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What is PRK?
PRK Eye Surgery (Photorefractive Keratectomy) is an elective, outpatient laser vision correction procedure to improve vision and reduce or eliminate the need for eyeglasses or contact lenses. In the PRK laser vision correction procedure, the laser surgeon utilizes the excimer laser to reshape the curvature of the eye for patients with nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.
Photorefractive Keratectomy has been performed since 1986. Prior to LASIK, PRK was the most commonly performed laser vision correction procedure. PRK differs from LASIK as no flap is created during the PRK procedure. PRK may be suitable for people with larger pupils, thin corneas, have other corneal issues or dry eyes.
Custom PRK is a procedure that enables your laser vision correction surgeon to further customize the conventional PRK procedure to your individual eyes. Custom PRK provides an additional level of data about your vision requirements using wavefront technology. A device called a wavefront analyzer measures the way light travels through your eye and compares it to an eye with perfect vision. This device then creates a 3-D wavefront map that is uniquely yours, in the same way that your “fingerprint” is unique to only you. This additional data is then used by your PRK Surgeon to customize the PRK laser vision correction procedure to your individual vision requirements.
The actual PRK procedure process is performed the same way in both conventional PRK and Custom PRK. Conventional PRK is an excellent choice for many patients.
Your doctor will recommend which procedure is best for you based on your visual requirement; they will help you to determine if you could benefit from the higher level of customization that Custom PRK may provide.
The PRK Procedure
For the PRK laser vision correction procedure, no scalpels are used and no incisions are made. Prior to the procedure, an extremely detailed map of your eyes' surface is created by a computer and then used by your PRK surgeon to calibrate the excimer laser to your exact prescription.
Once the laser has been properly calibrated, the technician will place an eyelid holder in your eye to keep it open throughout the procedure. The technician will put a few anesthetic drops in to numb the eye and prevent pain.
To accomplish the reshaping, the surgeon first removes the protective surface layer (epithelium) from the cornea. The epithelium is regenerated within three to five days.
Your PRK Surgeon will then smooth the area and proceed with applying computer controlled pulses of cool laser light to reshape the curvature of the eye. Deeper cell layers remain virtually untouched.
The PRK laser vision correction process is completed in approximately 30 to 60 seconds, and immediately afterwards, a clear bandage contact lens is placed on the cornea to protect it. Additional eye drops are applied. Since a layer about as slender as a human hair is typically removed, the cornea should maintain its original strength.
Often, only one eye is treated per surgery day, although your surgeon may decide to do both of your eyes on the same day.
PRK Recovery: After the Procedure
After the PRK laser vision correction procedure, your eye may feel irritation or a foreign body sensation for a few days, but this discomfort can usually be effectively managed with medication.
With PRK, prescription eye drops are used for several months following the procedure.
Post-operatively, PRK patients are placed on antibiotic drops, along with anti-inflammatory agents to promote comfort and reduce swelling. PRK patients are also fitted with a bandage contact lens to improve their comfort while their eye is healing. Once the epithelium is healed, usually on the second or third post-operative day, your doctor removes the bandage contact lens.
To complete the healing process, PRK patients use steroid anti-inflammatory drops for approximately two months under the direct supervision of your eye doctor.