CORRECTING YOUR VISION WITH PRK: BACK TO THE FUTURE?
The most common excimer laser procedure to correct vision is called LASIK. In LASIK, a flap is made into cornea, the laser is applied to improve the focus of the eye and then the flap is replaced. Although it is the best choice for most people, for some patients LASIK is not the safest or best way to use the excimer laser to correct their vision
PRK is a procedure which uses this same excimer laser to achieve the same excellent vision and, for some, it is safer than LASIK. Many patients, for example, who had been told they could not have LASIK because their corneas were too thin or their eyeglass prescription was too high can now safely have their vision corrected using this technique with the same long-term results as LASIK.
Because PRK avoids making a flap into the corneal tissue, any risks associated with such a flap are reduced or eliminated. For people who are extremely active in certain sports or in occupations, such as firefighting or the military, where the potential for trauma to the eyes may be increased, PRK may be an ideal procedure because no flap is made therefore the structural strength of the eye is not as affected.
LASIK and PRK achieve the same excellent vision and use the same laser to achieve these results. For most patients, the main difference between the two is quickly their vision returns after their procedure. One can think of LASIK as the “Ferrari” of laser vision correction in terms of the most rapid return of vision and only minimal irritation of your eyes. PRK is closer to a “tractor”. Both procedures get you to the same place; it’s just a matter of how quickly.
In PRK, the surface layers of corneal cells are removed and then the laser is applied to the cornea to improve the eye’s focus. In LASIK, a flap is made, lifted, and the laser is applied to the cornea. The LASIK flap is then replaced and the procedure is complete.
In some ways, there is longer medical experience with surface procedures, such as PRK, than there is with LASIK. In fact, the first FDA approval for the excimer laser was for use on the surface. PRK, however, should never be confused with RK or “radial keratotomy.” This is a much older procedure that did not use an excimer laser at all.
ARE SURFACE PROCEDURES THE FUTURE?
Some surgeons worldwide believe that because of the potentially increased safety and other advantages, surface procedures such as PRK will become the most commonly performed excimer laser procedure instead of LASIK. Therefore people should not think of PRK as an outdated or inferior vision correction procedure.
The key to determining whether laser vision correction is a good choice and which procedure is the best for you is to be certain that your surgeon is well versed in all of these procedures and is highly experienced, ethical and have an excellent reputation. Be sure to ask the surgeon who will perform your procedure which option is best for your prescription, corneal thickness, and the other unique characteristics of your eyes.