LASIK and Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) are both excellent options for laser vision correction performed to reshape the cornea and clear the outer layer of your eye so that it can better focus light, enabling you to see more clearly.
The cornea has five thin, transparent layers of tissue that refract and focus light to help you see. LASIK and PRK are similar in that lasers or tiny blades are used to reshape irregular cornea tissue to correct nearsightedness – an inability to see distant objects clearly; farsightedness – an inability to see close objects clearly, and astigmatism – an irregular eye shape that causes blurry vision.
While both procedures can produce the same results, there are a few differences to consider when deciding which laser vision correction technique is best for your vision needs.
The most significant difference between the two approaches is that during LASIK surgery, the surgeon creates a thin flap in the cornea and then uses lasers and a small blade to reshape the cornea. The flap is replaced and is self-sealing almost immediately with complete healing over the next few weeks. PRK involves the removal of the outer layer (epithelium) of the cornea and then reshapes the remaining layers of the cornea to correct the irregular curvature in your eye, leaving the outer layer to regrow. Both procedures are minimally invasive, take under 30 minutes for both eyes, and can be done on an outpatient basis.
The differences arise when looking at possible side effects and recovery time. With PRK, you may have sore or scratchy eyes for a few days following the procedure. Those undergoing LASIK may experience itchy or burning eyes and blurry vision lasting a few days. These are normal healing responses and are managed with eye drops and rest.
The recovery time with LASIK is much faster than with PRK. Most clients can see clearly within a few hours compared to a week for vision to return when undergoing PRK. A “bandage” contact lens is placed in the eye following PRK surgery to protect the eye and aid in the healing process, while the flap cut during LASIK surgery is left to heal of its own accord.
Both laser surgical techniques are considered equally safe, with reports of 90 percent of patients having 20/20 vision without the aid of glasses or contact lenses afterward.
Those with an active lifestyle may want to consider LASIK because of the return of clearer vision more quickly. However, it is essential to note that PRK offers anyone involved in contact sports or suffering from thin corneas and dry eyes a lower risk of displacement upon impact.