Do you want to stop depending on glasses and contact lenses? The easiest solution is usually with a vision correction procedure like LASIK. 

Most people have heard of LASIK. LASIK is the most popular vision correction procedure, but it isn’t the only one. Another vision correction procedure that predates LASIK but provides patients with virtually identical results is called PRK. 

LASIK and PRK are both refractive laser eye procedures. Although LASIK is newer and more popular, there are reasons why PRK may be a better choice for some patients. Keep reading to find out what sets PRK apart from LASIK and how the procedures differ.

What is PRK?

PRK stands for photorefractive keratectomy. It was the first refractive laser eye procedure invented. 

The procedure aims to reshape the cornea by removing small amounts of tissue from the cornea. The cornea, the clear part of the eye, allows light to refract when it enters your eye so it can focus on the right spot inside your eye. 

When you have a refractive error like nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism, it’s because the cornea is slightly misshapen. A misshapen cornea makes light focus in the wrong place, causing blurry vision.

Refractive laser eye procedures correct refractive errors by changing the shape of the cornea. For PRK, the outer layer of the cornea, called the epithelium, is chemically removed. 

Then, a specialized laser called an excimer laser is used to remove sections of the cornea and reshape it to correct its shape. Afterward, bandage contact lenses are placed over the eyes while the epithelium regrows, which takes about two weeks. 

This method is highly effective, and most patients end up with 20/20 vision or better. 

What is LASIK?

LASIK stands for Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis, and like PRK, it’s a refractive laser eye procedure. Both procedures use an excimer laser to remove small amounts of corneal tissue from the eye. 

But instead of removing the epithelium, LASIK creates a flap in the cornea. A femtosecond laser is used to create the flap. 

The femtosecond laser separates the top of the cornea from the rest of the cornea, except for a small section that acts as a hinge. This corneal flap is lifted, and the excimer laser removes tissue from the cornea under the flap. 

After the LASIK procedure is complete, the flap is replaced, acting as a natural bandage as the eye heals. There’s also no need for sutures or stitches, making for a shorter recovery period.

Like PRK, LASIK is highly effective. Most patients who have the procedure end up with 20/20 vision or better. 

However, the technique used for LASIK does make the procedure distinct from PRK.

One Main Difference Difference Between LASIK and PRK

Although there are similarities between LASIK and PRK, one thing makes them very different. The main difference between the procedures is how the cornea itself is accessed. 

Since the cornea has a thin, protective layer, you cannot simply perform a refractive laser eye procedure on the direct surface of the cornea. For PRK, this protective layer is removed, and the procedure is performed right underneath it.

But LASIK lifts up a whole section of the cornea. The procedure is then performed inside the cornea. 

This technique has some benefits over the method used for PRK. However, creating a corneal flap makes LASIK inaccessible to some patients with thinner corneas.

Pros and Cons of PRK vs. LASIK

LASIK is a more popular procedure than PRK. It’s a newer refractive laser eye procedure with distinct advantages over PRK. 

The corneal flap allows patients to heal more quickly and return to their usual activities. Patients also see almost immediate visual improvement from LASIK, where results from PRK take some time to become apparent.

It can take several weeks before PRK patients see visual improvements, and the recovery time is also longer. However, LASIK and PRK patients won’t see the final results of the vision correction procedures until the eyes are fully healed. 

Vision continues improving until that point. The final results of PRK and LASIK are also virtually identical. LASIK and PRK patients usually end up with 20/20 vision or better.

Because the procedures have the same results, it may seem like there’s no reason for patients to still get PRK if they could get LASIK. However, not everyone will be a good candidate for LASIK or can safely have a flap created in their cornea. For this reason, PRK becomes the better and safer choice.

While the corneal flap allows patients to heal more easily from the procedure, only patients with corneas of a certain thickness can safely accommodate a flap. If your corneas are too thin, you cannot safely have LASIK. 

Making a flap could cause damage to your vision. For this reason, patients with thin corneas are not good candidates for LASIK.

But PRK doesn’t require creating a flap in the cornea since it only removes the epithelium. Because there’s no flap, patients with thin corneas can safely have PRK and correct their vision. 

This is one of the main reasons PRK is still a widely performed procedure, and you may benefit from having PRK over LASIK. 

PRK Candidates

To have PRK, you need to meet most of the same qualifications you need for LASIK. This includes being over 18, having a stable prescription, and being healthy. 

But if your corneas aren’t thick enough to accommodate a corneal flap, it doesn’t affect your PRK candidacy. If you want visual freedom from contact lenses and glasses but don’t qualify for LASIK, consider PRK. 

If you have thin corneas, you can still achieve the vision of your dreams with PRK! Now, find out more by requesting a consultation at Loden Vision Centers in Nashville, TN!