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LASIK Or PRK? Evaluating Your Vision-Correction Solutions

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If you're ready to throw in the towel on glasses and contacts and pursue laser vision correction, you may be wondering about your options. Most ophthalmologists rely on one of two procedures to correct patients' vision: LASIK or PRK. While these two procedures achieve the same outcome, the process (and recovery time) for each is quite different. Learn more about the similarities and differences between these two procedures and what you should consider when deciding which one is best for you. 

Differences Between LASIK and PRK

When your vision is corrected through surgery, the surgeon will carefully use a laser to reshape your cornea. This is the part of your eye that first "sees" images and transmits them to your brain. Once your cornea has been altered, you should enjoy the same clarity of vision that you once experienced with glasses, contacts, or other corrective devices. 

But LASIK is a far easier process than PRK, both to perform and to recover from. In a LASIK operation, the surgeon will make a tiny slit in the cornea and then make any modifications from the inside. This protects the "raw" area of the cornea and allows for relatively quick, relatively pain-free healing. In many cases, you'll be able to resume normal activity (including driving) within just a day or two.

But PRK, which is often recommended for individuals whose corneas are damaged or misshapen enough that LASIK is not an option, involves the removal of the outer layers of the cornea. Essentially, the surgeon removes as much of the cornea as is necessary to achieve 20/20 vision. 

But while this is just as effective as LASIK, the recovery process can be brutal. With the cornea's internal layers now exposed to light, dirt, and germs, a protective contact lens must be placed in the eye until the cornea has healed enough to avoid sloughing off its outside layers. This lens can sometimes be irritating, and it may be hard to look at bright lights or computer screens for a few days to a few weeks after your surgery, which can make it difficult to drive or to go to work. 

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Procedure 

In almost all cases, those who are considered "good candidates" for LASIK opt for this procedure over the more invasive PRK. However, if you have prior damage to your cornea from an ocular infection or physical trauma and are considered a "borderline" candidate, opting for PRK may be the more prudent option. 

Because LASIK requires an incision to be made in the cornea, revising a LASIK procedure to further improve your vision can be tough if the cornea has already sustained prior damage. For those who have had previously poor vision corrected to 30/20 or 40/20 vision, the inability to obtain true "perfect" vision can be frustrating. On the other hand, PRK can be performed multiple times, allowing for a "do-over" if your first try at vision correction doesn't quite yield the results you wanted.