Lasik vs PRK: What’s the Difference?
Written by Dr. James Lehmann on 03/18/19
Corrective lenses are both a blessing and curse to those who need them. A blessing because without them many people would not be able to function normally. A curse because, well if you’re one of the over 60% of Americans who need glasses you already know why all too well.
Whether you wear glasses or contact lenses, no doubt you suffer some sort of discomfort or inconvenience because of your corrective lenses.
Because of this, you may be considering corrective eye surgery. It would be nice to kiss your corrective lenses goodbye for good!
But now you need to determine which procedure would be right for you. Let’s look at Lasik vs PRK and help you decide which option is best for your circumstances.
Anatomy of the Eye
First, let’s take a quick look at the anatomy of the eye important to these two procedures.
At their most basic eye problems like myopia (nearsightedness) and hyperopia (farsightedness) happen because the shape of the cornea is not compatible with the length of the eye. Both methods of eye surgery work by changing the shape of the cornea.
The cornea is a clear surface covering the colored part of your eye or iris. It consists of 5 layers of tissue. The stroma or middle layer composes 90% of the cornea’s thickness and is made up of collagen fibers. The very front of the cornea is composed of epithelial tissue, which is basically clear skin that protects the eye.
Like skin, this epithelial tissue will grow back if damaged. The collagen fibers in the stroma, however, will not. This is the tissue that is removed during corrective eye surgery.
What Is Lasik Eye Surgery?
The procedure that is Lasik eye surgery sounds pretty simple. The surgeon creates a small flap of the epithelial layer and folds it out of the way. The surgeon then uses precise pulses from the excimer laser to sculpt the collagen fibers that are now exposed.
Once the proper amount of tissue has been removed, the surgeon replaces the epithelial flap and the healing process begins. The patient may feel a bit of discomfort during flap creation, but this is minimal due to numbing eye drops that the surgeon places in the eye at the beginning.
The whole procedure takes about 5 minutes per eye.
Most patients can see immediately after the procedure, albeit the view is a bit foggy. This will continue to clear up as the epithelial flap heals.
Some patients experience an irritation or burning sensation similar to opening your eyes in a chlorinated pool. This may last for a few hours post surgery but clears up quickly.
What Is PRK Eye Surgery?
The idea behind PRK is essentially the same as Lasik. In fact, this procedure was the precursor to Lasik eye surgery.
Instead of creating a flap, the surgeon will actually remove the epithelial layer. Then go about the same reshaping of the exposed stroma layer as in Lasik. This procedure also only takes a few minutes per eye.
Once the cornea is reshaped, the surgeon places a clear contact lens over the front of the eye. This serves as a bandage to protect the exposed cornea until the epithelial layer can regrow.
It is necessary to wear the contact lens bandage for 4 to 5 days. During this time, the patient usually experiences significant discomfort and light sensitivity.
Immediately after the procedure, most patients can see well. But their vision will worsen during the healing process finally clearing up completely once all is fully healed. This can take up to 30 days.
Why Choose PRK?
With the quicker recovery time of Lasik, you may wonder why eye professionals are still performing PRK. As with most medical procedures, there are pros and cons to both.
PRK Pros and Cons
The PRK procedure allows for a shallower treatment of the cornea. This makes the procedure more suitable for patients with a thin cornea.
Also, the stronger the vision correction needed, the more of the cornea needs to be reshaped and removed. Thus, PRK is an option for patients with high prescriptions who don’t have enough cornea to work with to be a candidate for Lasik.
Since there’s no flap to worry about, there’s no risk of complications with that. However, the downside is that there is an increased risk of inflammation and infection overall.
PRK is generally several hundred dollars less per eye. While we count that as a pro for PRK, the price should not be a deciding factor when it comes to something as delicate and important as your vision.
Lasik Pros and Cons
The main advantage of Lasik over PRK is the shorter healing period and virtually no discomfort. The flap is what makes this possible.
However, not having a flap is what makes PRK a better option for some patients. Flap complications are rare with Lasik but can be eliminated with PRK.
For patients who may sustain trauma to their face-MMA fighters for instance-this is important. The flap will secure itself back to the eye, but will always remain. This leaves the eye more vulnerable to damage than before.
Again because of the flap, Lasik patients tend to experience more problems with ongoing dry eye issues. Also, as we already touched on, Lasik requires a slightly thicker cornea to be successful.
Lasik vs PRK
Now that you know a little more about Lasik vs PRK. Which one sounds like a better option for you? Obviously, there are many things to consider and you should consult with an eye professional.
To learn more about which procedure would benefit you best, feel free to contact us today. We have three convenient locations in Texas and top notch surgeons who can help you achieve the clear eyesight of your dreams.
Maybe now you finally can kiss your corrective lenses goodbye for good!