LASIK vs LASEK: What’s The Difference?


There are two main types of laser eye surgery used today. These are LASIK (Laser- Assisted- in-Situ Keratomileusis) and LASEK (Laser-Assisted Sub-Epithelial Keratectomy).

These procedures work to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism but with similar names and outcomes it can be confusing to understand how each procedure works before attending your initial consultation.

It is worth taking the time to research and read up on each procedure to fully understand the key differences between the two, as each carry unique indications and risks. This will ensure you can make an informed decision about which surgery may be right for you.


LASIK is the most commonly performed type of laser eye surgery in the UK and approximately 90% of all laser patients are treated using this method. The key advantages to LASIK are minimal discomfort and a rapid recovery time. Most patients can expect 20/20 vision the day after surgery.

Three Key Facts About LASIK Eye Surgery

  1. LASIK is the most commonly performed laser eye treatment, and is used to correct eye conditions such as nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.
  2. There are two types of lasers for this surgery: the first creates a thin protective layer over the corneal tissue which can then lift back, and the second reshapes the cornea before the flap is replaced.
  3. LASIK is a safe surgical procedure, and most patients see well enough to work and drive a car the day after surgery.

How does LASIK work?

LASIK works by creating a small, hinged flap in the cornea using a microkeratome, a small blade which exposes the corneal tissue. A laser then reshapes the underlying cornea (stroma) based on the patient’s pre-specified needs. The flap is then placed back to its original position and heals naturally without stiches or bandaging.

How does laser eye surgery work? Steps 1-3

How does laser eye surgery work? Steps 4-6

    • Step 1: A suction ring is placed over the eye to stabilise its position and provide pressure in order for the microkeratome to cut the flap properly.
    • Step 2: The microkeratome, a high-precision blade, is passed over the cornea and creates a flap as it goes.
    • Step 3: The corneal flap is carefully peeled back on its hinge to expose the deeper layer of the cornea.
    • Step 4: The laser cuts and reshapes the cornea.
    • Step 5: Afterwards, the corneal flap is repositioned.
    • Step 6: The healing process starts straight away.



LASEK is a procedure which combines methods from both LASEK and PRK. Approximately 10% of laser eye patients are treated with LASEK. This treatment is usually recommended for patients with active lifestyles (such as sportspeople or military personnel), patients with thin corneas, or patients who do not meet the strict criteria for Keratoconus and are therefore unsuitable for LASIK. Most patients can expect 20-20 vision 1-2 weeks after surgery.

How does LASEK work?

During the LASEK procedure no flap is created. An alcohol solution is used to loosen the very outer layer of the cornea (epithelium) and it is moved to one side. A laser then reshapes the underlying cornea using the same method as LASIK. Once the laser has corrected the vision according to the patient’s requirements, the epithelium is put back in place to heal. After surgery a ‘bandage contact lens’ should be worn for 3-4 days to ensure the treated eye surface heals correctly.


How does LASEK eye surgery work? 4-6

  • Step 1: A small blunt instrument called a trephine is used to make a shallow circular cut on the outer layer of the epithelium.
  • Step 2: A weak alcohol solution is then applied to the eye. This loosens the corneal tissue (epithelium).
  • Step 3: The corneal tissue (epithelium) is then moved to one side before the laser surgery is carried out.
  • Step 4: A cool beam from the laser is used to reshape the cornea.
  • Step 5: The epithelial flap is then folded back in place.
  • Step 6: Finally a ‘bandage’ contact lens put on to hold the tissue in place until it has fully rebonded with the surface of the eye.

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Comparing the cost of LASIK vs LASEK

This information was taken from reviews left by patients on Lasik Eyes

Procedure Average cost per eye
LASIK £2800
LASEK £2500

On average LASEK is a slightly cheaper procedure than LASIK but price shouldn’t be the motivating factor for a patient when considering surgery. As surgery is tailored to an individual patient additional aftercare may affect the final price.

“Surface treatments generally cost less to perform as only one laser is involved but this is balanced somewhat by additional costs for postoperative drugs in surface treatments. Policies vary between clinics on pricing in this regard.” – Bruce Allan, Moorfields Eye hospital

Treatments also vary in price according to the clinic’s location as well as the prestige and qualification of the surgeon performing the procedure. The key advice for patients considering surgery is to compare clinics, book multiple consultations and meet with the surgeon who will be carrying out the procedure beforehand.

You can find out about pricing in more detail in our costs guide.

The difference between LASIK and LASEK?

Procedure Time taken What does it treat Recovery time Cost Best for Typical results
LASIK 10 minutes per eye Shortsightedness (myopia)/ Farsightedness (hyperopia)/ Astigmatism 1-2 days for vision to stabilise £2800 per eye Most patients. Best suited to those with adequate corneal thickness 20 / 20 without glasses or contact lenses
LASEK 10 minutes per eye Shortsightedness (myopia)/ Farsightedness (hyperopia)/ Astigmatism 1-2 weeks for vision to stabilise £2500 per eye Those with thinner corneas. Those at risk of blunt trauma (sports people or military personnel) 20 / 20 without glasses or contact lenses

Although it is helpful to get an understanding of the differences between these two types of procedure, it is recommended that you book a consultation to discuss the options available to you at a clinic. Typically your ophthalmologist will assess your suitability for either procedure and recommend the right treatment for you based on your current prescription, eye health and lifestyle.

Patient testimonials

I had Lasek treatment as my corneas were thinner than average and originally I went to another place to have the treatment and they were unable to do the surgery, luckily Dr Gartry was able to do it. I had no problems following the treatment. The first few days are uncomfortable but the drops they give you help all of that. – Harriet Dobbs

My prescription was -6 in one eye, -3 in the other. I have worn glasses all the time since the age of 5, unable to wear contact lenses because of my high prescription. Mr Kumar performed lasik surgery on both of my eyes 2 weeks ago, I can now live my life free from glasses, sport is so much easier. I can’t wait to go swimming and surfing with my children and be able to see them. – Melanie Jane Jennnings

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