Do PRK Results Last Forever?
With LASIK eye surgery being the most prevalent procedure for men and women who struggle with farsightedness, nearsightedness, and astigmatism, PRK is an excellent option that delivers the same outcomes as LASIK but with a longer post-surgery recovery. PRK (photorefractive kerectomy) technology has been refined since its inception in the early 1990s to improve how light focuses on the retina by reshaping the cornea. Dr. Brian Will employs PRK on patients with thin corneas or who struggle with other factors that disqualify them from LASIK.
Like LASIK, PRK results are permanent. PRK opens the door for many more patients to receive long-lasting eye correction who are not good candidates for LASIK. Now let’s learn more about the surgery and its long-term results.
Understanding PRK Eye Surgery and Its Long-Term Results
Your eyesight is vital for optimal quality of life. PRK refractive laser eye surgery is for nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and can help with poor vision. About 80% of patients see improved vision one-month post-surgery—95% after three months.
What Is PRK Eye Surgery?
PRK is a laser eye surgery designed to correct a refractive problem where your eyes don’t bend light correctly, preventing you from seeing at your best. As a result, you may not require glasses or contact lenses, or at the least only for reading or driving at night.
Why Is PRK Performed?
Board-certified opthalmologist Dr. Brian Will performs PRK to treat refractive errors in your eyes by changing the shape of your cornea. This procedure enhances the process of how light focuses on your retina. PRK is for women and men diagnosed with the following eye issues:
- Nearsightedness (Myopia)
- Farsightedness (Hyperopia)
- Blurry vision (Astigmatism)
What’s the Difference Between PRK and LASIK?
LASIK is another laser eye surgery that corrects the shape of your cornea. Unlike LASIK, PRK doesn’t cut the flap in your cornea. PRK may be best if you have dry eyes, thin corneas, or have an extensively active lifestyle where the activity can dislocate the cornea flap.
All laser-correction eye surgeries reshape the cornea or clear the front of your eye so light traveling through it focuses onto the retina in the back of your eye correctly. During PRK, Dr. Will uses the high pulsing ultraviolet light beam on the cornea surface, not beneath the corneal flap as in LASIK.
LASIK’s recovery is a shorter recovery period and involves less discomfort after the procedure. If you have a PRK, you’re likelier to have hazy eyesight for a short period. Typically, the quality of vision long-term from a PRK is as good as LASIK.
Why Choose PRK Over LASIK?
LASIK is the most recent technology when compared to a PRK. LASIK involves the risk of the flap getting dislocated. Because a PRK doesn’t include a flap, which physical activity can displace, pilots, athletes, and anyone who leads an active lifestyle may prefer it.
How Long Do PRK Eye Surgery Results Typically Last?
As the excimer laser used in the procedure permanently reshapes the cornea, the newly created shape will last forever. The subsequent clear vision should remain as well. PRK, or any corrective refractive surgery, does not guarantee that there will not be any changes in sight in the years following surgery due to natural aging or any optical conditions that may arise in the future. However, for most people, PRK-improved eyesight is permanent.
PRK procedures require multiple appointments to ensure you receive the best results possible. Laser eye surgery technology helps surgeons by scanning the eye’s surface to create a detailed map, known as topography. Topography allows Dr. Will to plan your PRK procedure accordingly. With PRK, he will gently swab the epithelium, the cornea’s thin outer layer. Next, the excimer laser will alter the cornea’s shape and correct refractive errors.
Patients should be aware that recovery includes vision changes. Almost immediately, patients notice clear vision. But because the top layer of the corner was removed, it takes about a week for those surface cells to grow back. As this happens, vision can worsen, appearing blurry. This occurrence is expected. However, vision becomes clear again within a few weeks post-surgery once those cells smooth out.
Exploring the Long-Term Efficacy of PRK Eye Surgery
A new sixteen-year PRK European study shows long-term safety and efficacy. When PRK laser eye surgery was first performed, patients’ long-term data about its performance wasn’t available. Today, however, PRK surgery has a long track record of helping surgeons understand how it performs over the long term.
PRK was the first laser eye corrective surgery. It was first performed experimentally in the United States on a blind human eye in 1981 and first performed on an eye with vision in Germany in 1986. We, therefore, have over twenty-five years of clinical data on PRK.
While surgeons have been performing PRK for a quarter of a century, long-term formal studies are challenging to achieve at a practical level since it’s difficult to have patients doing well to return for tedious study measurements. Despite this difficulty, the Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery published a sixteen-year long-term study of patients who have previously undergone PRK.
In this study of the long-term effects of PRK, thirty-nine eyes of twenty-three patients were studied for sixteen years. Sixteen years after surgery, twenty-seven eyes had 20/20 vision or better without glasses, and thirty-six eyes had 20/30 or better vision without glasses. Furthermore, all patients said they were happy and would do PRK again today if necessary. Keep in mind, PRK laser eye surgery in 1999 was relatively primitive compared to the modern wavefront-guided PRK we use today, which makes these results even more impressive.
In conclusion, the authors of this remarkable study said, “Our study found refractive stability for sixteen years post-operatively with a very low level of serious long-term sequelae and high levels of patient satisfaction.”
PRK Eye Surgery: Are Long-Term Results Worth the Investment?
