Alternatives to LASIK

Dr. Russel Lazarus, August 5, 2021

If you are thinking of LASIK eye surgery, there are many alternatives that could be better suited for your eyes. 

Many people are seeking the best options for laser eye surgery, to enjoy the convenience of clear and natural vision or wearing the latest trendy sunglasses, all without relying on eyeglasses or contact lenses.

LASIK is by far the most popular laser eye surgery, but there are many alternatives that could be better for you.

What is LASIK?

LASIK is the most commonly performed laser procedure and is the option most individuals who wear glasses or contact lenses have heard of.

Laser in-situ keratomileusis, or LASIK, is a refractive surgery that uses lasers to reshape the cornea and treat visual problems caused by refractive errors, such as myopia (nearsightedness), astigmatism and hyperopia (farsightedness).

Although LASIK can effectively eliminate the need for eyeglasses or contact lenses for most patients, it’s not suitable for everyone.

There are a variety of additional options available to those who don’t qualify for LASIK surgery or who would benefit from a different type of laser surgery.


For people with thin or flat corneas, LASEK (laser-assisted subepithelial keratectomy) is one of the best alternatives to LASIK.

In LASEK a trephine is used to form an epithelial flap, which is then peeled back to reveal the Bowman’s layer of the cornea. The cornea is then reshaped with a single laser, and a protective contact lens is worn for several days to help the epithelium recover.

LASEK does not involve the removal of the epithelium.

Schedule an appointment with an eye doctor near you to discuss which laser eye surgery is right for you. 

SEE RELATED: Contact Lenses or Laser Eye Surgery?

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Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK)

PRK stands for photorefractive keratectomy, the first significant refractive laser eye surgery procedure.

In PRK, the surgeon removes the whole epithelium, the thin outermost layer of the cornea, before reshaping the cornea with the laser. Unlike LASIK or LASEK no flap is created.

The latest version of PRK is known as ‘Trans-PRK’, where an HD laser is used to remove the epithelium, then reshape the corneal tissue underneath,

After the treatment, the surgeon will apply a soft contact lens to the eye as a ‘bandage’ to protect it while the epithelium regenerates. During the healing phase, the patient will be given medication.

The PRK laser is similar to the one used in LASIK, the distinction is whether the epithelium is used to form a flap or if it is completely removed. PRK is an excellent option for those with thin corneas or who might benefit from a completely new epithelium.


Both nearsightedness and astigmatism can be treated by SMILE (small incision lenticule extraction).

A femtosecond laser is used to make a microscopic incision in the cornea.

Through this incision, the laser creates a thin disc between the layers of the cornea, which is then removed to change the cornea’s curvature and improve the eye’s focusing power.

These procedures are effective for people with moderate to severe vision impairment and who are not ideal candidates for LASIK.

Phakic intraocular lenses

For people with high degrees of refractive error, phakic intraocular lenses (IOLs), also known as implanted contact lenses or ICLs, can be the best alternative.

Phakic IOLs are surgically implanted lenses that are placed on the eye, either in front of or behind the iris, allowing you to keep your natural lens while focusing. The IOL lenses are made of a synthetic material that can be removed years later for cataract surgery.

Refractive lens exchange

Refractive lens exchange surgery (RLE) entails removing one’s normal lens and replacing it with an intraocular lens implant.

The procedure is similar to cataract surgery in that the lens of the eye is removed and replaced with a new one. The redesigned lens allows you to see clearly at both long and short distances.

RLE is a good alternative for patients with severe nearsightedness, farsightedness, presbyopia or astigmatism, or if the surgeon believes laser surgery is not the best option.

In both younger and older patients, RLE has a high success rate.

More people will be able to benefit from vision correction surgery thanks to these many options for laser eye surgery.

LEARN MORE:  Optical and Contact Lenses

If you are interested in one of these LASIK alternatives, contact an eye doctor near you.