Thinking about LASIK? Start a conversation with an experienced Patient Counselor to find out if laser eye surgery is right for you. Learn More
What is Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK)?
Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) is an FDA approved refractive surgery for correcting the following refractive errors:
- Myopia (nearsightedness)
- Hyperopia (farsightedness)
- Astigmatism (irregularly shaped cornea)
- Presbyopia (age-related farsightedness)
PRK improves how light focuses on the retina by reshaping the cornea.1 The cornea is the clear front part of the eye. The retina is the photosensitive part of the eye that receives images and sends them to the brain.
PRK is an excellent alternative to LASIK, especially for people with thin corneas.2 This is because LASIK is only suitable for those with thick corneas.
However, the cornea shaping in PRK is similar to LASIK. The main differences are how the cornea is prepared and the recovery timelines (PRK recovery is longer).3
LASIK requires the creation of a corneal flap to expose the underlying corneal tissue. PRK only removes the thin surface layer of the cornea known as the epithelium.
How Long Do PRK Results Last?
The results of PRK are permanent. However, you may notice some vision changes (regression) due to other reasons, such as age-related cataracts.
Does PRK Last Longer Than LASIK?
No. Studies show both LASIK and PRK have similar outcomes—they're permanent solutions for correcting refractive errors.7 However, LASIK is more popular than PRK due to its quick recovery time.
Not everyone is a good candidate for LASIK because it requires a thick cornea to enable corneal flap creation. PRK is a good alternative for thin corneas because the blade doesn't cut deep into the corneal tissue.
Your surgeon will assess your eye health, overall health, visual acuity, and expectations to determine which option is best for you.
Can You Have PRK Done More Than Once?
Yes. PRK enhancement can be performed multiple times as long as the cornea remains healthy after healing. PRK enhancement is similar to the initial procedure. It involves removing the epithelium and reshaping the cornea with an excimer laser.
NVISION Eye Centers offer custom LASIK, affordable pricing plans, and a lifetime guarantee. Learn More
The vast majority of people who undergo PRK see a significant improvement in their visual acuity. According to eye experts, the procedure's overall success rate is over 95%.5 Nearly 90% of people achieve a 20/20 vision, while 95% achieve at least 20/40 or better.
You qualify for PRK if you:6
- Are at least 18 years or older
- Have healthy eyes
- Are in good general health
- Aren't pregnant or nursing
- Don't have underlying diseases such as cataracts or diabetes that can affect surgery or healing
- Achieves better vision
- Ideal for thin corneas
- Low risk of long-term complications
- High chances of success (95%)
- Simpler than LASIK
- Longer recovery time
- Less predictable outcomes than LASIK
- Risk of vision loss
- May result into worse vision than before (loss of best-corrected vision)
- Risk of dry eyes
The cost of PRK varies depending on the refractive error(s), facility, location, and the surgeon's experience.
PRK is also considered an elective surgery, so insurance is unlikely to cover it. Expect to pay about $2,000 to $4,000 for both eyes.
PRK Procedure Overview
Before the surgery, your doctor will conduct an eye exam to determine the extent of your refractive error, pupil size, corneal thickness, and your eye's general health. All of these are important before considering PRK or another option.
If your ophthalmologist recommends PRK, you’ll set up a date for the surgery. They’ll also give you preparation instructions. If you wear contact lenses, stop wearing them at least one week before surgery.
On the day of surgery, make sure you organize reliable transportation. You won’t be able to drive yourself home.
Expect the following during the PRK procedure:
- You will sit on a reclining chair, and your surgeon will prepare your eyes by administering local anesthesia. This will numb them and help you relax.
- They'll use an eyelid holder to keep your eyelids open during the surgery.
- With a blade, laser, and alcohol solution, your surgeon will remove the epithelium (outer layer of the cornea) and expose the inner tissues.
- The surgeon will then use a device known as an excimer laser to reshape your cornea.
- After laser treatment, your surgeon will administer anti-inflammatory eye drops, antibiotic drops, and steroid drops to prevent swelling, infection, and irritation.
- Lastly, they'll place a clear contact bandage on your cornea to protect the area as it heals.
The procedure takes about 15 to 20 minutes for both eyes.
Before you're discharged, you’ll receive post-operative care instructions. Your surgeon will also prescribe antibiotic eye drops, lubricating eye drops, and pain relievers to ease discomfort during the healing process.
You may experience mild pain and discomfort, or even blurry vision, 24 to 72 hours after surgery. Most people feel better after a few days, but a full recovery may take about a month. Your vision will stabilize 1 to 3 months after surgery.
Avoid the following during PRK recovery:
- Strenuous activities involving the eyes (such as reading and watching TV)
- Contact sports such as football or boxing
- Rubbing your eyes
- Contact with water (water has bacteria that can cause infections)
Make a follow-up appointment at least 24 hours after surgery. Your ophthalmologist can monitor your eyes for signs of complications.
Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) is a vision correction procedure for myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), astigmatism (irregularly shaped cornea) and presbyopia (age-related farsightedness).
PRK is a great alternative to LASIK surgery, and surgeons recommend it for people with thin corneas. The procedure is similar to LASIK. However, the main differences are the flap creation processes and the recovery timelines.
PRK is performed at a doctor's office. It involves removing the corneal epithelium and reshaping the cornea. Then, the surgeon covers the eyes with contact lens bandages to allow for healing.
The vast majority of people who undergo PRK see a significant improvement in their vision. According to eye experts, the procedure's overall success rate is over 95%.5
PRK enhancement is also an option for those who are not satisfied with the results, or in the case of visual regression.
In this article