LASEK is one of three laser procedures available for correcting vision defects (the other two being PRK and LASIK). Laser eye surgery has been available in the UK since the mid 1980's and today more than 100,000 people choose to have the operation each year. Although LASEK is not the most up-to-date method of laser eye treatment; it's cheaper than LASIK and some surgeons feel it is safer, so it is still commonly used.
PRK was the first method developed for correcting vision with lasers. Surgeons would remove the outer layer of the cornea (the epithelium) and then laser the tissue beneath. Admittedly it proved to be highly effective, but also painful and involved a lengthy period of recovery (because patients needed to re-grow the outer layer of the cornea, which takes time). Despite this the operation enjoyed a high success rate and most patients were satisfied with the result. LASEK refined this procedure by only partially removing this outer-layer and later replacing it.
The results were immediately impressive; patients reported less discomfort and recovery times were much quicker (a matter of days rather than months). Today the operation has been slightly supplanted by LASIK, but many patients still prefer to go down the LASEK route. Anyone thinking about having LASEK should make certain that the clinic offering the procedure is competent and they should have a thorough initial consultation to ensure suitability. They should also assess the surgeon's competence and meet him/her before the operation. The operation is short and recovery should be rapid and fairly painless. Lenses and glasses may have to be worn for a short time afterwards to protect the eye. Complications in the months afterwards may demand an additional correction or medical help.
LASEK enjoys a high success rate, with a complication rate of about one percent (but remember that's for each eye). Detailed statistics are difficult to come by because clinics aren't too keen to share data. It's also worth bearing in mind that ‘official figures' often overlook patients who suffer post-operative complications which are later resolved. Possible complications include: night vision difficulties, halo effects and double or triple vision.
LASEK is still a surgical procedure and a positive outcome is not assured, therefore the key factor is the experience and expertise of the surgeon. If you have any concerns arrange an appointment with your eye care professional.