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Laser Eye Surgery: The Difference Between LASIK, LASEK, & PRK

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Everyone’s heard of laser eye surgery. It’s only once you look a little deeper that scary, nonsensical terms like LASIK, LASEK and PRK start cropping up everywhere and complicating things!
The good news is that these acronyms are nothing to worry about: they simply describe the 3 most commonly practiced laser eye treatments. If you’ve started a little research – for yourself, or maybe a friend – and want a little clarity on the differences between each method, then you’re in the right place.
Let’s dive right in and look at why there are so many options, and what those differences could mean for you. For a personalized consultation that takes into consideration your eye shape, size, and prescription, we encourage you to visit us for a laser eye surgery consultation.

Comparison: Procedure

PRK – Photorefractive Keratectomy

This is the original laser eye treatment used to correct near and far sightedness, as well as astigmatism. In case you didn’t know, astigmatism is the irritating condition where objects remain blurry or indistinct at any distance.
The cornea is the very front part of the eye, protected by your eyelids. Its frontal layer – the epithelium – is removed at the start of treatment, to better enable the laser to reshape the stromal layer further into the cornea. The laser, guided by an extremely accurate computer, vaporizes parts of the cornea to give it a different shape, corrected for their vision.

LASEK – Laser Epithelial Keratomileusis

This is a surface ablation technique just like PRK, with the notable difference that the epithelium is not removed, just cut across its middle and peeled back for the duration of the procedure. The procedure is the same as for PRK.

LASIK – Laser-Assisted In-Situ Keratomileusis

The main difference between LASIK and LASEK is that the top two layers of the cornea are peeled back, not just the epithelial layer. This exposes the stromal layer directly, giving the surgeon more precision. Otherwise, the surgery itself is largely the same.

Comparison: Recovery Time

It’s a pretty huge factor. Many of us can’t afford much time away from work, and most regular jobs require a couple of working eyes to manage effectively. LASIK has the shortest recovery time, with normal vision restored within 24-48 hours.
The idea behind LASEK was that it would have a quicker recovery time than PRK, since the epithelium won’t need to regrow. However, many patients complain of longer recoveries of up to several weeks for their vision to stabilize. PRK usually takes about a week.

Comparison: Results and Risks

Overall, each of these techniques works very well in correcting far and nearsightedness, as well as astigmatism. LASIK is unsuitable for those with thin corneas, so it’s perhaps the most restricted in terms of patient intake.
Generally, LASIK has a pain-free recovery, whereas mild to moderate discomfort or pain has been associated with PRK (during procedure) and LASEK (during recovery); a majority of patients do not experience these pains.

Comparison: Cost

When it comes to your eyes, we think it’s worth saving up until you can afford the best treatment you can. The price of a procedure varies hugely depending on the skill and experience of the surgeon, the practice you choose and what procedure you opt for.
Contact our clinic and we can walk you through the costs. As a rule, expect LASIK to be quite a bit more expensive, since it is, overall, a more painless and less time consuming procedure.

Written by GBOC

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