PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) is an alternative to LASIK vision correction that actually precedes LASIK. FDA-approved in the mid-1990s, PRK was celebrated as a laser procedure to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. When LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis) became available, its popularity soared and PRK became less known.
What many people do not realize is that PRK is still widely performed and it’s even recommended over LASIK for some patients. The vision outcomes of PRK are similar to LASIK – patients can still achieve 20/20 vision or better. So how does a doctor decide which procedure is best? It all depends on your eye health.
PRK may be recommended for patients who:
- Are nearsighted, farsighted or have astigmatism
- Are over age 21
- Have thin corneas (the clear, outer layer of the eye)
- Have a stable vision prescription
- Have a high degree of myopia (nearsightedness)
- Are not pregnant or breastfeeding
- Have a very active lifestyle (to reduce corneal flap complications)
Corneal thickness is one of the main reasons why PRK is often recommended over LASIK. Because LASIK involves making a flap on the cornea, this step in the process may cause complications for those with a thin cornea.
How Does PRK Work?
Rather than creating a corneal flap, the PRK process involves removing a very thin layer of the cornea (epithelium) to allow access to the underlying corneal tissue. This is the main difference between PRK and LASIK. A laser is used to remove minuscule amounts of corneal tissue in order to achieve a more desired shape. Every laser treatment is customized to correct your unique refractive error:
- Nearsightedness: This is also called myopia. When you are nearsighted, your distance vision is blurry. This is because your cornea is steeper than normal. The PRK laser removes minuscule amounts of tissue to create a flatter shape so light entering your eyes can land more directly onto your retina.
- Farsightedness: This is also called hyperopia. If you are farsighted, your up-close vision is blurry. This is because your cornea is flatter than normal. The PRK laser removes minuscule amounts of tissue to create a rounder shape so light entering your eyes can land more directly onto your retina.
- Astigmatism: You can have astigmatism with or without nearsightedness or farsightedness. Astigmatism occurs if your cornea is oval shaped, like a football, rather than the ideal round shape. The PRK laser removes minuscule amounts of tissue to create a rounder shape so light entering your eyes can land more directly onto your retina.
After the laser treatment, instead of replacing the corneal flap (as in LASIK), the eye needs time to regenerate the epithelial layer. This happens naturally over the course of 3-5 days.
There is no way to simply look at a person to know whether LASIK or PRK would be safe and effective. This determination requires a comprehensive assessment by an experienced LASIK doctor.
At Azul Vision, we offer free LASIK Consultations for anyone interested in LASIK. As we assess your eyesight and eye health, we may determine that PRK would be a better route for you. You can always expect to receive honest information from our team. Then you can decide if you want to proceed.
Find out if PRK is right for you.
Schedule a Free Consultation today!