The excellent news is LASIK and PRK results are considered a permanent solution for vision correction, and most patients find their improved eyesight lasts a lifetime. A consequence of refractive laser surgery is that your cornea’s curve is re-contoured, and the cornea will most likely maintain its new shape. Here are some aspects you should consider about the long-term impact of these vision correction surgeries.
Vision Stabilization Before PRK or LASIK
Everyone experiences changing visions throughout their lives, and many people experience many of these changes during their early years. However, once a person reaches their mid-twenties, it’s common for their vision to stabilize, and there may be minimal changes in their prescriptions.
When you talk with an eye surgeon about PRK or LASIK surgery, they will examine your eyes and determine if your vision has stabilized. If you are still experiencing vision changes, it might be better to wait a while before investing in PRK or LASIK eye surgery. However, if you choose to have surgery before your vision has stabilized, you may need to have the procedure again because your eyesight will continue to change after the surgery.
Surgical Results After PRK or LASIK
Technology has come a long way, and eye surgeons can offer top-of-the-line treatment to improve your vision. But, it is essential to remember that there are differences in how each person’s eyes will heal, which means that the outcomes can differ depending on the person. In most cases, PRK or LASIK surgery is sufficient to improve the person’s vision, and they don’t need to worry about other types of vision corrections.
However, there are some situations where a person might have PRK or LASIK and won’t achieve the vision correction results they were expecting. Dr. Will may recommend having a second PRK or LASIK enhancement procedure completed, which can help you achieve the desired results. Typically, if a second procedure is needed, results will be permanent after the second surgery.
The Pros and Cons of PRK Eye Surgery for Long-Term Vision Correction
Any surgical or medical treatment will have positive and negative aspects. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand the advantages and disadvantages ahead of time and have realistic expectations to ensure you’re getting the best treatment option.
At the time of your decision to undergo surgery, Dr. Will and his team will review your PRK risks, benefits, and alternatives to PRK surgery.
Advantages of PRK
- A highly accurate method to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism
- As many as 90% of people who complete PRK have at least 20/20 vision (sometimes as acute as 20/40) without wearing glasses or contacts. However, we should note that patients may still require glasses for reading and nighttime activities.
- For thin cornea patients, who are not candidates for LASIK surgery, PRK is a practical option
- PRK is the preferred option for athletes. This preference is because the LASIK procedure requires cutting a corneal flap, which can become dislocated on contact.
- PRK achieves the same long-term results as LASIK
Disadvantages of PRK
- As with any surgery, PRK comes with inherent risks. These potential complications include scarring, infection, and difficulties with night vision and driving.
- Though highly accurate, some patients may suffer over or under-correction, requiring another PRK procedure
- In rare cases, vision may become worse after PRK
- PRK requires a longer recovery than LASIK. LASIK eye surgery is almost immediate, while PRK takes five to seven days.
- Most vision correction surgeries are considered elective and are not covered by insurance
What You Can Do to Maximize the Longevity of PRK Results
Because PRK recovery is more involved than LASIK, there are essential steps you can take to ensure you maximize the surgical outcome and your long-term results. They include:
Store Your Eye Drops in the Refrigerator
Dr. Will will send prescribe anti-inflammatory and antibiotic eye drops. You will enjoy these chilled soothing eye drops. Because you may experience dry eyes early in your healing process, Dr. Will may suggest lubricating your eyes frequently with preservative-free artificial tears. Keep vials in your pocket at all times and store additional vials in the fridge.
Buy a Lightweight Cold Compress for Your Eyes
If you choose PRK, placing a cold compress over your eyelids and forehead can help your eyes feel less irritable. This practice will help you sleep. Please get approval from Dr. Will before using compresses on your eyes.
Wash Your Hair the Morning of Surgery
We advise our PRK patients not to wet their eyes for a couple of days. Naturally, washing your hair increases the risk of filling your eyes with water or shampoo. That’s why we ask our patients not only to avoid showering for 24 hours but to avoid traditionally washing their hair or face for a few days. Instead, use a damp cloth to wash your face while avoiding your eyes. If you accidentally get soap and water in the eyes, avoid rubbing them and rinse well with artificial tears to remove any irritation. While we’re on the subject, hot tubs and saunas are forbidden for one month after surgery.
Download Entertainment That Doesn’t Involve Looking at a Screen
Since Dr. Will will instruct you to avoid screens and bright lights for a couple of days, you’ll want to have a game plan to keep your mind busy while recovering from PRK. Consider downloading podcasts, music, or books to help you relax.
Set Up Your Cell Phone for Comfort
Enlarge the text size and reduce screen brightness to minimize eye strain and dry eyes during recovery because you’ll spend less time reading texts. If you have an iPhone, you can use Siri to read email and notifications or texts from friends so you don’t need to look at your phone’s sceen.
Have Acetaminophen As a Back-Up to Any Prescription Pain Medication
PRK patients typically experience post-op pain for the first couple of days. They may be given prescription pain medication, but it is good to have acetaminophen on hand for breakthrough pain between medication doses or to address moderate pain.
Rest Is Vital
Don’t be eager to jump back into your daily routine too quickly after surgery. Even though you’re excited because you see so clearly, your eyes need time to recover. Resting your eyes is advantageous for optimal healing during recovery.
Contact Us for More Information
If you are considering refractive laser eye surgery to enhance your vision permanently, Contact Dr. Will at Will Vision and Laser Centers and schedule an in-office consultation.