LASIK is the most commonly performed laser vision correction procedure today. Indeed, LASIK has helped millions of people achieve 20/20 or better vision and bid farewell to their eyeglasses and contact lenses. While many of our Chicago laser eye surgery center patients will qualify for LASIK, not everyone is a suitable candidate for the procedure. Patients who are at high risk of trauma or injury to the eye, who have large pupils, or who have thin corneas are not ideal candidates for LASIK surgery. For our patients who are not candidates for the LASIK procedure, there are alternative treatments available. While there are many alternatives to LASIK, the two most popular LASIK alternatives are PRK and LASEK.
The most common complications resulting from LASIK surgery can be traced back to problems with the corneal flap. Patients with exceptionally large pupils or insufficient corneal tissue are at an increased risk of flap complications. Because of this, patients with these issues are not candidates for LASIK. PRK is an excellent solution for a wide range of candidates because it completely eliminates these problems. While there are many similarities between PRK and LASIK, the most fundamental difference lies in how the cornea is accessed.
PRK and LASIK both involve the reshaping of the cornea with an excimer laser to improve vision. In PRK, the laser is applied directly to the cornea after the removal of some of the cells of its epithelium with a sterile brush. Once the epithelial layer has been removed, the cornea is reshaped using an excimer laser as in traditional LASIK. Because the entire epithelial layer is removed during the PRK procedure, recovery is longer and more difficult than with some other laser eye surgeries, including LASIK. While the recovery is more difficult, PRK patients who do not qualify for LASIK can achieve exceptional results and, in many cases, completely eliminate their need for eyeglasses and contact lenses.
Patients with the vision flaws myopia, hyperopia, or astigmatism who also have thin corneas or large pupils may benefit from LASEK. LASEK combines the benefits of both PRK and LASIK surgery. During the LASEK procedure, our Chicago LASIK specialist treats the epithelial layer of the cornea with alcohol for thirty seconds. By doing so, an epithelial flap is created. The epithelial flap is then folded back out of the way and the corneal tissue is treated with an excimer laser. This is done in the same way as in traditional LASIK. Once completed, the newly created epithelial flap is placed back onto the surface of the cornea.
The greatest advantage of using alcohol to create the flap in the cornea is the avoidance of certain flap complications altogether. Another advantage of LASEK is that the results achieved through the procedure are comparable to those achieved through traditional LASIK. Dry eye also occurs less frequently with LASEK than with traditional LASIK. Patients undergoing LASEK can expect a shorter healing time and less discomfort than with PRK. Because the cornea is not weakened from LASEK, the procedure may be ideal for fighter pilots, athletes, and other patients who are at an increased risk for trauma or injury to the eye.
Learn More about Popular LASIK Alternatives
If you would like to learn more about popular LASIK alternatives, including PRK and LASEK, or to schedule a consultation, please contact Chicago Cornea Consultants™ today.