Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK)
Like LASIK, PRK uses an excimer laser to reshape the cornea. But in PRK, no corneal flap is created with a microkeratome or femtosecond laser prior to the corneal reshaping.
Instead, the central portion of the thin outer layer of the cornea (the epithelium) is removed from the eye, usually after being loosened with a dilute alcohol solution. The excimer laser treatment is then applied to the underlying corneal tissue (the stroma) to reshape the eye.
After the laser treatment, the cornea is covered with a bandage contact lens. Within days, new epithelial cells grow back and the bandage contact is removed.
The basic steps in PRK surgery are:
- Anesthetic eye drops are applied to the eye to prevent discomfort during surgery.
- A central area of corneal epithelium is removed - either with a laser or manually after being softened with a dilute alcohol solution.
- An excimer laser is used to reshape the underlying corneal tissue.
- Antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drops are applied to the eye, and the eye is covered with a bandage contact lens.
Two or three days later (after the epithelium has had a chance to grow back), the bandage contact lens is removed.
Recovery time: Between one and three days after your PRK, you can expect some discomfort, potentially including irritated, burning eyes; light sensitivity; tearing; and swollen eyelids. Most of this discomfort can be attributed to the removal of the epithelium, which acts as a natural barrier between your eye and your environment. However, some patients experience little or even no discomfort during this time.