Is it Worth it to Have LASEK?
When you’re considering any elective medical procedure, you need to know the risks, and weigh them against the benefits. The choice of whether or not to have an elective procedure is very personal, and every person will make their choice differently. Here, we’ll discuss the major risks and benefits of having laser-assisted sub-epithelial keratectomy (LASEK).
LASEK is a procedure in which lasers are used to reshape the cornea, the clear outer part of the eye. This changes the way the cornea focuses light, which can improve vision. LASEK is similar to LASIK, and is often confused with it, though there are differences in the way the procedure is performed. For more on what it’s like to have LASEK, please see Laser-Assisted Sub-Epithelial Keratectomy (LASEK): the Procedure and Recovery.
Please note that this page is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for qualified, individualized medical advice. You should discuss your potential elective procedure with your own doctor(s), including your primary care physician and the provider who will perform your procedure if you decide to proceed.
Any treatment has risks, and it’s important to be aware of them so that you can weigh them against the benefits. The main risk of LASEK is disturbances in the vision. Some patients see halos or starbursts around lights, particularly at night; this may interfere with the ability to drive at night. Some also experience “ghosting,” or double vision, which is also more common at night. The experience of hazy vision is more common with LASEK than with LASIK, particularly in the days after surgery, as the corneal epithelium (the outer layer of the cornea) must heal back onto the eye after LASEK.
There is also the risk that LASEK will not adequately correct your vision. While many LASEK patients end up with better vision after the surgery than before, some still need glasses or contacts, just with a prescription that isn’t as strong. Additionally, some patients experience a deterioration in vision after LASEK. The laser may overcorrect your vision, or may induce astigmatism, which is a condition in which the cornea is curved more in one direction than the other. In some cases, the vision after surgery may not be able to be corrected with glasses or contacts, meaning that the corrected vision is worse than before LASEK.
There may also be other problems with the eye. Because the eye is being cut, infections of the eye can result. There may also be swelling and pain in the eye. The cornea may also become misshapen or very thin. An advantage of LASEK over LASIK is that LASEK does not create a corneal flap, so there is no risk of corneal flap complications. Still, blindness can result from LASEK surgery, and some patients require corneal transplants to be able to see again.
There may be production of excessive tears, but more commonly, patients have dry eyes after LASEK. This may be uncomfortable and may interfere with vision. The dry eyes usually resolve after the healing process is complete (three to six months), but sometimes, this symptom is permanent.
LASEK is an irreversible procedure. It’s important to consider this carefully before deciding to have the procedure performed on your eye(s).
While LASEK does have risks, its benefits are also significant, and the majority of people who have LASEK or other laser eye surgery are satisfied with the outcome. LASEK offers people who must wear glasses or contacts freedom from the hassle of these devices. With glasses, people may be restricted from participating in certain types of activities, particularly sports; LASEK may allow them to do the things they love. Additionally, many find wearing glasses uncomfortable on the bridge of the nose or tops of the ears, and many also don’t like the look of glasses. Contacts are uncomfortable and easy to lose, and some people are unable to tolerate contacts due to certain features of their eyes. Additionally, for those with very strong prescriptions, contacts may not even be possible. For those who can’t wear contacts, LASEK and similar surgeries offer the only potential route to be free of glasses, and able to participate freely in the activities they choose.
The cost for LASEK is around $2,000 per eye. This cost varies depending on several factors, including the region and the particular surgeon. You should check with the provider(s) you’re considering to determine the exact cost. Keep in mind that financing is often available. For more detail, visit our Laser-Assisted Sub-Epithelial Keratotomy (LASEK) Cost page.