PRK: An Alternative to LASIK

Before doctors perfected LASIK’s corneal flap method in the last decade, the laser vision correction of choice was PRK, or photorefractive keratectomy. This procedure has also been called LASEK. LASEK involves lifting the epithelial layer, rather than removing the outer layer of the cornea.

Our surgeons offer PRK as an alternative for patients who can’t have LASIK due to thin corneas, loose corneal surface cells, or corneal irregularity. Like LASIK, it uses an excimer laser to treat nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Unlike LASIK, PRK/LASEK is performed on the surface of the cornea, rather than on the inner corneal layers.

How Do I Prepare for the PRK Procedure?

If you are undergoing a PRK procedure, you’ll need to take a few steps to prepare. At our office, you will receive a detailed list of instructions to follow. 

If you are prescribed any medicated eye drops to assist with your recovery, make sure to fill the prescription in the days before the procedure. Having your medication on hand makes it easier to go straight home for your recovery with no additional hassle.

If you wear contact lenses, it’s best to stop doing so for several days or weeks before your appointment. This can prevent potential irritation or dryness in the eyes as well as changes to your eye shape. On the day of your surgery, eat a regular meal, but avoid any excess caffeine. Make sure to wash your face thoroughly and avoid wearing makeup or skin creams. 

What to Expect During PRK/LASEK

Upon arrival at our office on the day of your surgery, we will administer eye drops to numb the area as well as antibiotic eye drops and a prescription medication to calm your nerves. Once you are properly anesthetized, we’ll gently place a speculum on your eye to ensure that it stays open during the procedure.

The surgeons at SightMD will examine your eyes before surgery to determine how much laser ablation (or tissue removal) you require. To do this, we use the iDESIGN WaveScan System to analyze the eye and create a “map” of your unique visual system.

Using this information, we are able to create a computerized guide that precisely directs the PRK laser when our eye doctor surgically reshapes your cornea. Using the iDESIGN WaveScan System allows the most precise results possible and eliminates the possibility of most human error.

During PRK/LASEK surgery, our skilled doctors use computer-controlled pulses of ultraviolet light to vaporize very thin layers of corneal tissue. Though the changes are microscopic, they are enough to sufficiently flatten the cornea (for patients with nearsightedness), steepen the cornea (for farsightedness), and/or smooth out corneal irregularities (for astigmatism). The surgery itself takes about one minute per eye.

After the excimer laser has reshaped the curvature of the cornea’s surface, a contact lens bandage will be placed on the cornea. This helps protect the eye while it is healing

What kind of pain will I feel during PRK?

You will not feel any pain during the procedure. At most, you may feel slight pressure on your eye. PRK is not performed on both eyes at the same time. One eye will be finished, and then the next one will be completed. Some patients prefer having PRK on both eyes on different eyes, but it’s more common to have the procedure on both eyes on the same day.

Can I mess up PRK/LASEK by blinking?

Like LASIK, there’s no way you can mess up the results by blinking. Having the speculum in place helps keep your eye where it needs to be. The laser is used to gently reshape the cornea. The laser automatically tracks and centers on your eye. This adds to the safety of the procedure.

Are There Any Risks Associated with PRK?

If you are recommended to undergo PRK surgery, you’ll likely obtain more benefits from the procedure than significant concerns. However, in some cases, patients experience side effects from their PRK surgery. The most common side effects include:

  • Double vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Loss of vision that can’t be corrected with the use of glasses or contacts
  • Changes to night vision, including halos or glares
  • Vision that declines over time

Before you undergo the PRK procedure, our trained surgeons will discuss any risks you may encounter due to the treatment. 

What Is the Recovery and Aftercare for the PRK Procedure?

PRK has a slower recovery time than LASIK, which makes protecting your eye extremely important! On average, it takes the eye about four or five days to grow new epithelial cells. It’s amazing what the human body is capable of!

Immediate recovery from a PRK procedure lasts up to ten days. You’ll need to take pain medication for moderate pain. You may be prescribed medicated eye drops. Over-the-counter pain medicines such as ibuprofen may also help. 

Ensure that you do not remove the bandage protecting your cornea. The dressing must be removed by one of the experienced surgeons at our practice. It is usually safe for the surgeon to remove after five days. 

You should be able to work and resume most activities after a week, but your vision will continue to be compromised for up to a month. Any activities you engage in should be safe and not cause any significant strain to your vision. Avoid using makeup and face creams on the healing eye for up to four weeks.  

Will I Need to Wear Sunglasses After PRK?

During recovery following PRK surgery, you’ll need to be extremely careful with your eyes. When outside, wear sunglasses with UV protection. If you plan on doing activities such as yard work or swimming, you’ll need to wear specialized goggles designed to protect your eyes from debris that may interrupt the healing process. 

The knowledgeable doctors at our practice can help you identify appropriate eyewear to use following a PRK procedure.

What results can I expect after PRK?

Though it may take some time, life after PRK means clearer vision! In fact, most patients who get PRK achieve 20/20 vision, if not better.

Depending on the severity of your corneal issues before PRK, patients may still need to wear glasses or contacts after PRK. The upside to this is you’ll have a much lower prescription!

Like LASIK, PRK cannot treat presbyopia. Presbyopia is an age related condition that requires the use of reading glasses to see at far and near distances. Presbyopia involves muscles in the lens becoming less flexible, while PRK/LASEK concerns reshaping the cornea.

Are the Results of PRK Surgery Permanent?

Results from PRK surgery are permanent. People who undergo the procedure often experience significant improvement in their vision. However, surgery cannot prevent the natural aging process. In some cases, your vision may decrease over time as changes to your vision occur.

Ready to schedule a consultation for vision correction? Contact the talented doctors at SightMD today! With 23 convenient locations to choose from, there’s a SightMD that will be best for you.

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