There are several different avenues for vision correction, from glasses to contacts to corrective eye surgeries. In the past few decades, many advancements have been made in the area of laser vision correction, many of which are offered at the Kagen Institute in Los Angeles, CA. One of the more popular corrective procedures is PRK eye surgery, which is performed by Dr. Kagen at both our Los Angeles and Encino locations.
If the term PRK surgery is new to you or if you are searching for more information about your upcoming procedure, then you’re in luck. We have put together a simple guideline to educate you in everything you need to know about this procedure. If you still have questions after reading through this information, please feel to contact our offices and speak with our expert staff. We are always happy to answer all of your questions.
What Is PRK?
First and foremost, the term PRK stands for Photo Refractive Keratectomy, which is a laser-based corrective eye surgery. The Photo Refractive Keratectomy procedure was first introduced after Lasik surgery and is considered a safer, longer-lasting alternative. While both Photo Refractive Keratectomy and Lasik surgery produce the same results, there are some differences in how both surgeries are done and what the recovery for these procedures are like.
The Purpose of the Procedure
There are a handful of common vision problems that this procedure can correct. Vision problems are usually not caused by the vision receptors in the back of the eye but by the curve of the cornea, which bends light incorrectly and creates an imperfect image for visual receptors to perceive. Like other corrective eye surgeries, the goal of this procedure is to correct the curve of the cornea.
If you have to correct your vision with glasses or contacts, then you might want to consider this procedure as a permanent solution to your vision problems. Patients who suffer from farsightedness, nearsightedness, and astigmatism that already require corrective measures should seriously consider this procedure.
What Are the Benefits of PRK?
The biggest benefit of this procedure is the accuracy of the vision correction. The vast majority of patients, about 90%, have perfect 20/20 vision with corrective lenses in the year following surgery. When fully recovered from this procedure, perfect vision without glasses or contact lenses is possible, especially for patients who have nearsightedness.
Another benefit of this procedure is how long-lasting the results are. Unlike other corrective eye surgeries, the results from this procedure are permanent, with age-related changes to the eye notwithstanding. For people under 40, you can enjoy several years of perfect vision before natural aging changes might begin to affect your sight again. Usually, the aging-related changes in the eye become plain around 50 years of age for both men and women. Regular eye appointments will help you manage these age-related changes.
A final benefit of this procedure is the fact that many patients who do not qualify for Lasik surgery do qualify for Photo Refractive Keratectomy. Patients who have thinner corneal tissues cannot have Lasik because of how the procedure is performed, but because Photo Refractive Keratectomy uses a different method, they are able to be candidates for the procedure. Additionally, this procedure lowers the tedious side effect of dry eyes that often follows a corrective eye procedure.
How Is the Procedure Performed?
By now, you might be wondering how exactly this procedure is performed. It’s a fair question. If you are a little wary about a laser going near your eye, you can rest easy knowing that the lasers used for corrective eye surgeries are incredibly delicate and accurate. For this procedure, the essential component of how it is performed involves a computer. A computer guides the laser to correct the refractive error in each eye. The computer is programmed for your exact visual impairments, which takes about a minute for each eye.
Unlike Lasik, which creates a flap over the cornea, this procedure corrects the shape of your cornea without any invasive techniques. This is one of the reasons why this procedure is considered a lower risk than Lasik surgery. The methods used in this procedure remove only about 5 to 10% of the corneal tissue, which is about the thickness of two or three human hairs.
The PRK Process
Many patients are curious about what the entire process for this procedure is like. In the interest of giving you the most information to make a fully informed decision, we are providing a step-by-step outline of how the procedure is done, from your initial appointment all the way to recovery.
Your initial appointment helps determine whether or not you are a good candidate for the procedure. Your eyes will be thoroughly screened by the experts at our clinic, paying particularly close attention to the exact status of your corneal tissues. We will discuss your general medical history, your current health, and the corrective methods you have used for your eyes now and in the past. The idea is to get a comprehensive understanding of your eyes and your health to decide if this surgery is right for you.
It is possible that at this appointment we will determine that other methods may suit your eye correction needs better. Our goal for care is to provide you with the best possible treatment option available. At this point, if you have any questions about your treatment, our caring and compassionate staff will be happy to answer all queries.
