure and the less-publicized LASEK (laser-assisted epithelial keratomileusis) procedure.

How they’re the same

Both LASIK and LASEK are surgical procedures done to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. And for both, the doctor uses a laser to cut into and reshape the cornea. This changes the way the eye focuses light on the retina, ultimately leading to improved vision without glasses or contacts.

Both procedures are time-tested and provide similar outcomes — including the possibility that a second surgery might be needed or that you may still need glasses in some situations. The worse your initial eye condition, the more likely that you’ll need retreatment or eyewear.

How they’re different — and why it matters

The primary difference between LASIK and LASEK is in the corneal flap created in the reshaping process. In short, the flap made during LASEK eye surgery is significantly thinner than the one created in LASIK eye surgery.

Because of this, LASEK may be a better choice for patients who aren’t ideal LASIK candidates due to thin corneas. LASEK may also be preferred for patients with severe myopia and those whose work or hobbies have a high potential for dislodging the corneal flap created in LASIK surgery.

The LASEK eye surgery technique may also lower the risk of developing dry eyes post-surgery and minimizes complications related to the deeper LASIK cut.

However, LASEK recovery tends to involve more discomfort and more time. Plus, your vision may be hazier during the first week post-surgery with LASEK than with LASIK.

Making a decision

In general, LASIK eye surgery remains the primary choice between the two, with LASEK coming into play when a patient isn’t a great candidate for LASIK. But your eye care provider is the best one to make this decision with you. You can find one near you who accepts your CareCredit card by visiting our online Provider Locator. Our website also provides information on average costs for LASIK and other common vision care services

“LASEK Eye Surgery: How It Works,” Brian S. Boxer Wachler, MD, AllAboutVision.com, updated May 2014, http://www.allaboutvision.com/visionsurgery/lasek.htm, accessed Feb. 11, 2016

“Alternative Refractive Procedures,” American Academy of Ophthalmology, posted Dec. 12, 2015, http://www.aao.org/eye-health/treatments/refractive-surgery-alternative-procedures, accessed Feb. 11, 2016

“Is LASIK for me?” American Academy of Ophthalmology PDF, October 2008

“LASIK vs. LASEK: Both Safe, Effective,” Daniel J. DeNoon, WebMD, posted Dec. 29, 2006, http://www.webmd.com/eye-health/news/20061229/lasik-vs-lasek-both-safe-and-effective, accessed Feb. 1, 2016

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