If you are tired of putting on glasses or inserting contacts every morning, then you may be considering laser eye surgery. Though laser eye surgery is often referred to as "LASIK," LASIK is actually just one type of laser eye surgery – though a very common one. Another common type of laser eye surgery is called PRK, or post-retinal keratinopathy. It's important to know a little bit about each procedure so that you can choose the one that's right for you.
In LASIK surgery, a laser is first used to make a flap in the cornea. This flap is then peeled back, and another laser is used to re-shape the surface of the cornea, improving your vision. The flap is then laid back down. This whole procedure only takes a couple of minutes, and since numbing drops are used, you won't feel a thing.
Years ago, only certain patients were candidates for LASIK. Others were unable to undergo this procedure because of the shape of their eyes. However, advances have been made in the lasers that cut the flap, and as a result, far more patients are candidates for LASIK. The chance that you'll be ruled out as a candidate based on the shape of your eyes is very low.
LASIK has the easier recovery of the two procedures. Within a day, your vision will be greatly improved, and within 2 or 3 days, it should be nearly perfect. You might have some slight burning or itching in the first day after the procedure, but this is very minor. Some patients experience dry eyes as they recover from LASIK. This side effect can be ongoing.
In PRK, no flap is made in the cornea. A laser is simply used to wear away the surface of the cornea, reshaping it. The procedure still only takes a few minutes, and as with LASIK, your eye is kept numb the entire time.
The few patients who are not candidates for LASIK are almost always candidates for PRK. Even those with very thin corneas are candidates since the eye doctor does not need to make a flap.
PRK recovery takes a bit longer than LASIK recovery. Your eyes will be itchy and burning for at least a few days, and possibly for a week or more. You'll be given pain relieving eye drops to keep you comfortable. Your vision will slowly improve over a period of a few weeks.
The advantage of PRK is that the risk of dry eye is a lot lower. Once you're healed, any dryness you have been experiencing during recovery should go away.
If you have thin corneas or are worried about eye dryness, PRK is likely the better option for you. However, if quick recovery is your priority, LASIK might be the better choice. Consult with an eye doctor like Jo Johnson, M.D. to ensure you make the right decision for you.