Laser Eye Surgery Treatments: What Is LASEK?

On first looking into the possibility of having Laser Eye Surgery, the amount of abbreviations and jargon thrown around can be overwhelming, to say the least. But in reality, there are only really three key procedures you need to know about – LASIK, ReLEx SMILE, and LASEK. In this article, we explain everything you need to know about LASEK, one of the original Laser Eye procedures that changed the world of refractive surgery for good.

While the technique is not used as often as it used to be (the vast majority of Laser Eye Surgery procedures now use LASIK), LASEK is still an important and effective treatment method. It is one of the two surface procedures, building on the principles of its predecessor, PRK.

Like all Laser Eye Surgery techniques, the fundamental principle behind LASEK is the calculated reshaping of the cornea. This method changes the way light is reflected into the eye, allowing it to settle more effectively on the retina, therefore correcting common refractive errors such as myopia (short-sightedness), hyperopia (long-sightedness), astigmatism, and presbyopia.

How Does LASEK Laser Eye Surgery Work?

LASEK, which stands for LASer Epithelial Keratomileusis, is extremely similar to PRK in that both procedures involve removing a portion of the surface layer of the cornea (epithelium) to allow access to the more permanent stromal layer beneath. However, there are some key differences between the two procedures.

While in PRK, an area of epithelium is removed using either a microkeratome or a high-precision laser, LASEK involves applying an alcohol solution to loosen the top layer of the epithelium. As Mr. Glenn Carp explains in the video below, in the video below, this can then be pushed aside, allowing the surgeon to access the corneal bed beneath.

Youtube video link

Furthermore, in PRK, the epithelium which is removed is discarded and a protective contact lens is placed over the exposed area. The surface of the cornea will then heal during the recovery period. In contrast, in LASEK, the surgeon replaces the epithelium back to its original position. This makes for much faster healing times when compared with PRK as only the edges of the epithelium need to to heal.

Youtube video link
In all other aspects, LASEK is identical to PRK and LASIK and follows the same broad steps:
  • The dimensions and properties of the untreated eye are measured using wavefront analysis and topographical mapping and through state-of-the-art diagnostic instruments during your screening appointment. From these measurements, the precise amount of LASEK correction is calculated.
  • A section of the epithelial cornea is removed and pushed to one side – allowing it to be replaced in the same position after surgery.
  • The surgeon moves the section, and an excimer laser sculpts the bed of the cornea to match the dimensions determined before surgery.
  • The surgeon replaces the section of epithelium and places a protective contact lens over the top. Within minutes, natural forces hold the flap in place, and the LASEK procedure is complete.

Mr Glenn Carp – “LASEK is a procedure very similar to PRK whereby we apply an alcohol base to the surface of the eye.  This loosens the epithelium, the mobile layer on the surface of the eye.

“We can then push that to one side exposing the more permanent stromal layer beneath, apply a shape change with the laser, and we replace the loosened epithelium back over the surface of the eye. This has been protected and held in place with a bandage contact lens allowing the epithelium from the periphery to replace the alcohol loosened epithelium over the following 7 to 14 days.”

If you’d like to learn more about the treatments available at London Vision Clinic, get in touch with one of our friendly clinic coordinators today. Alternatively, Book a Consultation to start your journey to clear, glasses-free vision.