With well over 700,000 treatments performed in the United States each year and more than 40 million satisfied patients, laser vision correction has become one of the most popular surgical procedures in the world. By using a non-thermal excimer laser to smooth out irregularities in the shape of the cornea, this quick and painless technique can improve visual acuity in patients suffering from common vision issues like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. In the majority of cases, laser vision correction can either reduce or completely eliminate a patient’s need for glasses or contact lenses. Most people are familiar with LASIK, the most common form of the procedure, but LASIK surgery is not necessarily appropriate for every patient, and there are other approaches available. One of those approaches is photorefractive keratectomy, or PRK surgery. Understanding how laser vision correction works, and the differences between these two approaches will help you to determine which option is right for you.
Common vision problems that are generally corrected through the use of glasses or contact lenses, such as nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), and astigmatism, are collectively known as refractive errors. They are the result of minor imperfections in the shape of the eye which can make it impossible for light to focus clearly on the light-sensitive nerve cells lining the retina at the back of the eyeball. Both LASIK and PRK laser vision correction procedures make microscopic adjustments in the shape of the cornea, altering the shape of the eye so that light can focus more clearly.
What Is the Difference Between PRK and LASIK?
Both LASIK and PRK techniques use a high-energy laser to shape the interior of the eye, but the two approaches differ in how that laser light reaches the eye’s interior, to begin with. LASIK surgery requires that a small flap be cut into the cornea. This flap is lifted out of the way during the surgery and then allowed to heal back in place once the procedure is complete. Conversely, the PRK technique accesses the interior of the eye by gently removing a thin layer of corneal epithelium, not by cutting a corneal flap.
Why Would You Choose PRK Instead of LASIK?
For the vast majority of patients, the healed corneal flap is virtuously seamless and poses no additional difficulties. However, in rare cases, the flap may be dislodged by certain types of violent eye injuries. This can make PRK surgery a preferable approach for patients with occupations that place them at risk for facial injuries, such as professional athletes, police officers, and those in the armed services. Further, PRK surgery is sometimes recommended for corneas that have been damaged by previous eye surgery or that are naturally too thin for LASIK. Like LASIK vision correction, PRK surgery is not recommended for patients under the age of eighteen or for those who have started to develop cataracts.
At Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons, Dr. William Segal has years of experience performing both LASIK and PRK surgery, so the approach that we recommend will always be based on the individual needs of the patient. During your comprehensive medical eye exam and consultation, he will carefully go over your medical history, explain your options, and determine what approach is right for you. If you have any other questions about any of the procedures that we perform, or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons today. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more information about how to keep your vision healthy and sharp.