Modern technology has provided many options for eye care. Glasses have evolved with thinner lenses and less conspicuous frames; contact lenses have become more comfortable, more affordable, and more specialized to specific needs; and corrective eye surgery has bloomed as a field, offering permanent solutions with various types of procedures catered to fit individuals. When deciding which of these vision assists to pursue, it is a good idea to learn as much as you can about each option. While most people know about glasses and contact lenses, and many have heard about LASIK surgery, less know about PRK eye surgery, which is just as viable a vision solution as the rest.
The Basics of PRK Eye Surgery
PRK stands for Photorefractive Keratectomy, and has been used as a vision corrective procedure since the mid-Eighties. Like LASIK, it involves the use of a laser to reshape the cornea. Unlike LASIK, PRK does not require creating a flap and is therefore more suited to patients with thinner corneas or other issues that make LASIK less viable.
Before the procedure, the surgeon makes a topographic map of the eye. This map allows the surgeon to target the areas where the excimer laser will reshape the cornea. The eyelid is held open and the technician adds a few drops of anesthetic to numb the pain. Once this is done, and the machine is calibrated to the correct setting in accordance with the topographical scan, the surgeon begins.
Coating the cornea is the epithelium, a surface layer of cells that protects the eye. This layer is removed with the laser so that the reshaping can take place. The epithelium regenerates in under a week. Cold laser pulses are then administered to reshape the surface of the cornea without touching deeper tissue. Once the procedure is finished—a process that takes approximately one minute—a contact lens is applied which acts like a clear Band-Aid. Unlike LASIK, there is very little tissue removed during the process, so the cornea retains its integrity.
Recovery from PRK eye surgery usually takes longer than a recovery associated with LASIK surgery. The contact lens is removed after the epithelium is regenerated, and the patient is treated with antibiotics and other anti-inflammatory eye drops over the course of several months. The eye may be more irritated, but the results are just as spectacular as LASIK methods, with the great majority of patients regaining 20/20 vision.