What is PRK?
PRK stands for PhotoRefractive Keratectomy, and it is done with the same laser that is used to perform LASIK. The main difference is that no flap is created in PRK – it is the corneal surface that is reshaped with the laser.
At Focal Point Vision in San Antonio, we offer patients PRK as an alternative to traditional LASIK surgery.
How is PRK different from LASIK?
Again, in PRK no corneal flap is created, so one laser is used instead of two. With anesthetic drops in place, the surgeon gently removes the thin surface layer of the cornea (the epithelium). Then the laser is used to reshape the surface of the cornea to correct vision, just as it does in LASIK surgery. A special contact lens is placed after surgery to reduce pain and protect the cornea as the epithelium heals.
The fundamental differences between LASIK and PRK are a longer recovery time and more discomfort with PRK. This is because the epithelium needs 3 to 5 days to regrow and cover the surface that was treated by the laser, and 2 to 4 weeks to become smooth and clear.
If PRK is more painful than LASIK and has a longer recovery, why would someone have PRK rather than LASIK?
PRK is a good option for certain patients who might not be ideal LASIK candidates. This includes patients with thin corneas and those with hobbies or professions that might put them at risk for trauma to the face (and therefore risk injuring a LASIK flap). Most members of the armed forces receive PRK, and anyone with a corneal thickness under 500 microns should consider PRK as well.
PRK is just as effective as LASIK for correcting nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. In general, the conditions and medications listed above that make people poor LASIK candidates also apply to PRK.
Another instance in which PRK is preferred is if a patient has already had LASIK and needs retreatment. In these situations, we do not like to re-lift the flap, so we treat the surface using PRK. These patients generally do not have the discomfort associated with a primary PRK treatment, but the visual rehabilitation remains 2 to 4 weeks.
Is the procedure or the recovery more painful than LASIK?
The procedure is slightly shorter than LASIK and is not painful. After surgery, because the epithelium is removed, there is in general more pain than after LASIK – typically mild to moderate for the first 3 or 4 days after surgery until the epithelium heals under the contact lens. The follow-up schedule is the same as for LASIK.
What will my vision be like after surgery?
Vision is blurry for 3 to 5 days after surgery while the contact lenses are in place and the epithelium is healing. Clear vision is expected when the contact is removed and the epithelium is completely clear and smooth, which normally takes 2 to 6 weeks.
Contact Nadja Mobley to set up your complimentary consultation to determine if you are a candidate for PRK.