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PRK: The Other Laser Surgery Option for Your Eyes

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PRK: The Other Laser Surgery Option for Your Eyes

Mar 28, 2016

When you think of corrective vision surgery, LASIK may be the first procedure that comes to mind, but did you realize there are other options available that might be better for you? PRK is an older, yet effective, laser treatment that gives the same results as LASIK, and is an option for people that cannot undergo LASIK. Dr. Amy Lin from the Moran Eye Center discusses the pros and cons of PRK and LASIK, and which option might work best for you.

Episode Transcript

Interviewer: When you think of vision correction surgery, most people think of Lasik. It's not the only option. We'll discuss what the other treatments might be next on The Scope.

Announcer: Medical news and research from University of Utah physicians and specialists you can use for a happier and healthier life. You're listening to The Scope.

Interviewer: We are in the office of Dr. Amy Lin today. She's an ophthalmologist at the Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah. Dr. Lin, first of all, tell me why someone would even need to go get Lasik.

Dr. Lin: People get Lasik to get out of their glasses or contact lenses. They want to correct their nearsightedness or their farsightedness or their astigmatism. That's why someone would want to have Lasik.

Interviewer: That's not the only option, I'm hearing. There are other surgery options besides Lasik.

Dr. Lin: That's correct. The most common alternative to Lasik is something called PRK. PRK was actually the precursor to Lasik, but we still do a lot of PRK nowadays because there are certain advantages with PRK. And it does the same thing as Lasik, corrects nearsightedness and farsightedness and astigmatism. Instead of having a flap in the cornea like there is with Lasik. With PRK, there is no flap in the cornea, but your eye has to heal over naturally.

Interviewer: When a patient comes to the office and they ask you for suggestions of what treatments and what surgery they should do, how do you decide Lasik is better for you or PRK?

Dr. Lin: We do a whole variety of measurements in the office. We measure the steepness and the shape of the cornea. We measure the thickness. We measure the prescription in the eyes. And based off of that data, we decide is the cornea thick enough for Lasik and PRK because you do need a thicker cornea for Lasik. Is the prescription too high for Lasik and maybe still ok for PRK? That's kind of one objective measure that we have for choosing one or the other.

There are other parameters that we look at. We actually look at the patient and if they have a lot of dryness in their eyes, like they can't wear the contact lenses for a long time because their eyes become too dry, with Lasik, we know that you get a lot of dry eye afterwards than with PRK. If you have dry eye existing, it may be a better option to go with PRK rather than Lasik so you don't worsen your dry eye.

Interviewer: When your doctor tells you that they recommend PRK as your treatment, does that mean that you are not a candidate for Lasik? Can you not do Lasik if you are recommended PRK?

Dr. Lin: Usually, people are either candidates for both or candidates for just PRK. If a doctor recommends to you that they recommend PRK, usually, it means there's something that usually bothers them in Lasik and they think it might be too risky to do Lasik, but it would be safe to do PRK.

Interviewer: Now, are the outcomes of both of the surgeries the same?

Dr. Lin: Yes, the outcomes are the same. When they do the studies that compare PRK versus Lasik, the visual outcomes are the same. PRK takes a lot longer to heal whereas Lasik is a lot faster. Lasik people are saying well after a day or so. With PRK, it takes several weeks. That's not to say that you're blind for several weeks. It's just not to be quite as crisp and clear for several weeks, but the vision does get there. Interviewer: With gradual outcome.

Dr. Lin: Exactly.

Interviewer: With Lasik, from what I understand, there is a laser involved that corrects your eye vision for you. Tell me about PRK. Is that the same thing? Is there a laser involved or is it some totally different procedure?

Dr. Lin: Both Lasik and PRK have a laser involved. With Lasik, there are actually two lasers involved. There is one laser that cuts a flap and the cornea and then, there is a second laser that corrects for the vision. And with PRK, we just use the laser that corrects for the vision. After the laser procedure, with PRK, a bandage contact lens is actually put on the eye and that contact lens is kept in the eye for several days so that your eye can heal. Whereas with Lasik, there isn't any extra material put on your eye. Your eye kind of . . . it's fast and your eye is almost kind of healed at that point. There's really nothing to cover up.

Interviewer: Is there one that you would prefer over the other, in terms of their kind of better outcome long-term.

Dr. Lin: PRK could be a little bit safer and the reason is that with Lasik, there's kind of a long life risk of having additional damage to your eye if your eye gets hit really hard. We're talking hard injury like a car accident, baseball to the eye, a big fall, something like that because the cornea isn't that 100% strength. There could be additional injuries to the eye with whatever injury hits you in the eye, but if you have PRK and you get hit in your eye later on, any eye injury you would have wouldn't be any different than getting hit in your eye right now.

Interviewer: PRK is not a surgery that a patient could come into your office and say, "I want this surgery." It's something that you need to evaluate and it's a doctor-prescribed treatment?

Dr. Lin: Exactly. PRK is an elective surgery, but we still need to see if you are a candidate for it. But some people are not candidates for Lasik and some people are not candidates for Lasik or PRK. I think they're both great procedures and the only way to for you to determine that is to see a doctor, get all the testing to see if you're a candidate.

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