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What's the Difference Between LASEK and LASIK?

Even if you have perfect eyesight, you’re probably familiar with LASIK vision correction. This procedure grew popular in the early 2000s after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it in the mid-1990s. The approval of LASIK made national news and created buzz for years. 

In the 25 years since LASIK’s FDA-approval, scientists and doctors have made several advances and innovations to the procedure to improve safety and efficacy.

Dr. Michael Ragen, ophthalmologist at Ventura Eye Institute in Camarillo, California, has been helping patients improve their eye health for more than 20 years and has performed his fair share of LASIK procedures. 

However, in recent years, a similar surgery called LASEK has become more popular, largely due to the safety of the procedure compared with LASIK. While LASIK remains the go-to procedure for correcting vision, LASEK might be a better fit for certain patients.

How LASIK surgery works

LASIK stands for laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis, which refers to the process of changing the shape of your cornea — keratomileusis is the medical term for altering the cornea, in situ means “in the original place” (aka, your eyeball), and laser-assisted means with the help of a laser. 

Your cornea is the clear, front cover of your eyeball, and its main function is refracting or bending the light rays that enter your eye. 

If you have a shortened eyeball or flat cornea, you experience farsightedness; if you have an elongated eyeball or your cornea curves too steeply, you experience nearsightedness. 

The purpose of LASIK surgery is to reshape your cornea so that light refracts properly and reduces your dependency on contacts or glasses. 

To perform LASIK surgery, Dr. Ragen makes an incision on the surface of your eyeball to create a small flap. The flap folds back, so your doctor is able to enter your eyeball and reshape the tissue of your cornea using a laser. Dr. Ragen replaces the flap, which usually heals on its own.

How LASEK surgery works 

LASEK (laser epithelial keratomileusis) surgery is very similar to LASIK surgery, with a few key differences. Both surgeries have the same end goal — to improve your vision and reduce the need for glasses or contacts — but with LASEK, your eye doctor doesn’t have to make an incision in your eyeball. 

Rather, Dr. Ragen uses a solution to separate the top layer of your cornea, the epithelium, and gently repositions it to the side. Then, he uses a laser to reshape your cornea to improve your vision. Finally, Dr. Ragen places the epithelium back where it belongs, and your eyeball heals naturally.

Because it requires no incisions, LASEK is typically considered safer than LASIK. It has fewer potential risks or side effects due to the gentler nature of the procedure. 

Is LASIK or LASEK better?

It depends on your eyes. Not everyone can get LASIK surgery, and not everyone can get LASEK surgery. Your eye doctor has to determine which procedure is a better fit for you — if you’re eligible for either — based on a thorough eye exam and medical history. 

After a consultation and exam, Dr. Ragen can inform you which procedure can safely correct and restore your vision. 

To learn more about LASIK and LASEK, visit Ventura Eye Institute today. Call our Camarillo, California, office at 805-250-9723 or book your appointment online. You can also send a message to Dr. Ragen, Dr. Kyle Huynh, and the team here on our website.

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