Corrective eye surgery can be a real blessing, but you might be asking yourself, which is better when it comes to PRK vs. Lasik? Both procedures can treat problems like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.
There are similarities in both treatments. However, there are differences too. For example, they both use a laser to reconstruct the cornea (the layer on the outside of your eye), which centers the light, providing clear vision. However, the procedures are entirely different.
The first step is to schedule an appointment with your eye doctor, who will examine your eyes and test your vision. Your specialist will also measure your cornea and pupil during this initial consultation.
If you wear contacts, your eye doctor will give you instructions on when to remove them before the surgery; it can be a day to a few weeks before the procedure, depending on the type of contacts you wear.
I know you always want to look your best, but you should never apply make-up or cream on or around your eyes before your treatment and ensure you have a lift home as you won’t be able to drive.
As mentioned above, both procedures are similar, especially their primary goal, which is to reconstruct the cornea tissue using a laser; however, there are substantial differences you should be made aware of:
- During the PRK surgery, your surgeon will remove the entire first layer of the cornea tissue.
- During the LASIK surgery, they cut a flap in the tissue to expose the tissues underneath; once the doctors and done with the procedure, they flip the flap back into place.
The Steps of PRK Surgery
- Step 1
Your doctor will give you numbing drops, which will prevent you from feeling any pain during the treatment. Depending on how anxious you are, you might also receive some medication to calm your nerves.
- Step 2
Your surgeon will remove the entire outer layer of cornea tissue (epithelium). It sounds scary, but this process is quick (30 seconds) and straightforward.
- Step 3
Your specialist will use an excimer laser to mend any issues in the deeper layers of the corneal tissue, which is also quick and usually takes around 30-60 seconds.
- Step 4
Your specialist will place a unique bandage onto the cornea, which resembles a contact lens to help the tissues underneath heal.
The Steps of LASIK Surgery
- Step 1
Your doctor will insert numbing drops into your eyes to prevent pain.
- Step 2
A femtosecond laser tool cuts a flap into the epithelium, which your doctor will move to the side while they reshape the deeper layers of the tissue with lasers. The benefit of this is that the flap can be flipped back into place instead of completely removing it.
- Step 3
As with the PRK procedure, your surgeon will use an excimer laser to reconstruct the corneal tissue and repair any problems with eye curvature.
- Step 4
The flap of the outer layer is then returned to its natural position and left to heal, along with the other issues that your doctor repaired.
If you have opted for PRK, you will have a bandage similar to a contact lens over your eye. This acts as a shield and aids in the healing process.
You need to avoid physical activity for seven days after your treatment. It is also critical that you don’t rub your eyes as it could cause damage to the cornea.
Your surgeon will instruct you on how long you need to wear sunglasses, and you should stay out of the sun as it can scar your cornea, which will result in problems with your vision.
Most people opt for LASIK as the recovery time is much faster than PRK. Results are instant, and the majority of people experience clear vision after just a few hours.
PRK vs. LASIK, which One is Better?
The answer is complicated, and it comes down to personal preference. However, both procedures are effective and provide a permanent solution to blurred vision. One of the main differences is the recovery period.
LASIK is famous as the recovery period is much shorter. PRK takes a few weeks to a month to heal. However, the results are precisely the same with both treatments if done by a reputable surgeon.
Although most people prefer LASIK, PRK is generally safer and more effective as time passes; this is because the surgeon will remove the whole outer layer of the cornea. The problem with having a flap is that it can get damaged if you sustain an injury as time goes by.
Are There Any Risks Involved?
As with the majority of surgeries, there are always some risks. However, LASIK is the riskier of the two procedures as there is a delicate step of creating a flap from the cornea’s outer layer.
Risks of both procedures include:
If your surgeon does not remove the tissue of your cornea evenly, it can cause your eye curvature to change. If you use a reputable surgeon, this should not happen, but if it does, there are two possible solutions:
- Follow-up surgery
- Wearing glasses or contacts to correct your vision.
- Visual distortion
One of the more severe risks associated with corrective eye surgery is visual distortion. It happens when the surgeon removes more corneal tissue than usual, resulting in distorted vision (ectasia).
