Photorefractive Keratectomy used to be the most common refractive surgery procedure prior to the advent of Lasik. PRK was the first procedure to use an excimer laser to treat many types of refractive errors, including nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), and astigmatism.
PRK differs from Lasik during the first step of the procedure. In PRK, after adding anesthetic drops the thin protective coating of the cornea, called the Epithelium, is removed.
Next, an Eximer laser uses a cool beam to gently reshape the cornea. After the cornea is reshaped a bandage soft contact lens is placed on the eye. This lens protects the eye while the epithelium is allowed to grow back naturally. This process can take 3 to 5 days.
There is generally no pain during the surgery, however most patients will experience some discomfort following the surgery. Any discomfort usually subsides within 3-5 days and is usually controlled with over the counter pain medications.
PRK may be preferred over Lasik in certain circumstances: patients with thin, irregular, or scarred corneas, patients with large pupils, or patients at a greater risk of a blow to the eye. PRK has a long history of effective results and eliminates flap related complications.
Ideal PRK candidates should be at least 18 years of age and have a stable eye prescription for the last year. Patients with dry eyes, cataracts, and degenerative or autoimmune diseases are not good candidates. Women who are pregnant or nursing are not candidates for surgery during this period of time.