PRK laser treatment explained
Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK) is a type of refractive surgery that uses lasers to correct vision defects like myopia (near-sightedness), hyperopia (far-sightedness) and astigmatism.
PRK surgery works by using of a laser to correct the curvature of the cornea’s surface to improve normal vision. This results in eliminating the patient’s reliance on glasses or contact lenses to see clearly.
PRK eye treatments predate LASIK surgery as a vision correction method. Although both treatments have been developed for the purpose of improving and restoring normal vision, they are very different. The main difference between the two procedures is LASIK needs a flap created on the surface of the eye to carry out the procedure.
Assessing your eligibility for PRK laser eye surgery
Before PRK surgery you will need to have an eye examination to check whether the procedure is suitable for you. The test will assess:
- The size of the pupils
- The moistness of the eyes, to see if there’s a risk of dry eyes
- The curvature of the cornea
- Thickness of the cornea
Additionally, a broader health assessment will be carried out by your eye doctor to determine if the procedure is right for you. This will include checking into your medical background and any medication you’re taking.
What is involved in PRK laser eye surgery?
There are many reasons why people choose to have eye correction surgery. For some it may be a convince factor, meaning they no longer want buy glasses or contact lenses. For others it may be an aesthetic or occupational necessity.
Many people like the idea of having eye correction surgery, but the procedure may seem daunting from a distance. That is why it’s so important to make sure you understand how the procedure works and set some expectations.
Generally, laser eye surgery work by changing the shape of the cornea to focus the light entering the eye. This makes it possible to create a more clear and focused image in the back of the eye, resulting in improved vision.
The PRK procedure involves:
- Using drops to numb the eyes
- An alcoholic solution is place on the surface of the eye to help soften the cornea
- The surgeon smooths the surface of the cornea using a special surgical equipment
- An excimer laser is used to reshape the surface of the cornea
- A lens like bandage is placed on the cornea to protect the eye as it heals
Benefits of PRK laser eye surgery
- No discomfort during the procedure thanks to the use of anaesthetic drops
- Better for the stability of the cornea
- Less risk of dry eyes
- No flap incision
- No flap complication
During consultation, your surgeon will go over in detail the benefits of PRK over other types of laser eye surgery. Depending on your circumstances a different procedure may be advised.
Who is PRK laser eye surgery for?
PRK surgery is ideal for people who have thin corneas, and those are not eligible for LASIK. PRK is also a good alternative for patients who cannot have surgeries that require the creation of a flap to carry out the procedure.
After your PRK surgery and recovery
After the procedure, you will not be able to drive so a designated driver will need to be arranged to take you home. Before being discharged from the hospital or clinic you will be given some time to rest.
You are going to experience some mild irritation and discomfort after surgery but this can be managed comfortably with pain relief medication. Your surgeon may also prescribe eye drops, post-operative antibiotic drops and anti-inflammatory agents, for additional comfort, reduced swelling and a speedy recovery.
Like any other medical procedure, it’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions and attend any follow-up appointments to achieve optimal results.
PRK recovery time generally takes longer than other laser eye surgery procedures, like LASIK. Initial improvements in vision can take anywhere between a few days to a couple of weeks after the surgery. Patients can usually start driving after a couple of weeks but visual stability and clarity can take up to 6 months.
PRK laser eye surgery risks and complications
PRK laser eye surgery is a low risk procedure, but like most medical procedures there are some risks and complications that may occur.
- Temporary discomfort like mild irritation and light sensitivity
- Visual disturbance like blurry vision (usually temporary)
- Dry eyes. Can be treated with eye drop and usually disappears once fully healed
- Under or over correction resulting in less than optimal sight correction
Before your procedure, your doctor will discuss potential risks and complications with you in more detail. This will help prepare you for all scenarios and set expectations.
What is the difference between PRK and LASIK surgery?
- The results of both procedures are similar, but the recovery time of PRK is much longer
- PRK has slightly higher risk of eye infection and blurry vision for the first few days after the procedure
- LASIK causes less discomfort for patients and vision stabilised quicker
- PRK surgery does not require a cornea flap to be created and is beneficial to those with thinner corneas
- There is no risk of cornea related complication with PRK.
Things to consider before PRK eye surgery
Deciding to have laser eye surgery requires a lot of careful thought and consideration. You need to really understand the reasons for choosing the procedure you want and set realistic expectations of the outcome.
Sometimes it may seem like an easy decision to take because the positives outweigh the negatives. However, it’s always important to make sure everything has been considered and your ready move on.
Here are some things you should think about:
- How long is the recovery time for your treatment?
- Do you need to take time off work?
- When will you start to see the results you expect?
- When will you fully recover and resume your usual activity?
- Are the results of the surgery permanent?
- What do you need to do to maintain the results of the procedure?
Start your search
You may or may not be ready for laser eye surgery, but it’s never too soon to reach out to a clinic or hospital, or a doctor, to start a conversation. A major part of your research into the procedure you’re looking for should include direct communication, and a consultation, with an expert. Feel free to contact multiple care providers and experts. The more information you can gather about your procedure and surgeon the better decision you’re likely to make.