PRK vs. LASIK: Comparison of Procedure, Costs & Recovery
Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) and laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) are surgical procedures to reshape your eye’s cornea and correct vision problems like nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism.
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LASIK is a household name, famous for its fast recovery time and wide success, as it has improved vision for millions. However, a less recognized but still effective option is PRK, an older operation that is very similar to LASIK. While PRK requires a longer healing time, it can sometimes be a better operation for some people who may not qualify for LASIK.
How Does Surgery Work?
PRK and LASIK target the cornea, reshaping it to ensure light focuses on the retina at the back of your eye. The cornea is covered by a thin layer of tissue. PRK and LASIK differ in how doctors expose the cornea.
During LASIK, your surgeon uses a microkeratome (small blade) or laser to cut a flap in your cornea. After the cornea is reshaped, the doctor puts the flap back over your eye.
During PRK, your surgeon removes tissue from the front of your eye with a laser or a brush. After the cornea is reshaped, the doctor uses a bandage to protect the eye.
How Much Does It Cost?
PRK and LASIK typically come with the same price tag, averaging $2,000 to $3,000 per eye.
Both PRK and LASIK will not be fully covered by insurance because they are considered elective surgeries. For most people, however, the improvements in their lifetime vision make the cost and recovery time worthwhile.
How Long Does It Take to Recover?
While LASIK and PRK are similar, the recovery times are dramatically different.
LASIK recovery is quick, and most people return to their normal activities within a few days. You may feel like your eyes are itching and burning, but you shouldn’t feel significant pain.
PRK recovery takes longer, as the cornea heals from the inside out. It could take five days or so to heal from this surgery, and during this time, you may have some eye pain treatable with over-the-counter medications.
After either surgery, you must avoid the following:
- Scratching or touching your eyes
- Wearing makeup
- Swimming or using a hot tub
Your doctor will monitor your progress and ensure your eyes are healing as they should.
Who Is the Surgery For?
LASIK is typically preferred by patients and doctors because patients heal quickly and easily.
Typically, people who do not qualify for LASIK are good candidates for PRK. Since your doctor doesn’t create a flap in the surface of the eye, it could be better for those with active lifestyles, thin corneas, or significant corrections.
How to Choose the Right Surgery
Your choice should ultimately be based on what is best for your specific needs and your ophthalmologist’s recommendations. Some people may only qualify for LASIK or PRK due to their specific needs. When LASIK is an option, it does provide significant benefits in generally superior vision outcomes and faster healing times.
- LASIK vs. PRK: Which Laser Eye Surgery Is Right for You? (January 2023). Forbes.
- What Is LASIK Eye Surgery? (August 2020). JAMA.
- What Is Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK)? (November 2022). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
- Comparison of Clinical Outcomes of LASIK, Trans-PRK, and SMILE for Correction of Myopia. (February 2022). Journal of the Chinese Medical Association.