When researching refractive eye surgeries, you will likely hear about both LASIK and PRK procedures. Each of these surgeries can greatly enhance an individual’s vision and can correct common eyesight problems. Both of these surgeries address problems within the corneal flap, and are outpatient procedures that can be completed in less than 30 minutes. However, there are some significant differences you should know about the two.
1. How the Cornea Is Reshaped
LASIK eye surgery involves creating a flap in the cornea and using a laser to reshape the cornea and correct vision problems. The flap is then closed and allowed to heal, and there is little to no damage to the cells on the surface of the eye.
PRK reshapes the cornea without cutting any flap. A laser sends pulses into the top 10% of the cornea, without affecting the deeper layers.
2. Amount of Healing Time
Eyes heal very quickly after LASIK eye surgery, as the natural suction of the eye encourages the corneal flap to stay secure in its original position and heal. This opening is typically healed in as little as one day, but can take as many as three days after surgery. In general, patients experience significant recovery the day after surgery.
As PRK involves reshaping the surface of the cornea, it can take a little bit longer for the eyes to heal. The initial recovery time after this eye surgery is generally about three to seven days.
3. Level of Discomfort
People are often very surprised by how pain-free LASIK surgery can be. The eyes are numbed during the surgery, and the patients feel nothing at all. After the surgery, patients sometimes feel mild dryness or irritation, but these symptoms dissipate very quickly, generally after only one day.
While the eyes are also numbed during the PRK surgery, there is a higher chance that patients will feel more discomfort after the procedure than they would when having LASIK. The surface cells on the cornea that have been affected during the surgery need time to heal and regrow, and sometimes this can cause irritation for several days.
4. Risk Factors
While both of these eye surgeries are generally very safe, PRK is often the recommended choice for individuals with thin corneas, or those who have pre-existing eye conditions, corneal irregularities, or scarring.
5. Speed of Visual Recovery
Patients that have undergone PRK often have to wait several days before seeing their vision improve, while those who have chosen LASIK will often see a dramatic improvement after only one day.