When it comes to eye surgery in today’s medical world, LASIK is what comes to most people’s minds. However, before LASIK there was PRK, which stands for photorefractive keratectomy. Still performed on a widespread basis, it differs from LASIK in that instead of cutting open a flap to have access to a patient’s eye, it wipes away the top layer of the cornea.
While this may sound like a more harsh procedure than LASIK, it actually reduces the likelihood of complications but does increase a patient’s recovery time.
PRK surgery, when wiping away the top layer of the cornea, is actually a painless surgery for most patients. Pain medication and numbing drops for the eye are usually given when the surgeon is doing away with the cornea’s top layer, lessening the discomfort.
The following 48 hours often give the patient the most discomfort, so to combat these drugs such as Vicodin and tetracaine drops are prescribed to help alleviate any pain and suffering. For the next three days following PRK surgery, the patient is advised to do as little physical activity as possible and to be especially aware of doing too much with their eyes including reading and staring at computer screens.
Five to seven days after PRK surgery, patients will have their bandages removed from their eyes and have an assessment made by the surgeon. These temporary “bandage” lenses being removed will usually allow for the resumption of normal everyday activities. The major exception to this rule is returning to vigorous exercise or any activity that may injure the eyes, such as boxing or karate.
One of the biggest differences between LASIK and PRK surgery is the time it takes to know the full impact of the surgery on the patient. While LASIK patients often notice improvement within a week or less, PRK patients sometimes have to wait up to six months to fully gauge the benefits of their surgery.
While they will be able to see very well during this time, it will be too soon to fully assess the complete benefits of their surgery. Those patients who elect to have PRK surgery should be made aware of this early on, so as to not be disappointed if their vision is not what they expected immediately after surgery.
A Patient’s Role in Recovery
For a patient to experience the maximum benefits of PRK surgery, it’s important they play an active role in their recovery. Many doctors recommend taking supplements such as Omega 3 to help avoid dry eyes and skin. Often found in fish, Omega 3 can be taken by pill or gotten by eating at least two meals of fish per week.
Doctors also advise patients to avoid other things that can lead to dry eyes such as looking directly into fans or staring for long periods of time at computer screens. This is especially important within the first week of surgery when the eyes are most vulnerable to dry eye syndrome.
Patients undergoing PRK surgery need to realize recovery will be ongoing and sometimes may not progress as quickly as they wish. In fact, sometimes they may not be experiencing the results they want after six months and may want the surgery performed again.
While this is very rare, since most patients have acceptable results within six months, sometimes a redo is needed. This possibility is usually discussed between doctor and patient before the first surgery, and most legitimate doctors will have this option for a second surgery free of charge as part of their treatment package. If a second surgery is needed, the recovery time is the same as with the first surgery.
Even after the surgery is long over and the results are positive, patients should continue to do everything possible to protect their vision. Doctors may recommend continuing to use vitamins and supplements such as Omega 3, using eye drops to keep their eyes moist, wearing sunglasses when driving or outside in the sunshine, and limiting their time spent staring at computer or television screens.
By following their doctor’s advice, patients undergoing PRK surgery can make sure the results will be satisfactory to themselves and their doctor.