Two laser procedures to correct vision, Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK) and Laser In-Situ Keratomileusis (LASIK), provide similar treatments for refractive disorders. Both procedures involve a cool laser to reshape your cornea and take about 10 minutes per eye.
PRK and LASIK provide excellent results with a very low risk of complications. Both treatments leave 95% of patients with vision that is good enough to legally drive a car without glasses (20/40 vision). However, there are notable differences between the two surgeries.
The Corneal Flap
With LASIK, a special microkeratome is used to create a flap on your corneal tissue that remains attached by a hinge. This flap is then gently pulled back, and your corneal stroma is reshaped using a cool laser and computer-controlled pulses. Your corneal flap is then returned to its original position and held in place with your eye’s natural suction and sticky sugars. This helps decrease recovery time and your level of discomfort following surgery.
With PRK, no flap is needed. Instead, the front surface of your cornea is directly altered using an excimer laser. This is done by removing the surface layer called your corneal epithelium. This layer will regenerate several days following the procedure. As with LASIK, your corneal stroma is reshaped, restoring good vision.
The other main difference between PRK and LASIK is the recovery time. With LASIK, you should notice a difference in your vision the next day.
With PRK, you will not start to notice an improvement for at least three days; then, the recovery is gradual. Most patients fully heal between four and 12 weeks; for others it takes longer. The lengthy recovery period in PRK is due to the removal of your surface epithelium, which takes time to regenerate.
With its shorter recovery period, LASIK is the most popular surgery for refractive disorders today. However, not everyone is a candidate for LASIK. If you have thin corneas or corneal irregularities, you will probably be recommended for PRK. Also, certain professions such as law enforcement and military pilots cannot have LASIK. Some studies say that pressure changes may cause the corneal flap to become loose, yet the chance of this happening is slim.
If you are tired of your glasses or contacts and you live in Chicago or Arlington Heights, please contact the experienced Chicago area eye surgeon, Dr. Mark Golden, to discuss whether you are a candidate for LASIK surgery.