LASEK stands for LASER assisted epithelial keratomileusis. It is a very specific type of surface based refractive procedure. Surface based refractive procedures refer to the fact that there is no flap creation (like with LASIK), and include procedures like PRK and Advanced Surface Ablation (ASA). LASEK has two main distinctions from PRK and ASA. Both PRK and ASA involve removing and discarding the top layer of corneal cells called epithelial cells. These cells are required for good crisp vision. They are removed and discarded at the time of PRK and ASA. It then takes about four to seven days for these cells to re-grow. This is why it takes about a week for a person receiving ASA or PRK to get their good, crisp vision back.
With LASEK, the epithelial cell layer is separated from the underlying layer using a special alcohol solution. Then, the epithelial layer is very carefully rolled back onto the edge of the cornea away from the laser treatment area. The exact same laser and treatment algorithm is then used to remove the existing error on the surface of the cornea. At the conclusion of the laser treatment, the epithelial cell layer is then rolled back into place. Over the next couple of days, these cells then re-adhere on the corneal surface, instead of having to re-grow. This expedites the visual recovery time in most patients, and minimizes any discomfort.
In some instances the epithelial cells cannot be rolled back in a single sheet. This makes the process of replacing the epithelial sheet back into the original position very difficult. Usually, in this instance, it is more beneficial to simply discard this epithelial sheet, and the procedure is then technically considered a PRK procedure.
LASEK, PRK, and ASA are all surface based procedures that represent the evolution of the refractive surgery industry. They are all very safe and effective ways of accomplishing the same end goal- freedom from glasses. You and your doctor can determine which is the best procedure for you. Call the Texas Vision & Laser Center today for an appointment.