LASEK (laser epithelial keratomileusis) is a relatively new type of corrective laser eye surgery. It employs an alcohol solution to loosen the very outer layer (epithelium) of the cornea. Once the laser correction has been performed, this epithelial flap is replaced as a sort of natural bandage. LASEK is a good alternative for those patients who are not candidates for LASIK surgery due to thin corneas.
Reasons to consider LASEK:
- Wish to reduce or eliminate dependence on glasses or contacts for those with myopia, hyperopia or astigmatism
- The epithelial layer is kept, reducing healing time and pain compared to PRK
- An alternative for patients with thin corneas who are not candidates for LASIK
- Reduces the chances of post-operative corneal haze, compared to PRK
- Patients experience dry-eye less often after LASEK than compared to LASIK
For the LASEK procedure, first the doctor creates an epithelial flap. Alcohol is used for about 30 seconds to loosen the epithelial cells. Then the epithelium is lifted, with the help of a trephine blade, and folded aside, to allow access to the inner layers of the cornea. At this point, the excimer laser ablates (burns off) the carefully mapped tissue, just as in LASIK and PRK. After the laser correction is complete, the doctor replaces the epithelial flap, and applies a bandage contact lens to aid in healing.
The epithelial layer fully heals in about a day, though usually the patient must wear the bandage contact lens for about four days. Patients may experience mild discomfort, irritation or pain for the first couple of days after the procedure. The doctor will schedule several check-up appointments to monitor the healing process, followed by periodic visits over the next several months. During the recovery process, the patient should rest and refrain from any strenuous activities for at least a week. Most patients can return to work in a few days, though it is best to take off whatever time needed to ensure a smooth recovery.