In 1995, PRK was the original laser refractive surgery approved by the FDA, and LASIK was approved shortly after in 1999. PRK is a safe and effective option for patients who are not ideal candidates for LASIK. The shape of your cornea, a clear dome in front of the colored part of the eye, determines how light enters the eye and how well you see. Like LASIK, PRK laser surgery reshapes the cornea to improve vision, but the main difference between the two procedures is how the cornea is accessed.
In LASIK, a hinged flap is created in the middle layer of the cornea and the flap is folded back to expose the corneal layers underneath, which are reshaped with an excimer laser. However, no flap is created in PRK. Instead, the epithelial layer (thin layer of protective skin that covers the cornea) is gently removed and the laser is used to reshape the cornea. Since the thin epithelial layer is completely removed during PRK, it takes a few days to grow back, resulting in a longer recovery time when compared to LASIK. The eyes will typically be uncomfortable during the healing process, but preservative-free artificial tears, prescribed post-operative medications, and pain relievers can provide significant relief.
Our doctors and the entire team at Hill Vision Services are dedicated to providing our patients with the highest-quality eye care. Dr. Geoffrey Hill is a fellowship-trained Corneal Specialist and Refractive Surgeon who is certified to safely perform PRK laser surgery in the St. Louis area.
The following steps are what you can expect during your PRK eye surgery:
- Numbing eye drops are administered and sometimes a mild oral sedative is offered to help you relax.
- A small device will be placed around your eyelids to keep you from blinking during the procedure.
- The very top layer of corneal cells (the epithelium) will be removed to access the next corneal layer.
- You will then focus on a target light while the surgeon uses an extremely precise excimer laser to shape the cornea to the proper curvature. The laser removes microscopic amounts of tissue to create the exact corneal contours needed to sharpen vision.
- Once this is completed, your surgeon will place a soft contact lens in your eye to protect your cornea as it heals.
The procedure can take about 10-20 minutes per eye, but the laser will only be used for a few seconds. Afterward, you will rest your eyes for a few minutes and then be released. You will not be able to drive immediately following the procedure, so be sure to arrange for someone to take you home. You can expect some discomfort and irritability for a few days, but within about a week, your vision will dramatically improve.
You may be a good candidate for PRK surgery if you:
- Have thin or steep corneas
- Have a history of dry eye syndrome
- Have large pupils
- Are concerned about flap complications related to LASIK
The refractive surgeons at Hill Vision Services are among the most experienced PRK providers in the St. Louis area. In your refractive consultation, we can help determine if you are a good candidate for PRK.