People often use the terms "LASIK" and "laser eye surgery" interchangeably. However, LASIK is just one type of vision correction surgery that is performed by laser. There are many other types, but really only three that are very common. Below, learn about the similarities and differences of these three surgical approaches.
This well-known surgery is the one most people think of and are most familiar with. Either a laser or a scalpel is used to create a flap in the cornea. Older versions of the procedure called for a scalpel being used, and a scalpel is still used for patients with corneas of certain shapes. These days, most LASIK procedures have the flap made with a laser. Once the flap is made, the flap is peeled back, and a laser — always a laser, in this case — is used to reshape the underlying tissue. The flap is then laid back down on the cornea and left to heal.
LASIK has a very quick healing time and causes very little discomfort after the procedure. It can be used to treat both nearsightedness and farsightedness.
PRK is a different laser-based vision corrective surgery. No flap is made in the cornea. Instead, a laser is used to simply reshape the surface of the cornea. PRK can be performed more precisely than LASIK, and this makes it a top choice for pilots and others who rely on having perfect vision for their careers. The downside to PRK is that the healing time is a lot longer than for LASIK. Patients experience pretty pronounced itchiness and discomfort for a week or two, rather than for a few hours, as with LASIK. PRK can also be used for both nearsightedness and farsightedness.
LASEK is sort of a blend between PRK and LASIK. First, your eye surgeon slices off a piece of the cornea. This flap is thinner than the flap removed in LASIK, but it is completely removed — not left on a hinge. The eye is then reshaped with the laser, and then the flap is placed back on the eye. A special type of contact lens is then placed over the cornea and is left in place for a few days so the eye can heal.
LASEK is a good choice for patients whose eyes are not the right shape for LASIK. The fact that the flap is thinner makes more people a candidate for LASEK. LASEK is really good for treating farsightedness, although it can be used for nearsightedness, too.
Talk to your eye surgeon to learn more about these eye surgeries and to discover which one is best for you.