One of the biggest differences between PRK and LASIK eye surgery is the recovery time. With PRK, the surgeon removes the surface of the cornea. Immediately after the procedure, the eye can feel as though it has a corneal abrasion or a scratch. The surface of the eye, therefore, needs to re-heal before you have better vision, and the discomfort eases.
After the procedure, the surgeon puts a bandage contact lens on the eye. This bandage lens remains on the eye for about five to seven days and nights. Then, your eye doctor will remove that bandage lens. During that time, the bandage lens protects the cornea from your eyelid coming down and rubbing the eye as well as helping the healing process of the tissue.
Once it’s removed and your eye’s tissue has regrown (re-epithelialized), the vision improves. But during that initial five to seven day recovery period after PRK, vision is often pretty fuzzy. The majority of people don’t drive or go to work; they take things easy for that time period.
With PRK, even after that five to seven-day period, as the surface re-heals, the vision may not yet be quite as clear as it will be. It still takes some time for the cornea to heal fully. It’s during this period that some patients report feeling discomfort which surgeons can manage with over-the-counter or prescription pain medication.
We will give patients medicated steroid eye drops for weeks following the procedure, even up to several months. This helps to keep the cornea clear and to prevent it from hazing, and to help get the prescription to stabilise right where it needs to be.
Now let’s compare that recovery period to that of LASIK eye surgery. Because LASIK doesn’t have to remove that top layer surface of the cornea, the surgeon puts that flap back into position, and it self heals.
Because of this, almost immediately after the procedure, within the first 12 to 24 hours, vision is usually excellent, and there’s very little discomfort.
We will still prescribe medications such as antibiotic eye drops so that you don’t get an infection, and steroid eye drops to help reduce any sort of inflammation and swelling of the eye. In addition, we encourage patients to use lubricating eye drops frequently, sometimes every hour or every other hour after the procedure as dry eye is a common complication after these procedures.
Who makes the best candidate for LASIK vs PRK?
After hearing the difference in recovery time between PRK and LASIK, you might be wondering why anybody would want to have PRK. LASIK seems to have faster results and is less complicated.
The reality is, both of these procedures, although they have excellent results and are very similar, there are some benefits to having PRK versus LASIK and vice versa.
For some people, it has to do with the thickness of their cornea. With the PRK procedure, because the eye surgeon does not create a corneal flap as they do with LASIK, there’s a little bit more tissue to give the surgeon leeway for the correction. For individuals who have less corneal tissue, PRK would be recommended.
To ultimately knowif you have thin corneas, we must measure your eyes in the clinic using a device called Pentacam. This is something that the clinical staff will perform.
We also need to consider dryness of the eye. Because LASIK eye surgery severs some corneal nerves, this can have a consequence of dryness afterwards for some people, especially individuals who have dryness even before surgery.
Then there are also some lifestyle factors to consider. For people who are involved in high impact activities such as martial arts or the military, LASIK could make them vulnerable to a post-surgery injury. In particular, the flap created after LASIK could be dislodged or torn from the eye resulting in an emergency. For that reason, individuals who are at an increased risk of trauma after the procedure are better suited to PRK as there is no risk of flap related complications.