PRK vs LASIK

6.10.2008

Both are surgical procedures performed under a local anesthetic that uses a laser to correct one's vision. LASIK is probably the most popular procedure, as it has very little healing time. However, the procedure I'll be undergoing is called PRK (Photorefractive keratectomy). PRK has a longer healing time. The reason for the longer healing time is the way the procedure is performed.

In a nutshell, LASIK uses a laser to cut a flap from the top 1/3rd layer of the cornea, then uses a laser to reshape the underlying layers of cornea. PRK uses a chemical solution to dissolve a much thinner top layer of the cornea, then uses a laser to reshape the layers of the cornea. The higher the vision correction, the more layers of cornea need to be used in the reshaping process. My corneas happen to be on the thin side, and therefore there aren't really enough layers to successfully perform the LASIK. Hence, because I have such a large correction, I am undergoing PRK instead.

One downside to LASIK is that the flap never completely heals, and any moderate trauma to the eye area can cause the flap to re-open. One advantage to PRK is that it has been around for many years longer than LASIK. However (and this is a big one), the healing time for PRK can last months. I have read varying experiences on different blogs, but they range from some mild discomfort and irritation for a few days to extreme pain for a couple of weeks, and everything in between. I suspect the variation in experiences of pain have a lot to do with individual differences, including tolerance to pain. I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, but I do know that even when my contacts were at their most painful, I could wear them for several hours knowing that relief could be mine at any time just by removing the contacts. I won't exactly be able to "escape" the pain from the PRK procedure.

Consistently, these blogs report a week or two before the person feels comfortable enough with their vision to drive, and up to a month to see actual improvement in vision. Good correction is usually achieved by six months. Let me clarify. Once the laser correction is done, the vision is corrected. But because the very top layer of cornea is gone, the vision itself isn't very functional. People typically report a haze, ghosting, starbursts, and halos until the cornea has healed completely (3-6 months to heal).

Another disadvantage is severe light sensitivity. As most of my work is done under fluorescent lights, staring at a backlit computer screen, I'm not sure how long it will take me to be fully functional at work.

I am definitely going to have to sacrifice and "pay" for the opportunity to be able to see without contacts or glasses. But I strongly feel that it will be worth it. Another consistent bit of feedback across all blogs I read was that the individual absolutely regretting having PRK one week, two weeks, even one month out. However, by one year, every single person said that PRK was worth it, and they would not hesitate to do it again. The long term results for them far outweighed the short term pain and inconvenience. Let's hope I will be able to say the same.

My procedure is exactly one month from today!!

1 comments:

Gina Marie Wake said...

Oh my!! This is all very interesting! I hope all turns out wonderfully and I can't wait to hear your verdict. I hope it is not too annoying and heals quicker than predicted.

 
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