PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) is a laser vision correction procedure used to treat nearsightedness, farsightedness and/or astigmatism. Similar to LASIK, the goal of PRK is to eliminate or reduce a patient’s dependence on glasses and contact lenses. Both procedures work by reshaping the cornea (the clear part of the eye) so that it can refract light rays correctly and improve vision. While LASIK and PRK might appear very similar, there are several major differences between these two procedures.
Our PRK surgeons use excimer laser platforms that incorporate advanced wavefront technology. This technological breakthrough allows them to create a detailed, unique 3-D map of your eye. The map is used to program the excimer laser so that it delivers a very precise, highly customized treatment according to your unique vision correction needs.
PRK laser vision correction procedure usually lasts less than 10 minutes. First, our surgeons administer numbing eye drops and place special retainers on the eyes to keep your eyelids from moving. Next, you will be asked to fix your gaze on the target while our surgeons apply the laser to reshape the corneal surface. The actual laser application usually takes approximately one minute for each eye. If your prescription is higher, it might take slightly longer.
During a LASIK procedure, our surgeons create a tiny flap in the cornea and then fold it back to access the underlying corneal tissue. However, in a PRK treatment no flap is created. Instead, the surgeons completely remove the epithelium (surface tissue of the cornea) and then treat the exposed corneal tissue with an excimer laser.
After reshaping the corneal tissue, our surgeons place a soft contact lens over the treated area. The lens serves as a bandage while the epithelium grows back. This process typically takes three to five days. Due to the fact that PRK involves a greater amount of tissue healing than LASIK, PRK patients often experience mild discomfort, such as eye irritation, watering and light sensitivity, for several days following the surgery. Protective lenses, eye drops and pain medication are commonly used to ease these symptoms.
Vision improvement following PRK procedure is more gradual than after LASIK surgery. Typically, PRK patients obtain their best vision within three months after surgery, although sometimes it might take up to six months. However, the final outcomes for both procedures are similar, with most patients achieving 20/20 vision or better. A remarkable 95 percent of all PRK patients are able to see at least 20/40 without glasses or contact lenses (enough to pass the vision test for a driver’s license).
While PRK might be slightly less convenient than LASIK, there are several reasons why many patients choose this treatment. Perhaps the most important reason is the fact that many patients who do not qualify for LASIK can be treated effectively with the PRK procedure. For instance, people with thin corneas, large pupils and certain corneal scars usually are not candidates for LASIK, but they often qualify for PRK.
Another major advantage of PRK is the low risk of complications associated with this procedure. This is because PRK does not involve the creation of the corneal flap and thus eliminates any flap-related complications, such as flap dislocation and infection under the flap. This is the reason why many eye surgeons recommend PRK over LASIK for some patients considering laser vision correction.
While PRK can help many patients achieve remarkable vision correction results, this procedure is not a cure-all. If you are severely nearsighted, farsighted or suffer from such conditions as glaucoma, keratoconus or diabetic retinopathy, you might not be a candidate for PRK. Only a one-on-one consultation with one of our experienced eye surgeons can help you determine if you could benefit for PRK or any other vision correction procedure. To learn more about this procedure and schedule a consultation with one of our surgeons, please visit our contact page.
In addition to providing PRK to patients in Tennessee and Alabama, Eye Health Partners also helps Birmingham, Gadsden, Mobile, Montgomery, Nashville and Huntsville LASIK patients achieve rewarding vision correction results.