Getting corrective vision laser surgery can be a life-changing experience. After years of wearing glasses and contacts, waking up with clear vision is almost blissful. However, even though most laser surgery is collectively referred to as LASIK, there are some other procedures that produce similar results, including PRK.
What's the difference between LASIK and PRK? Here's what you need to know.
What is PRK?
PRK, or photo refractive keratectomy, was the pioneer vision correction surgery that came before LASIK. It involves removing a part of the cornea and performing the corrections with a laser, and then allowing the removed portion to gradually repair itself. LASIK provides the same results, but instead of removing a portion of the corneal tissue, the surgeon instead cuts a small flap, lifting the tissue up and then setting it back in place after the laser corrections have been made.
Why does this small difference matter?
Even though the difference between these two procedures may seem small to you, there are several reasons why either LASIK or PRK might be a better choice for you. The main advantage of LASIK is faster recovery time. Because you don't have to wait for the eye to repair itself gradually, you'll have better vision with less pain and in less time. Your vision will steadily improve over the months following the surgery, but your discomfort will be minimal, and you should be able to use your eyes within a couple of days following the surgery.
With PRK, the recovery time is more painful and takes longer. You have to wait for the cornea to heal itself. Your vision will remain impaired for longer. However, even though the recovery is less than ideal, there are some reasons why PRK can have an advantage over LASIK:
- It's better for people who might have dry eyes or thin corneas. LASIK can make chronic dry eye worse. If people have thin corneas, the flap method may not be possible without harming the eye. For people with specialized eye conditions, PRK provides the ability to still correct vision.
- It may be more effective for combat military members or civil service occupations. The small, thin cut to the cornea leaves a tiny scar. This scar is normally not a problem in daily life. However, it becomes a weak point in the eye. Military members who might be exposed to extreme concussive force often choose PRK because even though the recovery time takes longer, there is no scar after healing is complete. In a serious combat situation where a person may experience extreme external pressure to the eye, there will be no chance of rupturing the tiny weakness left behind after LASIK.
- The correction ability can vary. Some eye doctors may choose to recommend PRK if you need more complex correction. The space where the corneal tissue has been removed sometimes allows for greater manipulation with the laser, which can be helpful in correcting problems like astigmatism. Only your eye doctor can let you know for sure which procedure would be the most effective for your particular vision problem.
What's the result?
As far as producing long-lasting results, neither procedure is superior to the other. You can have perfect or better-than-perfect vision with PRK or with LASIK. In either procedure, once the initial recovery is complete, you'll consistently wake up in the morning with slightly better vision than you had the day before, until the eye fully heals over the course of several months.
For more information about LASIK, contact a surgeon in your area who can provide you with the details of pros, cons, and complications.