The Difference Between LASIK and PRK

When you think of laser eye surgery, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? If you’re thinking LASIK, you’re not alone. But there’s another kind of laser eye surgery that was actually a predecessor to LASIK called Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK).

It’s always about safety, and sometimes certain structural characteristics can disqualify someone from being a LASIK candidate. Your surgeon will review your measurements and only recommend what he thinks is safest for your eyes.

In this article, we’ll explain the differences between LASIK and PRK.

PRK vs. LASIK – What’s the Differences in the Procedures?

Eye exam before LASIK

The key difference between PRK and LASIK is in the preparation of the eyes or the procedure.

In both cases, you’re given numbing drops so you don’t feel anything during the surgery. You will also be offered an oral sedative to help you relax.

During a PRK procedure, the top layer of the cornea is gently brushed off to allow access to the part of the eye that your doctor will reshape with the excimer laser. This removed outer layer will regenerate and repair itself naturally during the recovery process.

With LASIK surgery, your doctor would make a hinged flap on the surface of the cornea using an intralase femtosecond laser. He will then lift the flap to access the part of the eye that is manipulated with the excimer laser. The flap is then realigned after the LASER treatment is complete.

The main corrective portion of the surgeries are both the same. Once your doctor has access to the deeper corneal tissue layers, Dr. Kraff will use an extremely precise laser, called an excimer laser, to fix your specific refractive correction or abnormalities in the eye. This portion of the process only takes about 30-60 seconds. The laser technology used in both PRK and LASIK will result in the same results or outcomes.

The recovery and healing for the two procedures is a little different.

PRK Recovery

With PRK, a special bandage, similar to a contact lens, is placed over the eye to help the surface layer of the cornea regenerate and heal. This special bandage lens is placed by Dr. Kraff immediately after completion of the procedure. Dr. Kraff removes the lens when the surface has re-healed. As the eyes heal and you’re wearing the bandage contact, you will have functional vision.

You may experience some blurriness, irritation, and sensitivity to light for a few days as the cornea heals. After a few days, the bandage will be removed. You will be given some pain medication to take for the first day or two after the procedure. You will also be using eye drops.

All in all, the initial recovery takes a few days. The vision stabilizes but is very functional after that initial healing. Although full recovery can take about a month, most patients can resume normal activities, including going back to work, after the bandage lens is removed. Your vision should slowly get better day by day throughout the recovery process.

LASIK Recovery

With LASIK, the hinged flap is simply realigned. Recovery from LASIK is a lot quicker than PRK, as most patients can resume their normal activities by the next day. Your vision can be dramatically better and functional before leaving the office.

You may experience some discomfort or mild burning for a few hours after surgery. You will be given some pain medication and eye drops to use after the procedure.

LASIK surgery procedure

Which is more expensive, PRK or LASIK?

With LASIK surgery, the surgeon is using two different LASERS, the LASER that creates the flap and then the LASER that reshapes the cornea. With PRK, there’s only one LASER being used; the LASER that reshapes the cornea. Because only one laser is used in PRK, the Kraff Eye Institute passes the lower expense to the patient.

If you’re wondering if PRK and LASIK are covered by insurance, the short answer is usually no, since they are elective surgeries. If interested, financing options are available to help you make payments over time. You should also know that HSA funds and FSA funds can be applied to the surgery.

It may be tempting to look for the cheapest, lowest cost or most discounted options when it comes to PRK and LASIK procedures, but keep in mind this is your vision.

Dr. Kraff is the most experienced and uses the latest and best technology that is available to deliver the best outcomes for all of his patients. He feels that low cost lasers, cheaper technology or discounts are not words that should be discussed with something as important and precious as your eyesight.

At the Kraff Eye Institute, you’ll have the opportunity for a no-cost consultation to help determine the best procedure for you. We will also give you a detailed explanation of the overall cost for both procedures at that exam. Kraff has also partnered with CareCredit, America’s top patient payment program.

Is PRK better than LASIK? 

There are distinct pros and cons to each corrective eye procedure, and in certain scenarios one procedure may be better than the other. Take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of each procedure below to help you determine whether PRK or LASIK may be more suitable for your needs.

Vision improvement after vision correction

PRK Pros:

  • It’s better for patients with a thinner cornea
  • There is no risk of complications with the corneal flap
  • There is Less risk of negatively affected corneal thickness

PRK Cons:

  • Recovery time is a lot longer, which may be disruptive
  • You must wait at least a week to drive after surgery
  • You may need to take time off work after PRK
  • You cannot go into the bright sun for a month to six weeks after surgery
  • It might be more painful recovery overall
  • There is increased risk of eye infection for the first few days after surgery

LASIK Pros:

  • The recovery time is much quicker
  • While you would not be able to drive immediately after LASIK surgery, many patients are able to drive one day after surgery
  • You would likely not need to take off work after LASIK
  • Your vision is noticeably improved nearly instantly
  • There is less risk of infection
  • No bandages are needed
  • Fewer follow up appointments are typically needed
  • Less medication is typically needed

LASIK Cons:

  • It may not be suitable for people with thin corneas
  • There can be an increased risk of complications with the corneal flap
  • There can be a greater risk of poor night vision
  • There can be an increased chance of having dry eyes

Can You Do PRK After LASIK?

While the vast majority of patients report permanently improved vision after LASIK surgery, there may be a few cases where someone would need additional procedures to obtain their desired outcome. PRK after LASIK is absolutely possible, and in fact it may be the safest option.

In some cases, performing another LASIK surgery several years after the first one is not advisable, as the risk of epithelial ingrowth is much higher. In that case, PRK would be the recommended option as a second eye procedure.

How Will I Know if PRK or LASIK is Right For Me?

We recommend speaking to your eye doctor to determine which procedure is the safest option for you. The Kraff Eye Institute offers free consultations for both PRK and LASIK procedures with their team of experts. To schedule your complimentary consultation now, call (312) 444-1111 or use their Vision Correction Consultation form.

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