More Patients Can Enjoy Seeing Clearly with PRK

When patients come to our eye care practice seeking laser vision correction, most inquire about the LASIK procedure. While LASIK is a highly effective and well-known procedure, it is not the only option for laser vision correction. Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) is a better option for some of our Austin and Lockhart patients. Contact us today to learn more.

In general, laser vision correction procedures are extremely safe and are a viable treatment option for the majority of our patients. Determining which procedure is the most appropriate option for each patient requires a consultation with William McGlathery, M.D., which will include a comprehensive eye exam. Each patient’s eyes have unique characteristics that may make one treatment option more suitable than another. Some patients’ corneas are too thin to undergo LASIK, which reshapes the tissue in the middle layers of the cornea. PRK reshapes the outer surface of the cornea, making it a suitable treatment for patients with thin corneas. The surest way to determine which method of laser vision correction is best for you is to schedule a consultation with Dr. McGlathery.

About 30 minutes before your surgery, we will administer anesthetic eye drops to numb your eyes. We will also calibrate the laser to your prescribed correction. When the laser is ready, we will bring you into the procedure room, where you will sit in a reclining chair. We will place an instrument that will prevent your eyes from blinking. We make every effort to ensure your comfort before, during, and after the procedure.

Once everything is in place, your surgeon will begin the procedure. For the majority of this time, you will focus your eyes on a red light. Although it may become blurry at times, this is normal and nothing to worry about.

Once the laser is activated, your surgeon will remove the epithelium (the outermost layer of the cornea). Because this tissue is regenerative, healing will begin promptly and the protective cells should reform within just five days.

After removing the epithelium, your surgeon will use the laser to reshape the cornea. The precise removal of very small amounts of tissue will make the cornea steeper or less conical, depending on your needs. Most patients receive treatment for both eyes at the same time, and the entire procedure can typically be completed in under 15 minutes.

We may place more eye drops in your eyes once you are in recovery. We will also place soft contact lens bandages over each eye. These will minimize discomfort and remain in place for two to four days.

You will need someone to drive you home after your surgery, and you may need to avoid driving for one to three weeks. Your surgeon will provide you with more detailed post-operative instructions following your surgery.

We will schedule several follow-up appointments so that we can monitor your recovery and healing progress. At these appointments, your doctors can tell you when you can remove the soft contact lenses and resume normal activities such as driving, working, and physical exercise.

Why PRK Recovery Takes Longer than LASIK

Removal of the epithelium is the primary reason PRK recovery takes longer than LASIK recovery. During LASIK, a tissue flap is created in the cornea. This allows access to the underlying tissues, which are reshaped to correct your vision. After surgery, the flap acts as a bandage. During PRK surgery, the entire epithelium (the thin outer layer of the cornea) is removed. The epithelium typically regenerates within a few days.

Immediately after Surgery

You will receive topical antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication to reduce your risk of infection and to minimize your discomfort and swelling. Some patients experience improvements in their vision within a few days, as the epithelium heals. For others, it can take several weeks to experience a noticeable improvement in vision.

First Few Weeks

Within the first few weeks, you should begin to notice improvements in your vision. You may still experience some haziness and blurriness. It can take several weeks or more for your vision to begin to stabilize. Most patients can drive again within one to three weeks. Throughout the entire recovery process, you will meet with your doctor periodically to monitor your progress. Your doctor can help you determine when it is safe to begin driving again and when you can return to work.

First Several Months

It may take between three to six months to fully recover. By then, most patients’ vision is improved enough to perform regular daily tasks. You may still notice haziness and blurriness during this time.

Long-term Results

Once your vision stabilizes, you can expect to achieve at least 20/40 vision. Most patients experience 20/20 vision after PRK surgery. Your final results will depend on your vision prior to surgery, your age, and other factors. In some cases, you may still need a prescription for contact lenses or eyeglasses. The prescription, however, will be lower than what you required before surgery. Patients must understand that refractive surgery cannot stop the natural aging process, which will continue to take a toll on your vision. Eventually, a touch-up treatment or more powerful glasses prescription may be necessary.

Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) offers distinct benefits compared to other types of refractive surgeries. Unlike LASIK, PRK does not involve creating a flap in the surface of the cornea, so the risk of flap complications is nonexistent. Because LASIK requires adequate corneal tissue to create a flap, patients with thin corneas may benefit from choosing PRK surgery over LASIK. Both procedures offer excellent vision results and many patients achieve complete freedom from corrective eyewear. If you are interested in learning more about PRK benefits, candidacy, and cost, contact our Austin, TX, ophthalmology practice and schedule an appointment. During your visit, we will carefully assess your eyes and your vision to determine which type of refractive surgery is right for you.

