Have you been wearing glasses for nearsightedness or farsightedness since childhood? Fret not! Studies show that an estimated one to two billion people around the world suffer from refractive errors. A further breakdown shows that 80% of Asians are affected by it, while only 25% of Europeans are affected. These numbers keep varying from region to region. However, the facts remain the same – refractive issues are one of the most common eye conditions that people suffer from.
With the advancement of medical science, there are many treatment methods available for refractive issues. While most children and teenagers are given prescription glasses during their growing stages, adults whose prescription hasn’t changed in over a year are given the choice of correcting their refractive issues using several different laser treatments.
Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK) is one such procedure recommended by our eye specialists in Dubai. Although laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) has gained more popularity over the years, our specialists recommend the best option based on individual cases. In this blog, we will discuss more about PRK and how it differs from LASIK.
Laying down the basics of PRK and LASIK
On a closer inspection, PRK is similar to LASIK in many ways. This is because both methods predominantly focus on modifying the shape of the cornea to allow correction of a patient’s vision problem. The shape and composition of cornea is such that it bends or refracts the light falling on the eye, focusing it onto the retina, which helps us see things. The cornea is made of 5 thin and transparent tissue layers, which enable this mechanism. Both PRK and LASIK take away sections of this cornea to reshape it. However, the way it is done differs between both procedures.
Differences in the procedure
During the PRK procedure, an eye surgeon focuses on removing the top layer of the cornea, called the epithelium. This process removes only 5-10% of the thickness of the cornea for mild to moderate nearsightedness or myopia, which is about the thickness of 1 to 3 human hair strands. Then, lasers are used to reshape the other layers of the cornea and fix any irregularities that may have occurred during the epithelium removal.
However, the more recent LASIK procedure requires the surgeon to create a small flap in the cornea using a specialized blade. This circular flap is then raised after which the surgeon reshapes the cornea using lasers. Once the correction is done, the flap is lowered back. The cornea repairs itself over the next few months.
Although both procedures can address issues like nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia) and astigmatism, our specialists recommend either of the two for different patients depending upon the structure of their eye.
Who is suited for a PRK?
As discussed, both PRK and LASIK are laser-assisted treatments to correct refractive errors in the eye. However, our doctors recommend PRK to patients with thin corneas who have insufficient cornea surface to perform a LASIK. These patients may also have mildly irregular corneas or dry eye issues, which may cause complications during a LASIK procedure. With PRK, these concerns can be addressed easily. About 10-15% of people interested in laser surgeries may require a PRK due to one of these reasons.
Is PRK better than LASIK?
There are common misconceptions about the safety of both PRK and LASIK. The truth is that both procedures have their pros and cons, which is studied by your eye specialist before recommending the best-suited one for you.
For instance, PRK is considered safer and effective for people with thinner cornea as it doesn’t require the flap creation. The flap left behind on a thin cornea may be at higher risk of getting damaged or injured. However, PRK takes 3 to 4 weeks for complete recovery and vision restoration.
LASIK, on the other hand, takes fewer days for complete vision restoration and has lesser recovery time. On the other hand, it creates a higher chance of dry eye syndrome in the patient, which may cause discomfort.
When it comes to results, both procedures are equally good and are a permanent solution for refractive errors.
PRK Surgery and recovery
As mentioned above, PRK treatment can correct your refractive error and restore your vision. So, if our eye specialist recommends you to consider PRK, here is what will happen during and after the procedure.
Before the procedure, you will be given numbing drops so that you don’t feel any pain during the surgery. You may also receive medication that will help you relax during the procedure.
Once your eyes are prepared for the procedure, the surgeon will remove the top layer of your corneal tissue. This will take about 30 seconds. Following this, an excimer laser is used to fix any or all of the irregularities in the deeper corneal tissue layers, which will also take 30 to 60 seconds. Once the corrections are made, a special bandage similar to a contact lens is placed on top of the cornea to help the tissues heal completely.
During the recovery, the contact-like bandage may cause some irritation and light sensitivity for a few days as your epithelium heals. During this time, the vision will be slightly blurry. The bandage will be removed after a week.
Our eye specialist will also prescribe medicated eye drops to keep your eyes moist and infection-free during the healing time. Unlike in the case of LASIK, it will take a few days for your vision to stabilize. The vision may even worsen a little until your eyes fully heals. During this period, it is necessary to keep away from regular activities like driving and screen time. Ideally, your eyes will be completely healed in a month. Don’t shy away from regular checkups until your eyes are healed completely.
Potential risks of PRK
Although some discomfort is normal with any kind of laser eye treatments, unusual or extreme difficulties must not be ignored. In the case of PRK, visual changes or disturbances like glares, halos around lights or double vision are things you should be concerned about. If these difficulties don’t fade away in a month, consult with our eye specialist for further diagnosis.
Undercorrection is a common risk that occurs during laser procedures. If enough corneal tissue is not removed, your vision may not be as good as you would have hoped. If the results are different from what you expected, our specialist may recommend a follow-up surgery.
On the other hand, excess removal of the corneal tissue can cause vision distortions called ectasia, making your cornea too weak and causing it to bulge due to the pressure from inside. This condition requires immediate medical attention as it could lead to permanent vision loss. And if the corneal tissue is removed unevenly, it may give rise to astigmatism, wherein you may need a follow-up surgery or may be required to wear glasses or contacts for vision correction.
While all these are potential risks, you can easily avoid them by consulting with a certified eye specialist in Dubai. At our clinic, certified and experienced surgeons treat each case with utmost precision, ensuring that you receive the best possible results from your refractive error correction surgery.