What is PRK?
PRK (Photorefractive Keratectomy) is a surgical procedure used to improve vision by reshaping the corneal surface to correct refractive errors.
PRK differs from LASIK. Instead of creating a flap in the outer layer of the cornea, the surgeon gently removes the epithelial (outermost) layer of skin and applies the laser directly to the cornea. The cornea is then reshaped using low-frequency, highly focused, cool laser beams, and the epithelium grows back naturally over a period of three to five days
PRK is often a better solution for people with asymmetrical or thinner corneas, patients with mild dry eye or whose daily activities have a high risk of physical impact to the eye. Statistically, PRK and LASIK obtain the same visual outcomes, but the recovery process for PRK is slightly longer.
Are You A PRK Candidate?
At least 18 years of age
Stable vision and contact or glasses prescription for at least 2 years
No history or indication of active or potential corneal disease
No history or indication of any health issue that prevents normal healing
Not pregnant or nursing
Depending upon age and prescription, patient's must be aware of the potential need to wear glasses under certain conditions (such as when driving at night)
Your eyes will not be dilated during this exam, and you can expect the hands-on time to be about an hour.
To understand your specific vision needs, we will need to know your most current prescription.
If you wear glasses, please bring them to the appointment.
If you are a contact wearer, you will not need to be out of your contacts before the appointment, but you will be asked to remove them before your exam.
If your vision has been stable for at least two years.
If it is within the acceptable range to safely perform LVC, then we will need two other measurements to determine the best option for you.
Laser Vision Correction is achieved by reshaping the cornea or the clear front part of the eye (link to either LVC video or corneal anatomy site). Our technicians will use advanced equipment to map the shape of your cornea and to measure its thickness.
If these tests indicate that you are a candidate for a laser procedure, you will proceed with a second appointment to gain more information about your eyes and determine a plan for surgery.
This appointment is more detailed and may take up to two hours to complete.
Soft contact wearers will need to do the following:
Be out of contacts for one week before the visit
Toric soft contact lenses will need two weeks out of contact,
Hard contact wearers, the time out of contacts is one month pre-exam.
Your eyes will be dilated during the appointment, so we recommend arranging a driver for your drive home.
The tests performed during this visit will be similar to the first exam but will provide your surgeon with the very specific measurements that they and the equipment will need to assure the precise treatment and optimal outcome for you.
After discussing the options with your surgeon, you will have the opportunity to discuss scheduling, payment options, and pre-operative procedures with one of our surgery consultants.
Day of Surgery
Preparation for your surgery starts the day before - you will begin using your prescribed drops to moisturize and protect your eyes pre-operatively. You may eat normally, and please make sure to get a good night’s sleep so you will feel relaxed and comfortable for your procedure.
Arrive a few minutes early to your appointment, wear comfortable clothing, and have no eye makeup or moisturizers on your face. Upon arrival, our professional and compassionate staff will again walk you through the steps of your procedure, post-operative care and answer any other questions you may have.
More drops will be used at that time to protect and prepare your eyes, and a light sedative will be administered for your comfort. You will be escorted to our soothing Zen Suite, where you will be allowed to rest and relax until you and the surgeon are ready to proceed.
The PRK procedure takes only about fifteen minutes. You will be placed in a reclined position, and drops will be administered to numb and prepare the eye. The procedure can be broken into three steps:
The surgeon will quickly and gently remove the epithelium using a swab and solution.
The surgeon will apply and control the excimer laser, which has been pre-programmed to recognize and treat each specific cornea. Using advanced, state-of-the-art technology, the excimer will emit beams of light that will reshape the corneal surface.
The surgeon then administers anti-inflammatory and anti-biotic drops to the eye and places a bandage contact lens on the eye, where it will remain for 3-5 days.
Moments later, you will be up and ready to have your eyes examined before heading home to rest.
With PRK there may be some discomfort after the numbing drops wear off, but this is usually manageable with preservative-free lubricating eye drops and over-the-counter pain relievers. Most patients report improvement after the bandage contact is removed (3-5 days after surgery.) Your surgeon may suggest that you take a few days off from work and refrain from strenuous activity for up to one week to aid in the healing process. Optimal results can be expected after several weeks.
Post-Op and Routine Care
Immediately after your procedure, your surgeon will examine your eyes and review the post-operative instructions with you and your driver. You will be given protective goggles to wear until the next morning to prevent rubbing your eyes. They will also act as sunglasses as your eyes will be sensitive to sunlight for the next few hours.
Over the next two weeks, you will use prescription eye drops on a specified schedule to protect your eyes from infection and promote healing. The instructions will be explained to you, although you are always welcome to call our office or your LASIK coordinator if you have any questions.
Post-Op and PRK FAQs
Q: Can I drive after surgery?
A: The day after your PRK, you will see your doctor, who will determine if your vision is safe for driving. Most patients are safe within the first 1-2 days.
Q: Can I shower or take a bath?
A: We recommend that you wait until the next morning to shower or bathe and avoid getting soap or water directly in your eyes for 7 days.
Q: When can I go back to work?
A: You can resume most normal activities the day after LASIK, but if your job requires using a computer, take frequent screen breaks and lubricate your eyes often. Also, avoid dust, smoke, and yard work for approximately two weeks.
Q: How long before I can exercise?
A: You may resume exercise as early as 2 days after your surgery, but avoid public gyms for 5 days and avoid water sports for 14 days.
Protecting and caring for your eyes properly are essential. During the first year following your procedure, you will see your primary eye doctor or us several times to make sure everything is healing properly. Specific instructions regarding these appointments will be given to you at the time of your surgery.
It is important to attend these visits and your annual eye exam to keep your part of the Vision Assurance Plan for good eye health. Our goal and expectation are that you will never need to see us for any adjustments after your initial procedure. However, if an adjustment is ever needed, we need to know that you have done everything possible to take care of your eyes going forward.