LASEK Laser Eye Surgery

What Is LASEK?

LASEK, which is an acronym for LASer Epithelial Keratomilieusis, is just one of the many different techniques used in eye corrective treatment. LASEK is newer variation of PRK (photo refractive keratectomy) laser eye surgery. The laser energy used in LASEK is applied directly to shape the outer surface of the eye in order to correct the person’s vision.

As there are only slight variations between LASIK, PRK and LASEK laser eye surgery, to fully understand LASEK one must also understand the procedures involved in the other operations.

How Is LASEK Different To Other Methods

PRK laser eye surgery differs to LASEK in that as opposed to cutting a thin flap on the surface of the eye, the energy produced by the laser is directly applied to the eye’s surface. In PRK the thin outer layer of the cornea, referred to as the epithelium, is completely removed instead of only being temporarily repositioned. The epithelium will grow back, but this is what causes the increased healing time associated with the procedure.

During LASIK, the epithelium is cut and lifted, and is repositioned as soon as the laser has been applied. The flap acts as a natural bandage for the eye, thus reducing the healing process. The main distinction between LASEK and LASIK is that in LASEK laser eye surgery a cutting tool called a trephine is used while a microkeratome or a specialised laser is used in LASIK.

Before LASEK Laser Eye Surgery

Before undergoing surgery, the surgeon will have met with you, checked your medical history and will have carried out an eye test. It is necessary to stop wearing contact lenses for a minimum of three weeks before the procedure is carried out.

The Procedure

LASEK laser eye surgery, also referred to as Epi-LASEK, is generally performed under a local anaesthetic in the form of drops. A clip is generally used to ensure that the eye neither moves nor closes. Once the eye has successfully been numbed, the surface of the cornea, the epithelium, is gently moved by the surgeon. Pulses of cool laser light, which are computer controlled, are then directly applied to the surface layers of the cornea. The epithelium is then re-shaped with the laser to repair short and long sightedness and astigmatism impressions in the eye.

As soon as the laser has corrected the aberrations, the surface layer of the cornea is placed back in its original position so that the healing process can begin. This is covered by a bandage contact lens to help protect the eye as well as promote healing. The treatment typically lasts for around 15 minutes. However patients with higher prescriptions may require more time as further re-shaping may be necessary.

After The Procedure

LASEK patient

It is highly recommended you bring a friend or family member with you in order to help you return home safely. This is absolutely imperative if you are having both eyes operated on. It is also essential that you follow your surgeons’ instructions with regards to eye drops ointment, as these will improve healing time and also reduce any discomfort.

It is necessary for the patient to wear prescribed protective contact lens for up to four days after the procedure. This provides protection between the surface of the eye and the eyelid. It is also necessary for antibiotic and steroid eye drops to be used for several weeks after the surgery has been completed. This will help guard against any inflammation or infection, allowing you to get the best results from the surgery.

The surgeon will also want to see you at several follow up appointments so that the healing process of the eye can be monitored closely. This type of surgery has fewer side effects than other procedures but it is still possible to experience some irritation in the first couple of days. LASEK surgery is particularly well suited to patients who may take part in activities such as contact sports, where trauma to the eye is a possibility.

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What Is Wavefront LASEK?

The technology utilised in Wavefront LASEK was originally developed to improve the overall quality of image and reduce visual distortions produced by advanced space telescopes. More recently, the technology has become popular in laser eye surgery as it offers a more precise means of identifying, measuring and correcting imperfections of the eye, thereby allowing for a more customised procedure than that previously offered by standard laser eye surgery.

How Can It Benefit The Patient?

Wavefront LASEK enables a more precise tailoring of the LASEK procedure to the specific optics of each individual eye. As the procedure is more specific, LASEK treatment can be targeted more effectively and efficiently, resulting in less tissue being removed from the cornea. This enables the maximum structural strength of the patient's eye to be maintained following treatment and thus improves the long term safety of the procedure.

In low light conditions, Wavefront LASEK results in improved contrast sensitivity and a lesser chance of experiencing visual aberrations such as halos and glare. As a result, Wavefront LASEK may offer particular benefits to individuals with large pupils and those seeking corrective laser eye surgery for poor night-time vision.

The Benefits Of Lasek

Watch Valerie Saw, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital, explain the benefits of Lasek:

Video Transcript

"People usually choose to have surface treatment if they play contact sports like Martial Arts or Boxing or if there’s any risk that they could have a serious severe knock to the eye. The main reason for that is with LASIK the flap heals at the edges very well, nice and sealed, but in the middle of the flap there’s always a weak area. If you had a very, very strong knock or rub to the cornea it can dislodge a LASIK flap but it would have to be a really, really strong force.

I find in some patients, especially quite active young men choose the surface treatment or if they’re in the military the surface treatment. The long term outcomes for both in the hands of someone who is very experienced, a similar at one year and five years the outcomes are very similar."

Valerie Saw, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital


How Much Does LASEK Laser Eye Surgery Cost?

The cost of LASEK treatment will depend on the prescription of each individual patient. Prices start from around £400 per eye, reaching up to £1500 for people with stronger prescriptions.

If your clinic offers Epi-LASEK, this usually costs between £500-£900 pounds per eye. If you choose to have additional treatment in your surgery such as Waveform, this can add three to five hundred pounds to the cost per eye. Other factors that will affect the price include how experienced the surgeon is and the types of results the clinic is achieving.

Financing LASEK Laser Eye Surgery

Most laser eye surgery clinics will offer finance and payment plans to make having LASEK treatment more affordable. Some clinics may offer 0% finance deals and others will charge interest for their finance. If you pay for LASEK on a monthly basis, prices can start from around £40 per month if one eye is treated, to over a £100 per month.

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