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LASIK vs LASEK vs TransPRK What’s the difference?

Written by Mr Daniel Gore, Director of Refractive Surgery

7 June 2023
  • What is SMILE, LASIK, LASEK and TransPRK
  • Understanding surface laser treatments

The most common types of laser eye surgery that we offer at Moorfields Private are LASIK, LASEK and TransPRK. These treatments can reduce or eliminate the need for glasses or contact lenses and correct poor eyesight.

All of these techniques are performed using eye-drop anaesthetic on the cornea (-the clear window at the front of the eye), and a spring clip to allow you to blink safely during surgery. It is usual to operate on both eyes. The laser takes only a few seconds; the whole procedure takes 10 - 20 minutes depending on the type of laser treatment.


Small Incision Lenticule Extraction (SMILE) is a keyhole laser procedure in which a contact lens shaped small disc of corneal tissue is removed through a small incision.

Post-surgery, there are normally a few hours of mild discomfort, and most patients can return to work one day or so after the procedure.

The principal advantage of SMILE is it’s minimally invasive. SMILE is currently restricted to short-sighted prescription.

Learn more about SMILE eye surgery in London.


Laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) uses two lasers. The first is used to make a thin protective flap in the cornea.

The flap is then lifted up so that a second laser can reshape the tissue
beneath. The protective layer is then smoothed back and sticks in place without stitches. Similar to SMILE, the healing phase with LASIK is quick with very little discomfort for the patient, and the vison recovers fast with most patients able to work the following day.

LASIK is suitable for both short and long-sightedness

Surface laser treatments (LASEK and TransPRK)

These treatments are performed on the surface of the cornea and involve removal of the surface ‘skin’ layer at the front of the eye, with a laser to reshape the tissue immediately beneath.

The clear layer on the surface of the eye regrows over the first few days, smooths off to complete the visual recovery over the following few weeks. Vision is initially very blurred, and you’ll need to take up to a week off work - improvements in vision continue for several weeks. The eyes can be painful and sensitive to light for the first 24 - 48 hours following surgery. You will be given anaesthetic drops and additional pain killers to help during this period.

All surface laser treatments produce similar results and the only difference between them is the way in which the corneal skin layer is removed by your surgeon.

In LASEK (Laser Assisted Epithelial Keratomileusis), dilute alcohol is applied to loosen the skin layer first. TransPRK (Transepithelial PhotoRefractive Keratectomy) uses modern laser systems that are able to remove the skin layer as part of the reshaping treatment. The area of skin layer removal in TransPRK is reduced to the minimum required for reshaping the cornea beneath, shortening recovery time by one to two days in comparison with LASEK.

Surface laser treatments are suitable for short-sightedness and low far-sighted prescriptions.

Learn more

Find out more about laser eye surgery at Moorfields Private.

If you would like to know more about Moorfields Private Eye Hospital’s services or to book an appointment, please call our New Patients Team:

Freephone: 0800 3283 421

Alternatively, you can complete the enquiry form below and we will get back in touch with you.

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