Those who practice challenging sports or do rigorous jobs, have very active lifestyles, or simply want to eliminate, once and for all, the discomfort associated with the use of glasses and contact lenses and permanently correct refractive defects such as myopia, astigmatism, and mild hyperopia, find the ideal solution in the PRK surgery. Photo-Refractive Keratectomy (PRK) is the first laser refractive surgery to correct vision before today’s best-known LASIK procedure. Although post-PRK recovery requires more time than that of LASIK, PRK is still commonly performed and offers some patients greater advantages than the former.
PRK is particularly suitable for people with thin corneas or suffering from particular corneal problems. The PRK technique is less invasive than LASIK and presents an operative procedure without the possible complications caused by the creation of a corneal flap.
What Is PRK Surgery
The PRK technique is a refractive procedure that uses the excimer laser to act on the corneal surface and perform a tailor-made remodeling of the corneal curvature that is based on the type and severity of the visual defect.
Unlike LASIK, the surgeon does not cut and lift a tissue flap (corneal flap) before proceeding to the ablation of the tissue fragments of the corneal stroma. The excimer laser is instead used directly on the anterior surface of the eye until the desired result is achieved.
See more information on LASEK.
How PRK Surgery Is Performed
The main difference between PRK and LASIK resides in the first step of the surgical procedure. In LASIK surgery, a thin flap on the cornea is created by a microkeratome or a femtosecond laser. This flap is raised to expose the underlying corneal tissue and is placed back after the cornea has been reshaped with an excimer laser. In PRK, the thin outer layer of the cornea (epithelium layer) is removed and discarded before moving on to the remodeling of the corneal curvature with the excimer laser.
At the end of the treatment, the surgeon instills a few antibiotic drops and then places a soft contact lens in order to protect the eye and promote consistent re-epithelialization. This lens will be removed once the scarring is complete and the epithelium has reformed or when the doctor deems it most appropriate.
The epithelium repairs itself (re-grows on the corneal surface) within a few days of surgery.
The intervention with PRK surgery is generally performed on both eyes, has a duration of a few minutes and only requires anesthetic eye drops.
Expectations After PRK
As with all refractive surgeries to correct visual defects, it is very important to strictly follow the instructions given by the surgeon postoperatively.
Immediately after the operation, the eye is not bandaged but remains open and some increased visual sensitivity to light and burning may be experienced. After a few days, common work and social activities may already be resumed.
The definitive recovery is progressive and naturally subjective. The process is monitored by the eye surgeon and normally completed within one to two months following the date of surgery.
Potential Risks Of PRK Surgery
PRK surgery has been practiced since the 1980s and can boast a very high success rate. It has undergone significant progress and remains the first choice treatment under certain conditions.
PRK post-operative complications are rare and may include infections and glare. If sensitivity to light after PRK surgery is excessive, the problem can be solved by using glasses with photochromic lenses. In addition, if there is a slight residual refractive defect, low-graded lenses with anti-reflective coating can improve vision especially for activities such as driving at night.