As eye surgeons have mastered the ability to correct vision with excimer laser technology, LASIK surgery has surged in popularity. It's no wonder—the procedure is safe and effective for people who are good candidates and usually results in 20/20 or better vision.
You've probably heard ads encouraging you to "find out if LASIK is right for you." But what if you find out it's not?
There's good news. If you want to be less dependent on eyeglasses or contacts, you may have several other options. One of the most common is called PRK (Photorefractive Keratectomy) and many who do not qualify for LASIK can have PRK with similar excellent results. Both PRK and LASIK treat blurry vision by reshaping the cornea, the clear dome-like window on the front of the eye.
"In the most basic terms, if you need glasses or contacts, it's because there's a mismatch between the length of your eye and the shape of the lenses of your eye, mainly the cornea," explains John A. Moran Eye Center surgeon Mark Mifflin, MD. "The laser allows a skilled eye surgeon to change the shape of the cornea, changing the way light rays are focused on the retina. Once that is done properly, either surgery will likely provide the results you're looking for."
What is the difference between PRK and LASIK?
The main difference between PRK and LASIK is the way your surgeon uses laser technology to reshape the cornea.
"We advise patients that PRK requires a longer recovery and healing time than LASIK or intraocular lenses," says Mifflin, "but we always try to choose the safest and best surgery for the patient."
Some people won't be ideal candidates for LASIK or PRK. In these cases, non-laser procedures you might not have heard about could provide excellent vision.
- Clear lens extraction removes the eye's natural lens and replaces it with a synthetic intraocular lens (IOL) that can offer correction for distance vision, near vision, and astigmatism. Presbyopic patients can also benefit.
- Implantable contact lenses are implanted either in front of or behind the iris—the colored part of the eye. This can help people who require very high nearsighted corrections, including patients with astigmatism.
- Multifocal IOLs are specially designed to correct both distance and near vision for people over 40 who are extremely nearsighted or farsighted. Your doctor removes your natural lens and inserts a multifocal lens in its place.
How do you know which procedure is the best fit for you?
You'll need an in-person consultation with a surgeon who specializes in vision correction. Your ophthalmologist will advise a procedure based on several factors, including:
- The thickness (or thinness) of your corneas, the curvature, and whether or not you have corneal scarring.
- Whether or not you have dry eyes. Generally, PRK is a better choice for thin corneas and dry eyes.
- How active you are. Athletes may fare better with PRK because it doesn't involve creating a flap in your cornea as LASIK and similar surgeries do.
Another thing to consider? You can use health savings and flexible spending account funds to pay for LASIK, PRK or other vision correction procedures.
"There's definitely no 'one-size-fits' all vision-correction surgery," says Mifflin. "Your best bet is to visit a place that can offer comprehensive care and several different options. Schedule a consultation with a refractive surgeon, and together we can decide what's best for you."