Photorefractive keratectomy, or PRK as it is more commonly known, is the original technique used for laser vision correction and remains just as popular today as it was when it was first developed. It is different from LASIK in a number of ways, but one of the biggest ways in which it varies is in the recovery that you can expect.
PRK surgery has a longer recovery time than other forms of laser vision correction techniques. However, it also far more suited to certain types of patients, such as those with thin corneas or corneal abnormalities. It also has a lower risk of specific complications, in particular the flap-related complications that can arise following LASIK.
Like with any procedure, if you are considering PRK surgery, it’s very important to feel prepared and to know what to expect, particularly from your recovery which will take weeks rather than days. One of the main concerns that patients have about PRK is whether the recovery process will be painful. To help you understand more, here’s what you need to know about recovering from PRK laser vision correction.
Most patients should expect to feel some discomfort or mild pain for up to 3 days following their PRK laser vision surgery. In most cases, this can be effectively managed using regular doses of over the counter pain relief. If your pain persists for longer than this, or if the medication you are taking isn’t helping and you are experiencing more pain than you can handle, you should speak to your eye doctor. It may be possible for you to be given some short-term prescription pain relief. Whatever pain medications you take, be sure to follow the dosage and timing instructions exactly as specified.
Immediately after your PRK surgery, you’ll rest for a short while at our office before you go home. You’ll need to have someone drive you and stay with you, so make sure you arrange this before you come in for your appointment. You should also avoid making any plans for the rest of the day since you will be recommended to go home and rest your eyes. Most patients actually try and have a nap and keep their eyes closed as much as possible since it can help with their recovery and keep their eyes more comfortable.
Patients are sent home with medicated eye drops that will help their cornea heal and these should be taken exactly as directed. You will also be advised not to get any water or any other substances in your eyes for at least a week since this puts you at risk of developing an infection and can delay your recovery. You may be given a special eye shield to wear when you shower and wash your hair. You’ll also be recommended to avoid activities such as swimming and other water sports for at least several weeks and to wear protective goggles for a few months after.
A clear, non-prescription contact lens will have been placed onto each eye to act as a bandage and this usually stays on for up to a week. Should you find that either of the lenses falls out or become dislodged, you should speak to your PRK surgeon immediately for advice. Never try to remove these contact lenses yourself. You’ll be scheduled a follow-up appointment with your PRK surgeon for around a week later during which the lenses will be removed.
In the week after your PRK surgery, your vision will almost certainly be compromised. This is because it takes time for the epithelium to regenerate. During this time, you could experience a range of visual problems including:
- Watery eyes
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Itchiness, burning or dryness
- General irritation
It isn’t usually until after the contact lens is removed that your vision will start to improve and will continue to become clearer for several months as your eyes heal. Final visual acuity usually isn’t achieved until 3-6 months following surgery, during which time the vast majority of patients achieve 20/40 vision or better.
For more information about PRK surgery, or to schedule a consultation to discuss this popular laser vision correction technique, please contact our knowledgeable team.