The Benefits of PRK Eye Surgery
Wondering if photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) is the ideal way to permanently sharpen your vision? PRK, the first type of laser refractive surgery to win approval from the US Food and Drug Administration, can help you improve your eyesight if you're not a good candidate for laser in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) surgery.
How PRK Improves Your Vision
Myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism occur when light rays don't bend (or refract) at the precise angle necessary to focus light on your retina as needed for clear vision. The light-sensitive tissue sends electrical messages to the brain, which changes the signals into recognizable pictures or images.
PRK surgery correctly aligns light rays on your retina by changing the shape of your corneas. The cornea is the clear, dome-shaped tissue over your iris and pupil. Your corneas protect your eyes and help focus light rays onto the retina.
Before PRK surgery, your ophthalmologist makes a map of your cornea. The map helps your doctor shape your cornea during PRK surgery. After numbing your eyes, your eye doctor removes the epithelium, the outer layer of the cornea, with a blade, brush, laser, or an alcohol solution. Once the epithelium is removed, your eye doctor reshapes your cornea with a laser. The epithelium usually grows back in a week or less.
You'll go home wearing special contact lenses that act as bandages while your eyes heal. You'll stay home and rest for a few days after your procedure and will need to avoid swimming and strenuous activities for a week or two. Over-the-counter pain medication will help control any pain you might have in the first few days after the procedure. Your vision will gradually improve after the procedure, although final results could take a few weeks to a few months.
PRK surgery offers these advantages:
- Clearer Vision. If you're ready to give up your contact lenses or prescription eyeglasses, PRK may be an excellent option for you. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, 90% of people who've had PRK surgery have 20/40 vision or better. Although PRK significantly improves vision, some people may need to wear glasses to read or drive at night.
- No Flap. LASIK, the most common type of refractive surgery, involves creating a flap in your cornea. The flap is temporarily pushed aside while your ophthalmologist reshapes the cornea. Although the flap soon heals, it could be dislodged or loosened if you box or participate in mixed martial arts or other contact sports. PRK may also be a better option if you work in construction or have another type of job that increases your risk of blows to the eyes or eye injuries.
- A Better Choice for Problem Corneas. Have you been told that your corneas are too thin for LASIK? PRK offers a safe alternative for many people who have thin corneas. Since only a thin layer of cells is removed during PRK, corneal thickness isn't as much of a concern. Your eye doctor may also recommend PRK if you have another problem with your corneas, such as corneas that are flatter or steeper than normal.
- Reduced Risk of Dry Eyes. The flaps made in the corneas during LASIK surgery could worsen dry eye symptoms, according to All About Vision. If your eyes are often dry, red and itchy, your eye doctor may recommend PRK surgery instead. Some people do develop dry eye after PRK surgery, but the symptoms may improve as the eyes heal.
- Sharper Vision After Other Eye Surgeries. PRK is often used to improve vision after another type of eye procedure. PRK could sharpen your vision if you're not satisfied with your LASIK results, or may be used to enhance vision after cataract surgery or a corneal transplant.
You may be a good candidate for PRK surgery if you are 18 or older, don't have a disease that would slow healing, and have a stable prescription. If your eyeglass or contact lens prescription has changed in the last year, refractive surgery won't be recommended.
Would you like to find out if PRK is a good choice for you? Contact our office to schedule your appointment.
American Academy of Ophthalmology: What Is PhotorefractiveKeratectomy (PRK)?, 4/25/2023
All About Vision: What Is PRK?, 8/13/2020
NCBI: StatPearls: Photorefractive Keratectomy, 7/18/2023
WebMD: Photorefractive Keratectomy Eye Surgery, 2/21/2022