About 75% of American adults have some type of vision correction tool. Perfect eyesight is rare. If you wear glasses or contacts, you’re in good company.
But what if you’re tired of wearing corrective lenses? It might be time to consider eye surgery. Both LASIK (Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis) and PRK (Photorefractive Keratectomy) are viable options that can help you see perfectly again.
Now you have to decide between LASIK vs PRK. We’re here to help. Read on to learn about the differences between these procedures so you can make an informed choice.
First, let’s discuss the procedures of both LASIK and PRK. On the surface, any type of eye surgery seems scary, but how much of a difference is there between these two options? Is the difference noticeable to the person who’s going through the procedure?
Here’s a quick breakdown.
In LASIK, a special laser is used to create a thin flap on the cornea. The surgeon then lifts the flap, exposing the underlying corneal tissue, and uses an excimer laser to reshape the cornea by removing a small amount of that tissue.
The flap is then repositioned to act as a natural bandage. This allows the eye to heal without the need for clunky and uncomfortable medical bandages.
Unlike LASIK, PRK does not involve creating a corneal flap at all. Instead, the outer layer of the cornea (epithelium) is completely removed to expose the corneal stroma.
The doctor will then apply the excimer laser (the same one used with LASIK) directly to the cornea to reshape it. The absence of a flap is one major thing that distinguishes PRK from LASIK. Because there’s no flap, there’s no natural “bandage” to protect the eye during the recovery period.
Speaking of the recovery period, let’s talk about the expected recovery time (and process) next. For many people, the recovery time is a key factor when trying to decide what type of eye surgery would be best. After all, most patients have busy lives, and they’re not always able to take an extended break.
Let’s break down the recovery process and time for these two vision-correcting procedures.
Recovery, in most cases, is faster with modern LASIK procedures. Patients often experience improved vision within a day or two after the procedure. While this wasn’t always the case, people can often return to their normal lives after about a day (though some people may find that they need longer to recover before they’re no longer experiencing discomfort).
The corneal flap acts as a protective layer, reducing discomfort and accelerating the healing process.
PRK has a longer initial recovery period in comparison to LASIK. Since the epithelium is completely removed (rather than leaving a small flap), it takes several days for it to regenerate and cover the treated area. Without that layer, your eyes don’t have any protection.
Visual recovery may be slower, and patients may experience more discomfort during the early stages of healing. This is still short-lived, and patients can often return to their normal routines at around five days post-procedure, but they may experience some side effects for several weeks.
Discomfort and Pain
Many people worry about the pain and discomfort associated with eye surgery. Short-term discomfort is worth it when it comes to improving your eyesight, but it’s normal to want to know what you’re in for.
Here’s a breakdown of the discomfort patients can expect to experience after correcting their poor eyesight with one of these two procedures.
LASIK is generally associated with less discomfort during the initial recovery phase. Some patients may experience mild irritation or dryness, but because of that protective flap, this is minimal. There may be some discomfort when you’re in bright light, but this should fade quickly.
The procedure itself should not be painful as the doctor will use numbing drops.
PRK may cause more discomfort in the first few days after the procedure. As we mentioned, patients will be able to return to their lives in about five days, but that doesn’t mean that their eyes will be pain-free just yet.
The absence of a corneal flap means the epithelium needs to regenerate, and during this time, patients may experience pain, light sensitivity, and a gritty sensation in the eyes. A doctor should be able to prescribe drops or medications to ease any post-surgical discomfort if it becomes unbearable.
So who should get each of these types of eye surgery? Some patients may think that both of them are options for them, but this isn’t always the case. Not everyone is a candidate for every type of eye surgery.
LASIK is suitable for patients with moderate to high refractive errors. It’s good for people with astigmatism who are nearsighted or farsighted. It is often the preferable option for those who want a quicker recovery and less initial discomfort.
This type of surgery requires a thicker cornea because of the flap. Patients with thinner corneas may not be suitable candidates for LASIK.
So what about PRK? Well, just like LASIK, it’s good for people who are nearsighted or farsighted, or who have astigmatism.
PRK may be better for patients with thinner corneas or those who are otherwise at a higher risk of complications with LASIK. It is also a good option for individuals involved in activities where corneal flaps are not a good idea, such as certain contact sports.
LASIK vs PRK: Which Is Right for You?
So when it comes to LASIK vs PRK, which do you think is the right option for you and your eyes? The two procedures are similar, but the main differences come from the recovery times and the presence of a corneal flap.
The best person to help you decide whether you want LASIK or PRK is your optometrist. At Kentucky Eye Institute, we have a whole team of ophthalmologists and primary care optometrists who want to help you care for your eyes.
If you’re ready to start correcting your vision, reach out to us for an appointment today.