Vision correction surgery has become increasingly popular over the last couple of decades, with new and improved methods making it incredibly safe and effective for the vast majority of patients. Most people have heard of LASIK eye surgery; in fact, it has become nearly synonymous with vision correction surgery.
But PRK surgery was the original laser eye surgery and is still used by eye doctors today. Here’s a look at PRK and how it’s performed.
Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) was invented nearly 30 years ago and forever changed the idea that vision problems would haunt people for life. PRK was first performed in the United States in 1995, though it had been done for years in other countries. During the procedure, the surgeon uses a tool called an excimer laser on the surface of the eye. By removing small pieces of corneal tissue, the surgeon reshapes the cornea in a way that reduces or eliminates poor vision.
The surgery is ideal for either nearsightedness or farsightedness. Before surgery, your doctor will thoroughly examine you to be sure PRK is the right choice for your unique eye structure. Some eyes are better suited for other types of surgery, like LASEK or an Epi-LASIK procedure.
PRK surgery only takes a few minutes. Your eyes will be numbed with drops, and then you’ll be positioned under the laser. You will be asked to look at a light while the doctor, using a computer, moves the laser precisely to reshape your cornea. Once one eye is done, he or she will move on to the other eye.
After a short rest, patients are able to walk out of the doctor’s office, though they shouldn’t drive themselves. The doctor will give you special contact lenses to wear to help your eyes heal, and eye drops to prevent infections and the second type of eye drop that will reduce the “sand in the eye” feeling that most patients get after PRK surgery.
One of the drawbacks of PRK is that healing and recovery time is typically longer than with LASIK or LASEK, as is the time between surgery and complete improvement in vision.
Patients usually notice an improvement in their eyesight within a few days, but full results take weeks or even months.
Most patients who undergo PRK enjoy greatly improved vision-often 20/20 or better-for many years following surgery. However, they remain susceptible to vision changes brought about by cataracts, presbyopia, and other age-related conditions, for which additional procedures may be necessary.