LASEK: A LASIK Alternative for Patients with Thin Corneas


Illustration of LASEK procedureLASIK (laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis) is a landmark ophthalmological treatment that has helped millions achieve 20/20 vision or better. However, in order to be a good candidate for LASIK, patients must have a sufficient amount of corneal thickness, which precludes many from undergoing the procedure. LASEK (laser-assisted epithelial keratomileusis), performed at our Philadelphia, PA, practice, is a refractive surgery specially designed for patients with thin corneas. While LASIK involves creating a hinged flap in the corneal tissue, LASEK, conversely, involves creating a flap that is much thinner, consisting only of the outermost epithelial tissue. If you are seeking to enhance your vision, but you have found you do not qualify for LASIK, contact us today to discover if LASEK is right for you.

The key difference between LASEK and LASIK is the thickness of the corneal flap and the way in which it is created. 

Candidacy for LASEK

Like LASIK, LASEK can improve vision for those who suffer with nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Good candidates for both LASIK and LASEK are those who:

  • Wish to reduce or eliminate the need for glasses and contacts
  • Are at least 18 years of age
  • Have maintained a stable corrective eyewear prescription for at least one year
  • Are not pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Do not have glaucoma, or have highly controlled glaucoma
  • Do not have dry eye syndrome, or are taking aggressive measures to control the condition

If you have thin corneas, your doctor may recommend LASEK. During an in-depth consultation, your doctor can determine which refractive procedure is best for your needs.

The LASEK Procedure

The key difference between LASEK and LASIK is the thickness of the corneal flap and the way in which it is created. LASEK surgery is an outpatient procedure that takes about 15 minutes per eye. Immediately before LASEK surgery, anesthetic eye drops are used to numb the treatment area and ensure patient comfort. Next, the surgeon creates a very shallow circular incision in the epithelium (outer corneal layer) using a fine blade called a trephine, taking care to leave a small portion of tissue intact to act as a hinge. A medical alcohol solution is then used to separate the epithelial tissue from the stroma, or inner corneal layer.

After the epithelial tissue is moved aside, the surgeon uses an excimer laser to vaporize small portions of the stroma. This process eliminates or significantly improves the imperfections that cause nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Once the necessary refinements are complete, the epithelial tissue is returned to its original position. A special contact lens is placed over the cornea to facilitate healing, and this is typically worn for about four days. After LASEK, it may take up to a week to begin experiencing improved vision, and it can take several weeks or months to experience the full benefits.

Contact Us to Learn More

Our physicians are leaders in their field who use advanced technology and refined techniques to help patients achieve a better quality of life through improved vision. If you are interested in achieving freedom from glasses and contacts, but do not qualify for LASIK, schedule a consultation to find out if LASEK or another procedure can help you reach your goals.