While PRK may not be as widely known as LASIK surgery, it was actually the first type of laser vision correction available to the general public. Approved by the FDA in 1996, PRK is now a popular alternative for patients who don’t qualify for LASIK.

But what exactly is PRK and how is it different from LASIK? At The Nielsen Eye Center, we answer these questions to help inform your decision to receive PRK in Boston.

What is PRK?

PRK, or photorefractive keratectomy, is a form of refractive surgery that corrects nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism by using a laser to reshape the cornea, the transparent front surface of the eye.

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How does PRK work?

Like LASIK and other forms of laser eye surgery, PRK works by changing the shape of the cornea with an excimer laser. Reshaping the cornea corrects the refractive error by allowing light to enter the eye and be properly focused onto the retina, which results in clear vision.

What happens during PRK?

The PRK procedure is completed in three steps:

  1. After numbing the eye completely, the surgeon uses a special solution to polish the outer layer of the cornea (epithelium). This can also be done with a specialized surgical instrument.
  2. The surgeon uses an excimer laser to reshape the underlying corneal tissue to match your prescription.
  3. A soft contact is applied to act as a bandage while the epithelium regrows. This contact can be removed after a few days, when the epithelial cells start to grow back.

PRK Chart

How is PRK different from LASIK?

The primary difference between LASIK and PRK is that PRK does not require the creation of a corneal flap. Instead, the entire outer layer of the cornea (epithelium) is polished away. After that, the procedure is very similar to LASIK — a laser is used to reshape the underlying corneal tissue, and the refractive error is corrected.

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Is PRK better than LASIK?

PRK isn’t necessarily a better or worse procedure than LASIK. Some people who don’t qualify for LASIK may be better suited for PRK, and vice versa.

The primary advantage of PRK, however, is that the procedure eliminates the risk of corneal flap complications that can occur after LASIK. PRK also removes less tissue than LASIK, which can lower the risk of complications associated with reduced corneal thickness.

There are a few downsides to PRK — mainly, the recovery time. It takes longer for the epithelium to fully regrow after PRK than it takes for a corneal flap to heal after LASIK. Epithelial cell regeneration can take four to five days, versus the near-immediate improvement to vision that can result from LASIK. PRK recovery can also be more uncomfortable, as the eye is temporarily without its protective outer layer.

Despite their differences, PRK is often a recommended alternative for patients who don’t qualify for LASIK because of thin corneas or previous eye surgery.

What is PRK recovery like?

After your PRK procedure, you may not see improvements to your vision for several days or even weeks after surgery. The initial discomfort can also last a couple days, although it can be mitigated with over-the-counter painkillers. Full recovery can take anywhere from 2-3 months.

While PRK recovery does take longer than LASIK and can be a bit more uncomfortable, the end result is comparable — patients of both procedures report high levels of satisfaction and 20/20 vision or better.

Keep in mind that recovery after any surgery depends heavily on how well you adhere to post-surgical care instructions from your doctor. You are far less likely to develop an infection if you use eye drops as instructed after surgery. As long as you take care of your eyes and make sure they are well protected, your recovery should be as quick and painless as possible.

Who should get PRK?

Like LASIK surgery, candidates for PRK need to meet a few requirements before surgery:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be in good health
  • Have a stable prescription for at least 2 years
  • Not have any abnormalities on the surface of the cornea aside from standard refractive errors
  • Have a prescription within the following limits:
    • -14.00 diopters of nearsightedness
    • +6.00 diopters of farsightedness
    • 6.00 diopters of astigmatism

PRK Surgery, Boston

If you’ve been told that you are not a candidate for LASIK, but would still like to pursue permanent vision correction, PRK may be for you. The best way to know if you qualify is to meet with an eye care professional who can provide a comprehensive evaluation.

Here at The Nielsen Eye Center, our staff of board-certified ophthalmologists are happy to discuss your visual needs and recommend the best form of laser vision correction for you. Contact us to explore your options for PRK in Boston! We have offices in Quincy, Weymouth, and Norwell, and Norwood, MA. Schedule an appointment at a location nearest you today.