The team at Chicago Cornea Consultants™, Ltd. offers patients the latest in advanced vision correction, including custom LASIK surgery and custom PRK (photorefractive keratectomy). Most people are more familiar with LASIK than PRK even though the latter is older and still an effective treatment option. We’d like to go over the basics of PRK and then discuss candidacy for it.
PRK is a type of refractive surgery that is often performed as an alternative to LASIK. It’s an ideal treatment option for refractive errors, which you may know better by the terms myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism.
During PRK, the epithelium is removed. This is the topmost layer of the cornea. Once the epithelium is removed, a laser is then used to safely reshape the cornea, improving the passage of light through the eye and ensuring it focuses on the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.
How PRK Differs from LASIK Surgery
The primary difference between PRK and LASIK has everything to do with the epithelium. Whereas the epithelium is removed during PRK, LASIK involves the creation of a epithelial flap that is opened for the laser to reshape the cornea and then set back down to heal.
The epithelium will grow back after PRK, though patients may experience an extra day or so of discomfort as they recover from surgery compared to LASIK patients.
General Candidates for PRK
Ideal candidates for PRK are at least 18 years old and are not currently pregnant or nursing. They should have a stable prescription for at least a year straight and also be free from eye injury, ocular diseases, and eye infections for the last year.
Patients Should Not Be Suffering from Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eye syndrome is one of the common side effects of refractive surgeries such as PRK. This is because the nerves in the cornea that help control tear production are affected by the changes made to the epithelium. The epithelium grows back and the nerves heal, but attacks of dry eye will occur over the course of the next few months as a result.
In order to prevent extreme discomfort and irritation to patients, we generally do not perform PRK, LASIK, or any kind of refractive surgery on patients who have pre-existing dry eye. This is just a sensible precaution.
PRK as an Alternative to LASIK
In many cases, candidates for PRK are people who are not considered ideal candidates for LASIK. The primary issue is the thickness of the cornea. If a patient has corneas that are too thin, a LASIK surgeon will not be able to create a corneal flap. In these cases, the ideal option is PRK, as the PRK surgeon is able to remove the epithelium and reshape the cornea as needed.
Realistic Expectations About the PRK Procedure
Above all, it’s important for PRK candidates to have realistic expectations about the surgery. Though highly effective, there is no guarantee of PRK providing 20/20 vision. What patients can expect is clear vision that will not necessitate the assistance of corrective lenses.
In addition to having measured expectations about the vision results, patients should know all of the risks and benefits associated with PRK and understand the side effects that occur as part of the recovery process.
Speak with the Doctors of Chicago Cornea Consultants™, Ltd.
To learn more about laser eye surgery options as well as other methods available for addressing issues with eyesight, be sure to contact our eye care and vision correction specialists today. The team at Chicago Cornea Consultants™, Ltd. will help determine the ideal treatment for you and your needs.