When seeking laser treatment for eyes, there are two options: LASIK and PRK. Both have the same intention – to correct vision problems – and are similar in practice, yet have some distinct characteristics. So, it’s important to sit down with your ophthalmologist and discuss the options before selecting which procedure is best for you.
LASIK is the laser treatment for vision problems that Americans are most familiar with, and it’s performed hundreds of thousands of times each year.
The other option, which can be more suitable for some patients, is PRK, or photorefractive keratectomy. Each of the procedures uses similar tools, and the length of time in the eye surgeon’s chair is virtually the same.
Here’s a closer look at the differences and similarities in the two procedures:
What is LASIK?
LASIK involves creating a thin flap on the cornea to allow the tissue beneath it to reshape. The flap will eventually secure itself back into position on the eye.
What is PRK?
PRK leaves the eye exposed. The outer layer of the cornea is removed entirely before reshaping, and that outer layer eventually will grow back.
Things to Consider when Choosing LASIK Versus PRK
Patients with poorer vision – a corrective prescription that’s -8.00 or higher, for example – often fare better with PRK, because the flap in LASIK requires the patient to have enough healthy cornea after reshaping. Thin corneas are often found in patients with poorer vision.
Recovery time is slightly different in the two procedures. Patients who choose LASIK can usually see clearly within a few hours after surgery. Because the surface of the cornea is removed entirely with PRK, patients who choose that option usually take slightly longer to heal, and unlike with LASIK, will experience some pain post-surgery.
Patients who choose PRK are usually about 70 percent healed after seven days, and 90 percent healed after one month. With PRK, patients can’t drive a motor vehicle for at least a week.
Athletes or people who are extremely active often choose PRK over LASIK because there’s no corneal flap with PRK, thus no risk of damaging it while playing sports. Once the eye is completely healed after PRK, it’s anatomically normal, and so sports and recreation pose no risk of further injury.
While it’s important to choose the procedure that best fits your particular vision problem, budget can play a role in choosing LASIK versus PRK. Because of the creation of a flap, which is an added step in the surgery, LASIK typically costs more than PRK.
Recovery procedures for PRK are more involved than for LASIK treatment. While LASIK patients are instructed not to rub their eyes for a few days after surgery, patients recovering from PRK must be even more diligent about their eye care. Patients are instructed to stay out of bright sunlight for at least six weeks. Unprotected sun exposure can cause hazy vision in PRK patients.