The thought of having a doctor take a laser to your eye is a bit unsettling, isn’t it? But, what if that laser could give you perfect vision for the rest of your life with little or no risk of complications? Would you do it then? If so, here’s what you need to know about LASEK.
What Is It?
Most people have heard of LASIK, which is a specific type of laser eye surgery. But, LASEK is a similar surgery that doesn’t get much press. The major difference between the two lies in how the surgery is performed and what is being operated on.
With a LASIK surgery, the doctor cuts a flap in the cornea. A second laser then reshapes the underlying surface area. And, the flap is then replaced. After it has healed, the patient sees normally and with perfect vision.
With LASEK, the surgeon reaches the stroma, or middle layer of the cornea, differently.
With LASEK, the doctor keeps the outer layers of the cornea off the eye while the cornea is being reshaped. Once the reshaping is done, he replaces the epithelium to protect the eye while it heals. It’s sort of like a band-aid. A LASEK patient also uses a special contact lens for three to four days to protect the eye while it heals.
In some ways, LASEK surgery is more complicated. It also takes longer to heal. With LASIK, patients heal in a few days. LASEK patients may take up to several weeks to heal. Why choose LASEK surgery? Because the cornea is much more stable and there is less risk of corneal flap complications, which can seriously and permanently affect your vision.
Also, more people qualify for LASEK surgery since there is no corneal flap created during the surgery. This is one of the problems with the LASIK surgery – not everyone qualifies because of the thickness of their cornea.
For example, if your cornea is very thin, there may not be enough material there to create the necessary corneal flap. This is a situation where you would want to have the doctor perform LASEK instead. If you think you might be interested in this process, learn more here.
There are many benefits with LASEK surgery, some obvious and some not so obvious. First, there’s the matter of being able to see. This cannot be understated. Your vision will be permanently altered and corrected. There are usually no complications or additional surgery needed. Because of this, the LASEK procedure is considered very safe and effective.
Doctors are reshaping the layers of the cornea that are responsible for bending light as it enters the eye. Normally, with myopia (nearsightedness), the patient’s problem is that the angle of the cornea is too steep or the eye itself is more oblong than it should be. This causes a problem when light enters the eye.
Light is bent at an angle which is incorrect and the image or object is focused in front of the retina when that object is farther than perhaps a few feet away. This causes far-away images or objects to appear out of focus, which can be really frustrating for the patient.
In the case of hyperopia, the angle of the cornea is more flat than it should be, or the eye is more compressed or flat than it should be. This produces the opposite problem. Light is bent at an incorrect angle, but this time objects up close are focused behind the retina. Objects far away are in focus. This is because eye muscles, called ocular muscles, must tense up to focus the lens of the eye on objects close up. But, the angle of the cornea, and thus the lens, are incorrect.
In both instances, laser surgery reshapes the cornea. In the case of myopia, the cornea is flattened. In the case of hyperopia, the cornea is made more steep. The result is a correct angle for light entering the eye – light then focuses on the retina where it can be interpreted by the brain properly. Images are in focus when these objects are focused on the retina.
Louise Woods is a student who is on her way to becoming an ophthalmologist. Always keen to share her knowledge with friends and family, she is now writing articles to share her love for eyes and eyesight with a wider online audience!