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In LASIK, an eye surgeon makes an incision (with either a laser or a blade) in the cornea to create a flap of tissue. The flap of tissue is lifted so the laser can be applied to reshape the inner layers of the cornea. The computer-controlled surgical laser carefully reshapes the layers of the cornea to repair imperfections in curvature that lead to distorted vision. The corneal flap is then put back in place and heals over the reshaped part of the cornea in a few days.
In PRK, the eye surgeon does not create a flap of corneal tissue. Instead, the outer layer of the cornea is removed to expose an area for a laser to reshape. This makes PRK a better choice for people whose eyes meet certain criteria, such as having thin corneas or chronically dry eyes.
The most significant differences between PRK and LASIK are the initial discomfort and the speed of visual recovery. Recovery from PRK takes a little longer than from LASIK because the outer layer of the cornea needs time to heal.
This may be important for people who are engaged in activities that put them at risk for eye injuries (and potentially, LASIK flap dislocations) after surgery. Kick-boxing and martial arts are good examples. PRK also can be performed safely on corneas that may be too thin for LASIK. Since no LASIK-style flap is required, the entire thickness of the underlying corneal stroma is available for treatment. A person who has PRK surgery rather than LASIK will have a thicker residual "stromal bed" after the excimer laser treatment.
There are several alternative terms used that are essentially synonymous with PRK. LASEK (laser sub-epithelial keratomileusis), epi-LASIK (epithelial LASIK) and ASA (Advanced Surface Ablation) are variations of PRK. LASEK involves removing the surface (epithelial) layer of cells using the same solution used in PRK. Instead of discarding the cells, the sheet of cells are replaced after the excimer laser treatment. Epi-LASIK uses an epikeratome, a system similar to the microkeratome used for LASIK, to separate the surface sheet of cells from the permanent corneal tissue. This epikeratome uses a blunt separator rather than a sharp blade used in a microkeratome. ASA is a general term used for any surface procedure which removes the epithelium rather than creating a LASIK flap. It is important to recognize that all of these procedures offer outstanding visual outcomes, just like LASIK, but prolonged healing as compared to LASIK. Wavefront optimized and wavefront guided technology is routinely used with PRK procedures as well as LASIK.
Here are a few other PRK surgery facts to consider:
LASIK recovery is much faster. The discomfort following LASIK surgery is usually mild and short term. While most patients report seeing normally within several hours after the procedure, their vision continues to improve gradually for several months before reaching peak quality. Serving the people of Port Orange and Ormond Beach our LASIK Surgery Experts are here to help you achieve the best visual outcomes. Take our LASIK self-test and schedule a consultation with Premier Eye Clinic to find out if you are a candidate for one of our vision correction procedures.