If you are fed up with relying on glasses or contact lenses for clear vision, you may be considering laser vision correction surgery, or more specifically, a type of this treatment known as PRK. Here’s what you need to know about PRK and what is involved in the surgery itself.
PRK laser vision correction is actually the original and first laser technology technique ever created, and LASIK and other forms of laser eye surgery were developed from it. While there are different advantages associated with each of the different techniques, many experts agree that PRK remains the safest, most effective, and reliable form of laser vision correction available today.
PRK stands for photorefractive keratectomy. Like other types of laser vision correction, the procedure focuses on reshaping the cornea, which is the clear, domed lens that is responsible for directing light through the eyes so that it hits the retina correctly. In patients with refractive eye errors, this doesn’t happen, and the light falls in front or behind the retina, causing the message that is sent from the eye to the brain to be incorrect and vision to be interpreted as blurry. By changing the shape of the cornea using laser technology, it is possible to make the light pass through the eye so that it hits the cornea exactly, ensuring the correct message is sent to the brain and we interpret the image clearly.
PRK is different from other laser vision correction procedures in that it doesn’t involve the creation of a flap in the very outer layer of cells covering the cornea, called the epithelium. Instead, the entire epithelium is removed to access and reshape the underlying tissue. While this means that patients need to wait for the epithelium to naturally regenerate – a process that can take around a week – there is no risk of flap-related complications which are so common in LASIK patients. This can improve the overall outcome of the procedure.
Like other laser vision techniques, the PRK procedure takes place using topical anesthetic eye drops which numb the eye so that you won’t feel any discomfort. Once suitably anesthetized and once you are comfortable in the chair, the laser will be used to target and remove the epithelium in its entirety, exposing the underlying corneal tissue. After removing it, the laser will be used to reshape the cornea in order to correct its shape. This element of the process will be carefully pre-planned using a 3d image of your cornea taken during a process called topography. This enables the changes to your cornea to be carried out with pinpoint accuracy.
The entire procedure takes just a few minutes per eye, but you will need to allow some time either side for preparation and recovery. Once you are ready to leave, you will need to have someone drive you home as you will not be cleared to drive yourself until your eyes have healed, and your surgeon has assessed your vision. Some blurriness, distortion, and even a little discomfort and irritation is to be expected as the epithelium regenerates and your cornea heals. Your PRK surgeon will give you specific advice on how you should look after your eyes during this time.
Your vision will start to improve immediately following PRK surgery and will continue to develop clarity over the subsequent days, weeks, and months. Most patients achieve optimal visual improvement between 3 and 6 months after their surgery and are able to maintain this level of vision long term.
For more information about what to expect from PRK laser eye surgery, or to schedule an appointment to discuss your candidacy, please contact our eye care team in Plano, TX today.