If you live with nearsightedness, several procedures can improve your vision. But each approach has benefits and risks, so you’ll want to work with an eye doctor to find the right option.

Nearsightedness, also called myopia, is a very common eye condition that makes it harder to see things in the distance.

This happens because the eye can’t refract light properly. Instead of focusing light on the retina, it focuses light in front of it. It’s usually caused by the eyeball growing too long from front to back, or a misshapen cornea or lens.

Nearsightedness affects an estimated 23% of the world’s population.

Though you can correct nearsightedness with glasses or contact lenses, laser eye surgery offers a more permanent option.

Here’s a closer look at the most common types of laser surgery for nearsightedness.

LASIK is the most popular eye surgery for treating nearsightedness. It involves reshaping your cornea to correct refractive issues.

During the procedure, an eye surgeon will use a laser to slice through the top layer of your cornea, creating a flap. Next, they’ll reshape the inner tissue of the cornea for optimal vision before sealing it back up. This reshaping allows light to refract properly, resulting in clearer vision.

The results of LASIK are almost immediate, with some people noticing a significant improvement in their vision just a day after surgery.

The recovery process takes a few days, during which you might experience a minor burning sensation around your eyes.

While LASIK has the shortest recovery time compared with other options, it also can come with the highest risk of complications. That’s because the flap created can cause issues with healing.

In a 2016 study of 273 LASIK surgeries, researchers found 19 flap complications. Flap complications may cause vision issues like:

  • blurriness
  • double vision
  • dry eyes
  • problems with patient comfort

It’s worth noting that the 2016 study involved resident ophthalmologists in training who didn’t have a lot of experience doing the surgery.

While the risk is very low, LASIK may cause blindness. Working with an experienced surgeon can help to minimize your risk of complications (more on this later).

PRK vision surgery is a type of surface ablation, which involves removing the top layer of corneal tissue (called the epithelium). It was created before LASIK and LASEK and remains a popular option.

During PRK, an eye surgeon applies an alcohol-based solution to the cornea’s outer surface to loosen it, making removal easier. Once the epithelium is removed, they’ll use a laser to gently reshape the remaining surface of the cornea.

PRK involves a longer recovery period than LASIK because the epithelium needs to grow back, which can cause some pain.

Your vision will improve within about a month and side effects will go away around this milestone as well.

Learn more about the differences between LASIK and PRK surgery.

Even though their names are just one letter apart, LASIK and LASEK are distinct procedures. LASEK is a type of PRK surgery.

As with PRK, during a LASEK procedure, the surgeon will use an alcohol solution to loosen the epithelium. Next, they’ll cut into the top layer of the cornea. But instead of just reshaping the inner tissue, they’ll use a laser to reshape and reattach the entire cornea.

LASEK is less popular than LASIK, partly because it has a longer healing time (about a month compared with a few days). As with PRK, the epithelium needs to grow back and this can be somewhat painful.

That said, both have a similarly high success rate for correcting vision. According to a 2017 review of research, the effectiveness of LASEK is about the same or slightly greater than LASIK for achieving at least 20/20 vision.

Epi-LASIK is a newer surgery modeled after LASEK and PRK. During Epi-LASIK, instead of using an alcohol solution and manually removing it, the surgeon uses a special mechanical device. The cornea is reshaped with a laser and put back.

Epi-LASIK currently isn’t very common.

As with LASEK and PRK, the initial recovery period is a bit slower than with LASIK. Still, the end result is roughly the same.

Due to the lack of a flap, there’s also a lower risk of complications.

The results of all of these surgeries are typically permanent.

Your vision will improve almost immediately or within a day following LASIK.

With LASEK, PRK, or epi-LASIK, you can expect your vision to improve within days, with full results occurring in a few months.

However, keep in mind that eyes and vision can change as you age, so your results may gradually change.

LASIK, LASEK, epi-LASIK, and PRK are all effective approaches for treating nearsightedness.

To find out which method is right for you, it’s best to speak with your eye doctor.

Some things to consider include:

  • Recovery period and complications: LASIK has the shortest recovery period, but also a slightly higher risk of complications due to the flap created. PRK typically has the slowest recovery period and more pain and discomfort during the healing process.
  • Your prescription: If you have a high degree of nearsightedness (called high myopia), experts often recommend LASIK. That’s because there’s a slight risk of haziness developing on the cornea for those with strong prescriptions that opt for PRK, LASEK, or epi-LASIK.
  • Price: LASIK tends to be slightly more expensive than the other procedures because it uses more complicated equipment. Keep in mind that since refractive eye surgeries are typically considered cosmetic, your insurance provider probably won’t cover them. You might be able to get discounts, though.
  • Keloids: If you have corneal keloids, you may want to avoid PRK.
  • Preexisting medical conditions: Talk with your eye doctor if you have an autoimmune or connective tissue disease, as there may be a greater risk of complications. You also can’t get laser eye surgery while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Eye type: Doctors often recommend PRK for those with thinner, rougher, or irregular corneas, since it’s less invasive to the corneal tissue than LASIK. Meanwhile, PRK may be a better option if you have dry eyes since it has a lower risk of worsening eye dryness. Meanwhile, LASIK may aggravate dry eyes.

Regardless of the procedure you choose, working with an experienced surgeon is key for minimizing the risk of postsurgery complications.

When looking for a surgeon:

  • Be wary of advertising claims: Some eye centers may guarantee that their procedures will provide 20/20 vision, with some even offering to refund your surgery costs if they don’t. As with any procedure, there’s never a guarantee that laser eye surgery will provide perfect results without complications.
  • Ask about potential risks and complications: A reputable surgeon will provide a thorough breakdown of the risks involved with the procedure you’re considering, and show you a handbook from the manufacturer of the laser device being used.
  • Get a second opinion: Before deciding on a procedure, consider talking with several surgeons about the benefits and risks of each option so you can make an informed decision.
  • Don’t prioritize cost over other factors: Insurance policies don’t always cover laser eye surgery, which can make it tempting to look for the lowest cost. Keep in mind that laser eye surgery results — and some of the potential complications — are permanent. While cost is a factor to consider, prioritize finding an experienced surgeon with a history of good results.

There are several laser eye surgeries that can effectively treat nearsightedness. LASIK is the most popular option with the fastest results. LASEK requires a slower healing process, but it also has a slightly lower risk of complications.

LASEK, PRK, and epi-LASIK are less popular methods, but may still be right for you. Talk with your eye doctor to determine the best option for you.