PRK is a popular form of laser eye surgery. PRK stands for Photorefractive Keratectomy, and is a procedure that involves reshaping the cornea using laser. PRK is highly effective in reshaping the cornea to achieve 20/20 or better vision. More than 80% of patients find they have quality vision, and no longer need to wear glasses or corrective lenses.
PRK is different to LASIK or LASEK surgery, because it uses the laser to shape the top of the cornea, rather than underneath it. Unlike LASIK, there’s no need to slice the top of the cornea to form a hinged flap.
Generally, PRK laser eye surgery is most effective for patients with mild to moderate nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism. Generally, there are fewer complications, as there has been less disruption to the corneal surface. Occasionally, in LASIK surgery, the flap is cut completely off the cornea instead of leaving it hinged, and it’s also possible for the patient to rub the eye after surgery and dislodge the flap as it’s healing.
However PRK patients generally experience more pain than those undergoing LASIK surgery, and the discomfort may continue for several days. The eyes often feel irritated and watery, which can extend the healing period required. Also, PRK is unlikely to give instant vision improvement. Generally, 20/20 vision isn’t achieved for anything up to a couple of months. There are no guarantees that perfect vision will be achieved, and patients sometimes report seeing halos around images or being more sensitive to glare.
PRK and LASIK eye surgery both generally cost about the same, and the initial consultation is generally the same for both procedures. The eye surgeon will want a complete medical history, and conduct a number of eye tests to ensure the patient is in good health and their eyes are suitable for laser eye surgery. Then a procedure date can be set.
The actual laser procedures are slightly different. In PRK, the patients are administered a local anesthesia. Once that’s taken effect, laser beams are pulsed onto the top of the cornea. This continues until the cornea is reshapes as required. A bandage, which is similar to a contact lens, is placed on the eye, and stays in place for a number of days to facilitate the healing process. A number of follow-up visits to the eye surgeon are scheduled over the following months, and these visits are very important.
It can take several weeks for the patient’s vision to settle down, and during that time it can alternate between clear and blurry vision. Some patients will need to wear glasses, particularly at night. It’s generally recommended that eye drops be used to keep the eyes moist and reduce the risk of infection. Also, it’s not recommended that patients drive a motor vehicle for several weeks after the procedure. It will take at least 6 weeks for best vision to be achieved, and for some patients it may take as long as 6 months.
It’s very important that you choose an ophthalmologist who is very experienced in PRK laser eye surgery. Ask friends and family for referrals, visit several candidates, and always read all the fine print to make sure you understand all the costs and appointments involved in the surgery. It’s often wise to avoid practitioners offering big discounts or indulging in expensive advertising campaigns. Do your homework, and you should be happy with the result.