The Difference Between LASIK and LASEK

Using lasers to reshape the cornea may have sounded like science fiction 40 or 50-years ago, but today, LASIK is well known and widely accepted — in fact, as many as 700,000 LASIK procedures are performed each year in the United States. 

What’s less well known is another corneal reshaping procedure called LASEK, which uses a slightly different technique that can benefit specific patients. At Advanced Lasik in Long Beach, California, Randa Garrana, MD, offers both LASIK and LASEK, using the most advanced technology and techniques for optimal outcomes. Here’s the difference between these two procedures.

LASIK vs. LASEK: Key differences

Both LASIK (laser in situ keratomileusis) and LASEK (laser epithelial keratomileusis) reshape the cornea to help correct refractive vision problems, like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. But the way they do it is a bit different.

The cornea is the clear dome that covers the front part of your eye. Light passes through the cornea and the lens of your eye, traveling back to the light-sensitive retina. The retina gathers light and transmits images to the brain, which “interprets” that light data into what we actually see.

Normally, the cornea is round, and light passes through in a relatively straight line. If it’s misshapen, though, it interferes with the way light “bends” (or refracts) when it enters the eye, resulting in refractive vision problems. LASIK and LASEK work to reshape the cornea so light enters the eye the way it’s supposed to.


With LASIK, Dr. Garrana makes an incision into the cornea, creating a circular flap that’s folded back to expose the underlying corneal tissue. Then a laser is used to reshape the cornea using very precise formulas based on your unique eye shape. After the cornea is reshaped, the flap is folded back over the incision, and the eye heals without stitches. 


LASEK also begins with an incision, but it’s a very shallow incision, only affecting the top layer of corneal tissue (the epithelium). Dr. Garrana applies a special alcohol solution to gently loosen the epithelial tissue. Then, she uses the laser to reshape the middle layer of the cornea tissue before replacing the thin flap. 

Benefits of LASEK

While LASEK and LASIK sound almost identical, it’s mainly the thickness of the flap that varies — and that can matter a lot to some patients. Specifically, LASEK makes laser eye surgery available to people for whom LASIK is not an option, including people with corneal scars and very thin corneas. When the cornea is already thin, making a deeper incision may not be possible or it may be associated with higher risks.

Making a thinner flap means healing takes a little longer. LASEK patients will also need to wear a soft contact lens as a bandage for a few days afterward.

Bottom line: Both LASIK and LASEK are safe, effective, time-tested eye surgeries that can dramatically improve your vision and help you eliminate or at least reduce your reliance on glasses or contacts. Dr. Garrana will be able to determine which option is a better choice, based on your eye exam and vision tests.

Enjoy clearer vision — without glasses

If you’re tired of being tied to your glasses or contact lenses, corneal refractive surgery could be just what you’re looking for. To learn more about LASIK and LASEK — and find out which one is better for you — call the office or use our online form and schedule an appointment today.

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