Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK)
Available in the United States since 1996, PRK is a procedure that corrects vision by reshaping the eye’s cornea. It is used to treat low to high levels of nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. PRK is different from LASIK in that the epithelium, or outer layer of the cornea, is removed entirely during a PRK procedure, and the laser is applied to the surface of the cornea rather than to the inner tissue.
For nearsighted individuals, the goal of the PRK procedure is to flatten a steep cornea. To improve vision in farsighted patients, PRK is used to increase the steepness of a cornea that is too flat. For treating astigmatism, the procedure is used to reshape the cornea, making it more spherical. We perform PRK surgery at our McLean, Charlottesville and Rockville medical centers.
On Procedure Day
After arriving at your scheduled time, you may be offered a sedative to help you relax. You will then be prepared for surgery. The area around your eyes will be cleaned and anesthetic eye drops will be used to numb your eyes; no injections or needles will be used. When your eye is completely numb, a speculum will be placed between your eyelids to keep you from blinking during the procedure.
Next, Dr. Holzman will remove the epithelium, a thin layer of protective skin that covers the cornea. You will be asked to look directly at a target light while the laser reshapes your cornea. The laser will be programmed with the information gathered during your pre-operative exam. The laser treatment will be completed in less than a minute.
After the Procedure
Following your procedure, your eye(s) will be examined with a slit lamp microscope and then shielded for protection with soft clear contact lenses called bandage contact lenses. You will wear these for three to five days to assist the healing process. Your vision may be blurry or hazy for one to five days. You may experience some discomfort as the epithelium heals and covers the treated area. Eye drops, pain medication, and protective contact lenses will be used to minimize this discomfort. Most patients resume normal activities within one to three days, but vision can fluctuate for up to six months after the procedure.
Risks and Benefits
PRK candidates can expect to achieve uncorrected visual acuity similar to LASIK patients. Although it typically takes longer to fully recover and achieve optimal results following PRK, this procedure remains the vision correction method of choice for patients with certain corneal conditions or corneal scars that prevent them from being suitable candidates for LASIK. As with all laser vision correction techniques, there is a very small risk of scarring or infection as a result of this procedure. During the PRK recovery period, patients may also experience a glare or halo effect and light sensitivity. Dr. Holzman and TLC Laser Eye Centers use special protocols and medications specifically to minimize all of the risks and adverse side effects.
“Dr. Holzman is the best - very honest, very professional yet very friendly and personable.” Ben E.