PRK, or photorefractive keratectomy, is a laser vision correction procedure designed to correct common visual refractive errors and reduce dependence on glasses and contact lenses. This treatment, performed by our experienced ophthalmologists in Salt Lake City, is a common alternative for patients who are not ideal candidates for LASIK. PRK is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and has helped countless individuals dramatically improve their vision. This technique offers essentially the same benefits that can be produced with LASIK surgery. For patients who would like to correct refractive errors such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism, PRK may be an ideal solution.
What are the benefits of PRK?
While LASIK is generally the most popular laser vision correction procedure in America, PRK has actually been around longer than LASIK and it may serve as a better option for certain patients. Some of the potential benefits of PRK include:
- Can serve as an alternative to LASIK for patients who have less corneal tissue or mild dry eye
- Does not require the creation of a corneal flap
- Reduces reliance on corrective eyewear
Since our doctors do not need to create a corneal flap during a PRK procedure, this treatment can often be advantageous over LASIK for individuals who are in the military, are involved in contact sports, or who otherwise engage in occupations or hobbies that risk injury to the eyes. With LASIK, an impact to the eye could potentially dislodge the corneal flap that was made during the procedure, whereas this risk is not associated with PRK surgery.
Am I a candidate for PRK?
Ideal candidates for PRK often include:
- Individuals wishing to correct refractive errors such as myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism
- Individuals who are at least 18 years of age
- Individuals who do not have any current eye diseases
During your initial consultation and eye examination, one of our eye doctors will talk with you about your goals and help you determine whether PRK is the best option for your needs.
What does the procedure involve?
The PRK procedure is typically a quick and effective form of laser vision correction surgery. Most patients report little to no discomfort during this procedure, although there may be some discomfort during the first 3-5 days following PRK. Instead of creating a corneal flap as done during LASIK surgery, the surgeon will use a diluted chemical solution to remove the top layer of the cornea (called the epithelium). Then, the WaveLight EX500 Excimer Laser will be utilized to reshape the cornea and correct the refractive errors. Although the procedure takes between 10 to 15 minutes, the actual laser correction stage of the PRK procedure typically takes only about 30 seconds to complete, sometimes less. To facilitate healing and comfort after treatment, a soft contact lens will be placed over the surgical eye to act as a bandage for 3-5 days. Over the next several weeks, follow-up appointments will be scheduled to monitor your progress.
What about recovery?
The biggest difference between LASIK and PRK is the recovery time. It is normal to experience some discomfort, grittiness, and light sensitivity during the first 3-5 days following PRK as the eyes heal. The bandage contact lens, artificial tears, and NSAID drop should help alleviate any pain. It is important to note that patients should not wear eye makeup until the contact lens is removed (usually after about five to seven days). Swimming pools and hot tubs should be avoided for two weeks, and water sources such as oceans and lakes should be avoided for one month after surgery.
While many patients achieve a noticeable vision improvement within one week, the results should continue to gradually improve over the days and weeks following PRK surgery. While the PRK recovery process is typically a bit longer than that of LASIK, the results should be the same as if you had LASIK surgery. PRK can ultimately be an excellent alternative to LASIK, helping patients attain a clearer view at a range of distances without the need for glasses and contacts.
For more information on PRK, or to schedule a consultation with one of our ophthalmologists, please contact The Eye Institute of Utah today.