LASIK (Laser Assisted in-Situ Keratomileusis) is a laser eye surgery where a flap of the outer eye is cut out by a blade known as a microkeratome. In some surgeries that you might have seen or heard about, it may look like a can opener, but this is simply a circular blade. In some other instances, a laser can be used for greater accuracy, but would result in a slightly more expensive procedure. In any case, this flap is cut out so that a laser can burn the inner layers of the eye. This reshapes the eye so that light rays can focus on one point on the retina, which results in a clear, undistorted image.
In an actual LASIK procedure, a sort of retainer like tool is placed onto the operated eye in order to hold the eyelids open. Afterwards, the surgeon squeezes some eye drops in, to numb the eyes prior to the surgery, to prevent the eyes from becoming dry and also to act as an antibiotic. The surgeon will then proceed to operate on the eye with the blade or laser, and then pull the flap away to use the laser on the inner layers of the eye. You will then see flashing lights which should last about 1 minute. After that, the surgeon will replace the flap back onto the eye. Throughout the whole procedure, the surgeon is continually rewetting your eye with the drops and smoothing the outer surface of the eye. Because numbing drops were instilled into your eye, you should not feel pain throughout the entire procedure. The most intense sensation that you will ever feel is pressure on your eye when the surgeon is cutting the flap.
On the other hand, LASEK (Laser Assisted Epithelial Keratomileusis) is also a laser eye surgery very similar to LASIK. It is actually a variation of PRK surgery, but instead of direct laser energy, a flap of the most outer layer of the eye, known as the epithelium, is cut out. Prior to this, the eye surgeon would ordinarily add numbing drops to your eyes, followed by putting in the retainer to hold your eyelids open. The surgeon would then proceed to cut open the corneal epithelium and add an alcohol solution to your eyes in order to loosen the edges. Once it is sufficiently loosened, the eye surgeon would pull back the flap after which the laser would then be fired into the eye, just like in LASIK surgery. Once this is done, the surgeon would add eye drops to rewet then eye, smoothen the eye and then replace the epithelial flap back onto the eye.
To conclude, the debate of LASEK vs LASIK eye surgery all comes down to whether or not you are eligible to LASIK surgery in the first place. This is because LASEK surgery has quite a long recovery time, even longer than PRK, and often suggested as a second option if the patient isn't eligible for LASIK eye surgery.