Improved Vision

PRK can correct myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism. Although it takes slightly longer to experience optimal visual clarity following PRK as compared to LASIK, both procedures offer the potential for dramatically improved vision. It can take up to six months following PRK for patients to reach peak visual acuity, but once they do, most achieve 20/20 vision or better. Many PRK patients eventually find that they are able to carry out their daily activities with minimal use of corrective eyewear or even no assistance.

Corneal Thickness Considerations

During your initial consultation, we will carefully evaluate the thickness of your corneas to determine your candidacy for refractive surgery. Patients with thinner corneas may not have adequate tissue to create the flap required for LASIK surgery.

PRK is not only better suited to patients with thin corneas, but it also offers additional benefits during and after the surgery.

PRK, however, uses laser technology to reshape the cornea after the top layer of corneal tissue is completely removed. For this reason, PRK is often a more suitable choice for patients with thin corneas.

PRK is not only recommended to patients with thin corneas more often, but it also offers additional benefits during and after the surgery. During the procedure, the shallower depth of treatment compared to LASIK can lower the risk of side effects. And after PRK, patients also experience a reduced risk of compromised corneal thickness.

No Risk of Flap Complications

The flap created on the surface of the cornea during LASIK poses the risk of potential complications. During LASIK, the flap is created and then hinged open, the underlying corneal tissue is reshaped, and then the flap is closed and left to heal naturally. In some cases, however, the flap fails to properly adhere to the surface of the eye once it is put back in place. Microscopic wrinkles, called striae, can also develop in the flap tissue. In order to ensure proper flap healing, LASIK patients are often advised to avoid contact sports and certain other activities for several weeks following the procedure.

Although each patient’s situation will vary slightly, there are some general factors to consider while you weigh your treatment options.

Health Insurance

In general, health or vision insurance plans rarely cover vision correction surgeries like PRK. Your plan may cover a portion of the cost under certain circumstances. Since many patients in need of PRK have already undergone LASIK, making the procedure a necessity, it is more likely that the cost will be partially covered. Unfortunately, most patients still have to pay for a portion of the procedure out-of-pocket.

Type and Degree of Refractive Error

Surgical costs may be higher for patients with more severe cases of myopia, hyperopia, or astigmatism. Prior laser vision correction procedures may also make the surgery more complex. We can evaluate your vision during a consultation to gain a better understanding of the degree of your refractive error. In general, patients with moderate myopia or hyperopia (nearsightedness or farsightedness) have less complex cases than those with astigmatism. More than one type of refractive error or more severe errors may take more time to correct and, as a result, lead to higher surgical costs.

Surgeon Experience

The surgeon’s skill and experience will also impact the cost of PRK surgery. Generally, surgeons with more experience are more expensive. That expense, however, can ensure you get quality and lasting results from your surgery.

A skilled surgeon like one from Broberg Eye Care has access to all the latest surgical tools and techniques. They will recommend the best treatment options based on your individual needs and goals, and handle each patient with care, which is of the utmost importance with PRK surgery since it is usually reserved for patients whose corneas are too thin for LASIK. A good surgeon can help you avoid complications that require painful and expensive revision surgeries to correct.

Why Choose Broberg Eye Care for Your PRK Surgery

You should look at vision correction procedures like PRK surgery as an investment. Although these surgeries have higher upfront costs, patients can save money on glasses and contact lenses for years to come. At Broberg Eye Care, we offer a comprehensive scope of eye care and vision correction surgeries from highly educated doctors. We use state-of-the-art technology and advanced surgical techniques to provide our patients the best results possible.

Since they use similar surgical techniques, LASIK and PRK offer comparable results, allowing patients to experience clearer vision. LASIK is a more popular procedure than PRK surgery because of its shorter healing time, which allows patients to get back to their lives more quickly. LASIK patients’ vision also typically stabilizes more quickly than PRK patients’. LASIK has a slightly lower risk of side effects like infection or blurriness, and patients typically experience less post-operative discomfort since their corneas remain largely intact. However, some patients are ineligible for LASIK because their corneas are too thin for flap creation. In addition, creating a corneal flap can sometimes cause complications, such as infection, that patients may wish to avoid. PRK also provides more direct access to the stromal tissue, making the reshaping process simpler.

Each surgery has distinct pros and cons. If you have sufficient corneal tissue and want a shorter healing time, you will likely opt for LASIK. If you have a thin epithelium and are concerned about flap complications, PRK may be better for you. Our ophthalmologists can discuss your options and help you decide which surgery may be right for you at your initial consultation.

Ready to see clearly?

We can help you decide if Laser Corrective Surgery is right for you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.