PRK / LASEK
Refractive Keratectomy (PRK) is a laser vision correction procedure using the same type of laser used in LASIK, known as an excimer laser. Also known as Advanced Surface Ablation or LASEK (Laser-Assisted Sub-Epithelial Keratectomy or Laser Epithelial Keratomileusis), it corrects vision by reshaping the cornea in a manner similar to LASIK. Instead of using a microkeratome or laser to prepare the cornea for treatment, PRK is performed by removing the thin layer of skin on the surface of the cornea known as the epithelium and then applying to laser to reshape the surface.
To loosen the skin cells for the PRK treatment, a softening solution is applied to the surface of the eye. After the solution is removed, the epithelium is gently moved aside with a blunt surgical spatula and the laser treatment is performed. A bandage contact lens is then placed over your eyes to aid in healing while the epithelium then naturally grows back over the course of about one week. Your experience on the day of surgery will otherwise be quite similar to what you would experience with LASIK.
PRK or Advanced Surface Ablation is a very effective alternative to LASIK that may considered when:
- you are at least 18 years of age
- you have had a stable eyeglass or contact lens prescription for two years
- you wish to reduce your dependence on eyeglasses and contact lenses
- you have corneas that are too thin for LASIK, large pupils, and/or dry eyes
- you have other factors that might make PRK preferred over LASIK
Advanced Surface Ablation or PRK can offer certain advantages over LASIK in that there is no creation of a flap. This can make PRK a safer option for patients who engage in contact sports, particularly boxing or mixed martial arts, where there is every a risk of blunt trauma to the eye as there is then no concern for risk of flap dislocation. In some cases, it may be a safer option for patients who have had prior eye surgery such as LASIK or RK, among others.
When a subtle variation is made to the procedure, it may also be known as epi-LASEK. In an epi-LASEK procedure, the doctor uses an epikeratome to aid in the separation of the thin skin from the cornea. The epikeratome is a blunt plastic separator like a mechanical spatula that separates the skin and does not cut a flap. The rest of the procedure remains the same, with a bandage contact lens being placed at the end of the treatment.
What to Expect After Surgery
Another way that PRK differs from LASIK is in the speed of postoperative recovery. Most patients see the biggest improvement in their vision over the first 3-7 days after surgery. The period of discomfort, sensitivity to light, and foreign body sensation generally lasts over the first 3-4 days. The bandage contact lens and postoperative eye drops help to reduce this discomfort. Once the first few days have passed, most patients find themselves back to normal functioning although it is common to notice mild fluctuations in your vision over the first couple months following surgery.
To learn whether you might be a candidate for PRK, please contact us at our office to set up an evaluation.
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