The desire, or need, of many patients to completely eliminate the use of glasses and contact lenses is, today, a concrete reality offered by the innovative LASEK refractive surgery technique. Thanks to this refractive surgery, it is now possible to eliminate or considerably reduce the most common refractive defects such as myopia, hypermetropia, and astigmatism and regain an excellent visual acuity without the need for lenses nor glasses. Safe and effective, the LASEK surgery technique uses excimer laser as its main tool.
What is LASEK surgery
Yes, LASIK may remain as the widely used eye laser refractive surgery. However, people who are not suitable for LASIK or PRK intervention can find an equally valid option in LASEK that produces final results that are completely comparable to other eye surgical techniques. Like other types of laser refractive surgery, LASEK works by reshaping the curvature of the cornea by using an excimer laser. This remodeling allows the light entering the eye to properly focus on the retina so as to obtain a clearer vision without glasses or contact lenses.
How LASEK Surgery Is Performed
As in the PRK refractive surgery procedure, the corneal epithelium is separated from the underlying stromal layer of the cornea. The difference lies in the fact that instead of completely removing and discarding this top layer of cells, the eye surgeon pushes this ultra-thin flap of epithelium cells to one side of the cornea, where it remains attached to the eye. Unlike on PRK, the epithelium is not eliminated but simply raised and folded after having soaked with an alcohol solution. After the laser-reshaping action on the cornea is done, the surgeon proceeds to laying the corneal epithelium down again and repositioning it without any suture. This technique accelerates epithelial regrowth.
After the LASEK surgery, the patient can return home after a short period of rest. Most people report mild to moderate discomfort only during the first few days. Protective contact lenses will need to be worn over the eye for about four (4) days while the superficial epithelial cells heal and regenerate. The eye doctor will also prescribe topical steroids and antibiotics for at least three weeks to aid in healing and minimize the risk of infection. Generally, visual recovery after LASEK is slower than that of LASIK and often at the same rate or, still, slower than after PRK. The initial visual recovery can, in fact, take up to a week with LASEK surgery (compared to 24 hours, in typical cases, of LASIK) while the complete recovery from the intervention can take from a few weeks to several months.
Potential Risks With LASEK
Any complications after a LASEK intervention may be similar to post-LASIK complications. Side effects may include visual disturbances such as:
- blurry vision, halos, and glare
- significant over-correction, under-correction or regression that may require further surgery or the need to rely on glasses or contact lenses for some activities
- dry eyes
- infection and irritation
While LASEK surgery avoids the risks that are associated with the removal of the corneal flap, there are some potential unique complications of the surgery. In some cases, the thin epithelial flap created during LASEK surgery is not strong enough to be repositioned over the treated area and needs to be removed completely.
Generally, this is not a risk, however, if the patient suffers from very high myopia, he may have a greater likelihood of having a vision below the expected results. Also, the alcohol solution used during LASEK may cause some tissue damage to the epithelial cells and slow down the healing process after surgery.