LASIK vs. PRK: What is the Difference?Author: Dr. William Tullo
March 1, 2014
PRK - Photo Refractive Keratectomy
Photo refractive keratectomy (PRK) is a type of laser eye surgery designed to correct vision problems like nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. PRK came before another laser procedure called laser-assisted-in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK), but PRK is still performed frequently and regularly today. LASIK has the same overall effect as PRK—it is just a slightly different way to correct vision. Both surgeries work by changing the shape of the cornea.
PRK vs LASIK - What are the differences?
In LASIK, an eye surgeon makes an incision (with either a laser or a blade) in the cornea to create a flap of tissue. The flap of tissue is lifted so the laser can be applied to reshape the inner layers of the cornea. The computer-controlled surgical laser carefully reshapes the layers of the cornea to repair imperfections in curvature that lead to distorted vision. The corneal flap is then put back in place and heals over the reshaped part of the cornea in a few days.
In PRK, the eye surgeon does not create a flap of corneal tissue. Instead, the outer layer of the cornea is removed to expose an area for a laser to reshape. This makes PRK a better choice for people whose eyes meet certain criteria, such as having thin corneas or chronically dry eyes.
The most significant differences between PRK and LASIK are the initial discomfort and the speed of visual recovery. Recovery from PRK takes a little longer than from LASIK because the outer layer of the cornea needs time to heal.
During this recovery time, a PRK patient is given prescription eye drops (antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drops) to promote healing and to reduce discomfort after eye surgery. The drops are normally prescribed for several months following surgery. PRK patients can expect it to take one to three days for the discomfort, blurring and other post-surgical effects to subside, and it will take up to six months for vision to reach absolute peak acuity and clarity.
LASIK recovery is much faster. The discomfort following LASIK surgery is usually mild and short term. While most patients report seeing normally within several hours after the procedure, their vision continues to improve gradually for several months before reaching peak quality.
Both surgeries are safe and effective and carry a very high rate of patient satisfaction. Choosing between PRK and LASIK is a decision best made in consultation with a trained eye doctor who specializes in laser eye surgery. The good news is that history has shown that whichever you choose, you’re likely to be very pleased with the outcome.