Which is Better for me LASIK or PRK? - SightMD Skip to main content

March 10, 2023

By: Lisa Athwal, MD

Which is Better for me LASIK or PRK?

eye doctor consulting with patients

LASIK Eye Surgery and PRK are types of refractive eye surgery. They treat vision problems like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Both LASIK and PRK use a laser to reshape the cornea, the clear outer layer of your eye that focuses light so you can see clearly. The basic difference is:

  • PRK requires the surgeon to remove the surface cells of the cornea.
  • LASIK requires the creation of a small flap on the cornea to grant access to the underlying tissue.

Both procedures have pros and cons. Ask your doctor which one — LASIK or PRK — is right for you.

What Happens During PRK?

You have PRK in an outpatient surgery center. First, the doctor will use drops to numb your eye. Then the doctor will place an eyelid holder into your eye to gently hold your eyelids open during the procedure. The surgeon removes the top layer of your cornea with a blade, laser, brush, or alcohol-based liquid. Then, they use a laser to reshape your cornea. After surgery, your ophthalmologist will place a contact-lens-like bandage over your eye to allow it to heal, and to aid in your comfort following the procedure. PRK takes about 15 minutes for both eyes.

What Happens During LASIK Eye Surgery?

You get LASIK at an eye doctor’s office or outpatient surgery center. As with PRK, the doctor will use numbing drops in your eyes and an eyelid holder to gently hold your eye open. Using a laser, the eye doctor will create a small flap in the epithelium. The difference between PRK eye surgery vs LASIK is that, unlike PRK, the epithelium remains intact during LASIK. The flap is gently lifted. The same excimer laser that is used for PRK, is utilized to reshape the corneal tissue and address any refractive errors. The flap is then folded back into place, aligned precisely, and the surgery is complete. LASIK surgery should take less than 30 minutes for both eyes

How Do You Prepare for LASIK or PRK?

Your eye doctor will examine your eyes and check your vision before your procedure. They’ll also measure your cornea and pupil. You may want to stop wearing your contacts anywhere from a day to a couple of weeks before the procedure. The doctor can tell you when to stop, based on the type of contacts you have. Don’t wear any eye makeup or cream around your eyes on the day of your surgery. Make sure you have a ride home. You won’t be able to drive afterward.

What Are the Side Effects for LASIK or PRK?

As with any medical procedure or surgery, you should be aware of possible LASIK and PRK side effects. PRK vs LASIK surgery have some differences, but many side effects can be similar.

PRK Side Effects:

Your eyes will feel sore or scratchy for a few days. You might also notice halos around lights at night. If you get these problems, they won’t last long. Your eye doctor will tell you how to manage them. More serious side effects, like infections, cloudiness and scarring of your cornea, or vision loss, are extremely rare.

LASIK Eye Surgery Side Effects:

Your eyes may hurt, itch, or burn. Your vision might be blurry for a few days. Other possible, but less likely, side effects include:

  • Glare and halos around lights at night
  • Light sensitivity
  • Red patches in your eye
  • There’s a tiny chance you could get an eye infection or lose vision after LASIK, but this is extremely rare.

What Is the Recovery Like for LASIK or PRK?

Both PRK and LASIK have significant long-term benefits that outweigh the temporary discomfort of surgery. PRK vs LASIK recovery times are very different. Unlike PRK, LASIK eye surgery recovery can be as short as just a few hours. However, regardless of PRK vs. LASIK, complications can occur if you aren’t careful. Wear sunglasses and avoid rubbing your eyes after surgery.

PRK Recovery

With PRK, a special bandage, similar to a contact lens, is placed over the eye to help the surface layer of the cornea regenerate and heal. This special bandage lens is placed immediately after completion of the procedure. You may experience some blurriness, irritation, and sensitivity to light for a few days as the cornea heals. After a few days, the bandage will be removed. You will be given some pain medication to take for the first day or two after the procedure. You will also be using eye drops.

All in all, the initial recovery takes a few days. The vision stabilizes but is very functional after that initial healing. Although full recovery can take about a month, most patients can resume normal activities, including going back to work, after the bandage lens is removed. Your vision should slowly get better day by day throughout the recovery process.

LASIK Recovery

With LASIK, the hinged flap is simply realigned. Recovery from LASIK is a lot quicker than PRK, as most patients can resume their normal activities by the next day. Your vision can be dramatically better and functional before leaving the office.

You may experience some discomfort or mild burning for a few hours after surgery. You will be given some pain medication and eye drops to use after the procedure.

Who Is A Candidate For PRK & LASIK?

A candidate for eye surgery must meet the following requirements:

  • Above the age of 20
  • Has not experienced a significant change in their prescription for several years
  • Average pupil size of 5- 6 mm
  • Not pregnant or nursing

If you’re deciding between LASIK eye surgery vs PRK surgery, it is also worth noting that certain patients are not good candidates for the LASIK procedure. The following are conditions that would make you a candidate for PRK but not for LASIK:

  • Thin corneas
  • Large pupils
  • High potential for trauma near the eye
  • Though someone with an extremely high prescription is not disqualified, PRK may be recommended over LASIK

Laser eye surgery may not be an option for individuals with eye conditions like glaucoma or severe allergies, it’s always best to discuss this with your doctor and follow their recommendation.

How Much Does LASIK or PRK Cost?

Costs depend on your doctor and insurance. In general, LASIK costs about $2,200 per eye. PRK may be a few hundred dollars less because it’s easier and faster to perform.Some eye centers try to keep prices close so your doctor can offer you the best procedure for your eyes, without price being a concern.

How Will I Know If PRK Or LASIK Is Right For Me?

LASIK and PRK are equally safe, and both work well. Around 9 out of every 10 people who have one of these procedures have 20/20 or better vision afterward without the need for glasses or contact lenses.

We recommend speaking to your eye doctor to determine which option is the safest, and most effective for you. Your doctor can also further elaborate on the differences between LASIK and PRK. SightMD offers free consultations for both the PRK and LASIK procedures with their team of experts. To schedule your complimentary consultation contact us today!