It also weakens the cornea, and the pressure that builds up inside the eye causes it to bulge. This is a serious problem and will need treatment to avoid loss of vision.
- Flap complications
A few things that can go wrong with the flap made during LASIK surgery include infection and the production of too many tears. Your recovery period is also vital; it can lead to distorted vision or an uncomfortable feeling if it does not heal properly.
- Dry eyes
Both surgeries, but especially LASIK, can produce fewer tears for a few months after the surgery. However, in sporadic cases, this can be permanent.
- Changes or disturbances to your vision
Right after surgery, you will experience visual changes or disturbances, including reflections off of objects, halos around lights, and glares from lights or seeing double. You might also struggle to see in the dark; however, if your surgery was successful, this will go away after time.
There is a chance it could become permanent, and if you are still experiencing issues after four weeks, you should consult with your surgeon.
- Too little tissue removed
If your doctor did not remove enough corneal tissue, your vision would not improve much, especially if you are nearsighted. However, you can quickly correct this with a follow-up surgery if you are not satisfied with the results.
- Permanent loss of vision
Both these surgeries are very intricate, and there is always a risk of damage or complications that will result in permanent loss of vision. There is also a chance that your vision will become cloudy or blurred, even if you can see better than before.
The Ideal Candidate for PRK and LASIK
You will be the ideal candidate if you are:
- 18 years of age or older
- Not pregnant or breastfeeding
- Nearsighted with a prescription between -1.00 to -12.00 dioptersThere hasn’t been a drastic change in your vision over the last 12 months.
- Your vision can improve to 20/40
- Average pupil size of 6 millimeters in darkness
Unfortunately, not everyone will qualify for either of these procedures. For example, if you have any of the following symptoms, it will make you an ineligible candidate:
- Chronic allergies that affect your eyelids and the healing of the eye
- Large pupils that make you more susceptible to visual disturbances
- Thin corneas that will not be able to handle the procedure
- Significant conditions that affect the eye like glaucoma or diabetes
- If you have previously had PRK or LASIK surgery, it might increase the chances of complications
- Any condition that will affect or prolong the healing period like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
How much do PRK and LASIK Cost?
Prices will differ depending on your geographical location and the surgeon you use, but typically both procedures can set you back $2000 – $6,000.
Because PRK involves a longer recovery and follow-up appointments to remove the bandage and check on your progress, it can be more expensive. However, both procedures are considered elective surgeries, so that most healthcare providers won’t cover the cost.
Insurance plans with health savings or flexible spending accounts could potentially cover these surgeries’ costs, so always check with your insurer first.
What are The Advantages and Disadvantages of PRK and LASIK
The main pros and cons of these procedures are:
- Fast recovery of around four days
- No stitches or bandages needed
- Minimal follow-up appointments or medication
- The flap can cause complications, especially later down the line
- More susceptible to dry eye
- Increased risk of poor night vision
- People with a high risk of eye injury are not eligible candidates.
- The very high success rate
- The removal of the whole outer layer of your cornea
- Minimal chance of long-term complications
- A long recovery, usually 30 days that can affect your daily routine
- More follow-up appointments
- Requires a bandage
- feeling discomfort for a few weeks
The Final Results
Both procedures are effective and equally safe. Majority of people who have undergone these procedures achieve 20/20 vision without the help of glasses or contact lenses.
If you like physical activity, you will most likely prefer LASIK as there is a short recovery period, and you can get back to exercising within a week.
However, if you play contact sports, PRK is the better option. LASIK requires your surgeon to cut a flap into the epithelium, which can get damaged if injured.
If you still can’t make up your mind on which procedure will be best for you, talk to your doctor, who might be able to provide you with a bit more clarity.
It would be best to think about whether you want to have a quick recovery or would prefer something long-lasting with fewer risks of complications.
Also, will you be able to afford either of these procedures? If you don’t have medical insurance with a savings account, talk to your eye doctor about a payment plan. Instead of paying one big sum, you can pay it off in small installments.
Whatever treatment you choose, the outcome will be fabulous. You will finally be able to throw those glasses or contact lenses in the bin and live your best life.