LASIK: What are the Advantages Over Other Laser Eye Surgery Procedures?

When Laser Eye Surgery was first developed over 40 years ago, patients had only one option for correcting their refractive error with laser technology: LASEK. Today, patients and surgeons have a wider set of options at their disposal, including LASIK, ReLEx SMILE, and PRESBYOND® Laser Blended Vision. Yet, there is one procedure that remains by far the most popular. So, what are the advantages of LASIK over other Laser Eye Surgery procedures?

Surface ablation techniques, known as PRK (Photorefractive Keratomileusis) and LASEK (Laser Epithelial Keratomileusis), represented the first generation of Laser Eye Surgery. These groundbreaking treatments involved removing a portion of the surface of the cornea to allow access to the tissue beneath. The area could then be reshaped using precision lasers. Depending on the technique used, the removed epithelium would either be put back in place or the area would be left to heal naturally over time.

This approach was used to successfully correct the refractive errors of thousands of people around the world. However, the introduction of LASIK in 1999 flipped the Laser Eye Surgery field on its head. This new generation of Laser Eye Surgery soon became the “norm” – but how does it differ from PRK/LASEK and what are its advantages over the treatments that came after?

What is LASIK?

LASIK (Laser-Assisted In-Situ Keratomileusis) is the most commonly performed Laser Eye Surgery procedure worldwide. Unlike the surface procedures (LASEK/PRK),  LASIK doesn’t require the complete removal of a portion of the corneal epithelium. Instead, a flap is created in the cornea to allow access to the tissue beneath.

A high-precision femtosecond laser is applied to the treatment eye to create this ultra-thin, hinged flap. This can then be flipped open during the procedure, where a second laser is used to remove a specific area of the corneal tissue beneath. Once this has been completed, the flap can be put back in place where it will begin to fuse to the rest of the surface tissue (epithelium) almost immediately.

The Advantages of LASIK

As our expert Laser Eye Surgeon, Mr Glenn Carp, explains in the video below, the main difference between LASIK and surface procedures is healing times: “The results themselves are pretty much the same three months down the line but it is how you travel, how your journey is in the interim that makes a big difference and LASIK offers a very quick healing time.

Youtube video link

A Less Invasive Procedure Means Shorter Healing Times…

Thanks to the innovation of the corneal flap, LASIK is a less invasive alternative to surface ablation. For this reason, healing times are significantly shorter. As Mr. Carp notes, patients treated with LASIK will find that the cornea is generally able to heal within several hours. By comparison, with PRK/LASEK, it can take around a week for the cornea to heal properly. While many patients notice an initial improvement, during this time, it is normal for patients to experience some blurriness and fluctuations in their vision.

Shorter healing times also mean that patients are able to return to many of their normal activities more quickly. For example, many LASIK patients can return to work the very next day. Furthermore, while driving is a big no-no immediately following Laser Eye Surgery, many of our patients have recovered sufficiently to get back behind the wheel within just two days!

While it can take a little longer to return to more physical activities, LASIK patients are also generally able to restart certain activities, including jogging, sports, and even swimming around two weeks after their treatment.

…And Potentially Fewer Side Effects

Throughout its years of development, refractive surgery has become an increasingly safe and effective treatment. Today, Laser Eye Surgery is among the safest surgical procedures around and has up to a 99% success rate.

There are three main potential side effects to be aware of when considering Laser Eye Surgery: Dry eyes, halos and starbursts, and light sensitivity. Many patients will experience one or more of these effects to some extent during the recovery, however, the symptoms are usually mild and can be managed with measures such as lubricating eye drops and wearing glasses at night. Furthermore, the symptoms should begin to ease within a few months following treatment.

Evidence suggests that LASEK patients may experience slightly longer periods of discomfort due to the more invasive nature of the procedure. LASEK may also be associated with a higher risk of stromal haze and glare during the initial recovery period.

How Does it Compare to ReLEx SMILE – The Latest Innovation in Laser Eye Surgery?

In 2012, London Vision Clinic became the first Laser Eye Surgery provider in the UK to offer ReLEx SMILE – a revolutionary treatment developed by our very own founder and surgeon Professor Dan Reinstein. Often simply referred to as “SMILE” this technique is becoming increasingly popular thanks to its minimally invasive nature and faster recovery times.

As opposed to creating a flap (as in LASIK) or removing a section of the corneal epithelium (as in PRK/LASEK), SMILE utilises a “keyhole” approach. A laser is used to create a small incision in the cornea, through which a tunnel is created to the tissue beneath. A second laser is able to remove the pre-determined area of corneal tissue and draw it out of the tunnel.

But while ReLEx SMILE has a number of advantages in certain patient populations, in some cases, LASIK may be the better option. For example, while SMILE is effective for a wide range of prescriptions, it tends to be less suitable for patients with hyperopia (long-sightedness).

The Disadvantages of LASIK

As we have mentioned, the corneal flap created in LASIK offers some significant advantages, particularly over the more invasive PRK/LASEK. However, this can also lead to a higher risk of complications.

Flap-related complications can include irregular or decentred flaps during treatment and flap dislocation during recovery. However, such cases are extremely rare. LASIK may also be unsuitable for patients with thinner corneas, as there may not be enough tissue to create the flap in the cornea. In these cases, PRK/LASEK or ReLEx SMILE may be recommended.

Is LASIK the Best Option For Me?

While PRK/LASEK, LASIK, and ReLEx SMILE each have their own advantages and disadvantages, LASIK remains the most commonly performed Laser Eye Surgery technique worldwide. Nonetheless, current evidence indicates that long-term safety and outcomes are relatively stable across all Laser Eye Surgery techniques.

LASIK’s fast recovery times and wide-ranging suitability make it a good option for the majority of clients; however, the only way to know whether it is the right option for you is to consult with an expert ophthalmologist.

At London Vision Clinic, we conduct a thorough screening process to ensure each patient’s suitability for Laser Eye Surgery. During the initial 2-3 hour-long consultation, we perform a wide range of tests to help us determine the best course of treatment for you. Thanks to our expertise and access to industry-best technology, we are able to offer the best possible treatment to up to 98% of the patients we see.

So, whether you are best suited to PRK/LASEK, LASIK, ReLEx SMILE, or any other refractive surgery, you can rest assured that we will only recommend the procedure that we believe will provide the best results.

For more information about Laser Eye Surgery at London Vision Clinic, get in touch with one of our friendly clinic coordinators. Alternatively, Book a no-obligation Consultation to start your journey to clear vision today.