The Differences Between PRK and Lasik Surgical Procedures
PRK stands for "Photorefractive Keratectomy." This is a refractive surgery used to reshape the cornea. PRK was the first surgical procedure developed to reshape the cornea, by sculpting and using a laser. Later, LASIK was developed. The same type of laser is used for PRK and Lasik.
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The major difference between the two surgeries is the way that the stroma (the middle layer of the cornea) is exposed before it is vaporized with the laser. In PRK, the top layer of the cornea, which is known as the epithelium, is scraped away to expose the stromal layer underneath. In LASIK, a flap is cut in the stromal layer and the flap is folded back.
PRK Surgery and Post-Operative Care
PRK involves removal of the top surface level of the cornea called the epithelium. Once the epithelium is exposed, a computer assisted laser is employed to reshape the curvature of the eye. PRK surgery does not require needles or incisions.
PRK patients typically use pain relief medication for a day or two after treatment. This is because the pain fibers in the cornea are located in the surface portion, which was removed during PRK surgery After the PRK treatment, eye medications are administered and clear contact lenses are placed on each eye to prevent infection. These lenses are removed within 2-5 days after surgery. The surface (epithelial) layer will begin to regenerate itself. The entire healing process takes 3-4months. During that time, eye medications will be used to promote healing and to prevent infections.
PRK surgery involves a small risk of problems arising from an irregular healing response and/or infection. These problems can generally be treated with medications.
The Lasik Surgery and Post-Operative Care
In Lasik surgery, the surgeon uses an instrument called a "microkeratome" to create a corneal flap. Once this flap has been opened, a computerized laser is used to reshape the curvature of the eye. No stitches are used in the Lasik procedure because the flap stays in place by the natural pressure of the eyes. Lasik requires an additional surgical step over PRK in creating the corneal flap. However, This procedure is painless and usually takes less than a minute to complete.
After a Lasik procedure, the patient uses eye drop medication for up to one week. The patient usually can resume normal activities within three days. Lasik patients generally experience only 5-6 hours of discomfort while the surface (epithelial) layer of the cornea heals.
Your eye care doctor should be able to fully explain the advantages and disadvantages of the PRK and Lasik surgical procedures and guide you in making the choice that is right for you.