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You've probably heard of LASIK as the surgery that corrects vision problems. Another surgery, called PRK, pre-dates LASIK and is still an effective way of treating the same vision issues. Depending on your eyesight, your doctor will recommend one of these two surgeries if you're looking into vision correction surgery .

LASIK and PRK are both types of laser eye surgery that correct vision problems. A doctor can correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism with either of these surgeries. Both types of surgery involve changing the cornea to improve vision, though the techniques in each procedure differ somewhat.



Image via Flickr by roger_mommaerts

LASIK stands for laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis. During a LASIK procedure, a surgeon first creates a corneal flap with a scalpel or a laser over the cornea to lift up the tissue covering the cornea. Then, a computer-controlled laser reshapes the cornea to correct distorted or imperfect vision. After the computer is finished, the flap goes back down and heals.


One day after you get LASIK, you'll have a post-op follow-up appointment with your doctor to see how your eyes are healing. While you recover, you might experience:

  • Dry eyes, lasting a couple of days
  • Pain or discomfort, lasting a couple of days
  • Blurry vision, lasting a couple of days to a few weeks
  • Redness, lasting a few weeks

Many LASIK patients in recovery use artificial tears to improve symptoms of recovery. After you have LASIK, you have to avoid getting your eyes wet for a few weeks, which means you can't swim and you have to be careful showering. You also can't wear eye makeup, do any outdoor work like gardening that might cause debris to enter your eyes, or be around smoke. You also need to wear eye shields for about a week after the surgery.

Most people have healed after three months, but it can take up to six months for some LASIK patients to completely heal.


PRK stands for photo refractive keratectomy and has been around longer than LASIK. Though LASIK is the newer procedure, PRK works well for some patients, including people who have thin corneas or who have had LASIK before. The PRK laser doesn't have to cut as deep as the LASIK laser does to achieve good results.

During PRK, the doctor cuts away the outer layer of corneal tissue instead of creating a flap. That gives the laser more access to the entire cornea. After a few days, that layer grows back.


Because the outer corneal layer has to grow back, PRK recovery takes longer than LASIK recovery. After PRK, you wear special contacts to protect your corneas for four or five days until the tissue has regrown. Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics and anti-inflammatories to help with the healing process. Many post-op symptoms that LASIK patients experience also occur with PRK patients. PRK patients should note that blurry or hazy vision is more common following PRK during the healing process.

Your eye doctor and surgeon will be able to recommend which laser eye-correction surgery is best for your specific vision problems. Make an appointment today to get more information.

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