Photo Refractive Keratectomy is an outpatient procedure that takes about 30 minutes to complete. However, because it is an eye surgery, we may ask that you arrange for transportation after your procedure is complete. We may also advise that you temporarily stop taking certain medications unless otherwise determined by a doctor.
Step One: Eye Drops
The first thing we will do on the day of your procedure is to administer anesthetic drops to each of your eyes. These eye drops are meant to work as a local numbing agent so that you will not feel the sensation of the procedure as it is being performed. These eye drops do not interfere with your vision; in fact, if you have undergone certain eye exams in the past, you might be familiar with this type of eye drop.
It is very important that you tell our staff if you still feel pressure or other sensations in your eyes after the drops have been administered. Some patients are more sensitive to drops than others, and you may require additional drops.
Step Two: Prevent Blinking
Once your eyes are totally numbed, we will assist you into a device that will hold your eyelids apart for the duration of the procedure. We use this device to prevent blinking and to stop any movement that might interfere with the procedure being completed properly.
Step Three: Remove Surface Corneal Cells
At this point, the next step in the procedure is to remove the surface corneal cells that are gathered on the topmost portion of the eye. The purpose of removing these corneal cells is to provide the laser with the clearest surface to work on. You can think of it as washing a window so that the laser has a clear view.
Step Four: Excimer Laser
Once our doctor is satisfied that your eyes are fully prepared for the procedure, he will guide the excimer laser driven by the computer toward your eye and monitor your progress as the laser is used to correct the shape of your cornea. You will not feel the laser on your eye at all, although you may see lights as the laser is used. The completion of each eye is typically done within 5 to 15 minutes and the laser is usually only on for 1 minute at a time per eye.
Step Five: Contact Lens
After the laser portion of the procedure is complete, we will place a bandage eye contact onto your eye to protect the vulnerable cornea surface while it heals. The contact lens is usually worn for 3 to 5 days to give the eye enough time to recover from the immediate effects of the laser. The contact lens will be removed by Dr. Kagen at a follow-up appointment.
After contact lenses have been placed onto your eye, you will be released from our clinic with a list of post-treatment guidelines. It is important that you follow each of the guidelines to ensure proper healing for your eyes. We will give you advice on how to remain comfortable in the first few days following your procedure. Some of these guidelines include:
- Avoiding eyestrain on the day of the procedure
- Resting your eyes as much as possible
- Wear eye shields as directed
- Do not touch or rub your eye
- Use medicated eye drops as directed
- Wear sunglasses outdoors
- Avoid eye make-up or creams
- Avoid water directly in the eye
You may experience some soreness in your eyes for several days following the procedure. This soreness is expected and easily managed by over-the-counter pain medications. You may also experience some temporary light sensitivity, which should fade on its own in the days and weeks following the procedure.
What Is Recovery Like?
Recovery from any eye surgery is going to involve some downtime. For this procedure, you are not considered fully recovered until a year after the procedure is complete. There are a few stages of recovery for this procedure. During this time, you will have several follow-up appointments to ensure that your eyes are responding well to the procedure.
In general, patients are recovered well enough from this procedure after a week to return to normal daily activities, such as driving or going to work. You are strongly encouraged to wear sunglasses for up to 1 year following the procedure.
Can You Shower After PRK?
One commonly asked question we get from patients is how soon you can shower after this procedure. We generally encourage patients to wait at least 24 hours before showering or doing anything else that might cause unnecessary eye strain. It is important that your eye remain free of foreign containments, such as water or make-up, in the immediate hours following the procedure.
While you will be able to see well enough to return to normal daily activities 1 week following the procedure, you will not begin to experience perfect corrective vision until about 4 weeks to 3 months following the procedure. By 6 months following the procedure, you will be enjoying fully corrected vision.
The perfect candidates for this procedure include anyone with mild to moderate vision problems associated with nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. This is a good procedure for people who have mixed vision problems, such as having both an astigmatism and farsightedness.
If you think that PRK is right for you, give the Kagen Institute in Los Angeles, CA a call to schedule your initial consultation today! Dr. Kagen and our team look forward to having you as a patient!