LASIK eye surgery and photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) share many things in common. Both rely on the excimer laser, take place in an outpatient setting, and have a strong record of results based on many years of data. There are also a few differences, including a slightly longer recovery time for PRK than for LASIK eye surgery.
The difference between LASIK recovery and PRK recovery is typically a matter of days – a small blip in the big picture – and is caused by slight differences in how each procedure works. Ahead, we’ll explain why PRK recovery is slightly longer than LASIK recovery.
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Explaining the Difference Between LASIK and PRK Recovery
The primary goal of both LASIK and PRK is to correct common vision problems by reshaping the cornea, which is accomplished with the gentle excimer laser. In order to reshape the cornea, your laser eye surgeon first needs clear access to it. The method of access is the main difference between the two procedures, and it explains the slightly longer recovery time for PRK.
- During LASIK eye surgery, your surgeon accesses the cornea by creating a flap, using a laser (Bladeless LASIK) or a traditional surgical instrument. After surgery, the flap is returned to its original position, which aids the healing process.
- With PRK, the very thin outer layer of your cornea, called the epithelial layer, is removed at the start of your PRK procedure. The epithelial layer regenerates naturally.
The difference in recovery comes from the fact that the epithelial layer takes slightly longer to regenerate than the LASIK flap does to heal. Individual healing estimates can only be provided by your surgeon, but most patients notice significant healing by the third or fourth day following PRK. In order to promote healing and protect the eye, a “bandage” contact lens is put in place following PRK. Your surgeon may also prescribe antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eye drops to aid the healing process.
While it’s true that PRK recovery is slightly longer than LASIK recovery, the big-picture differences between the procedures are minimal in most patients. Speak with your LASIK surgeon to learn more about your options for laser vision correction.