Acronym Madness — The Difference Between PRK and LASIK

October 15, 2018

LASIK Chicago, ILEveryone knows about LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis) eye surgery. With that name, it’s also easy to see why everyone uses the acronym rather than the actual name. LASIK at Millennium Park Eye Center is awesome because we can take a person who has lived his or her entire life dependent on glasses to see the alarm clock and in just a few minutes that person can have perfect vision.

But sometimes patients at the Millennium Park don’t quite fit as candidates for LASIK.

In those cases we often perform photorefractive keratectomy (PRK). The battling acronyms confuse patients, so here’s the difference between these two incredible vision-improving laser procedures. By the way, we perform both procedures at Millennium Park Eye Center.

Why can’t some people have LASIK?

Although it is rare, some people don’t qualify as good candidates for LASIK. Some of these patients have larger pupils or thin corneas that do not work for the LASIK procedure.

What’s the difference between LASIK and PRK?

The difference really comes down to the flap. Here’s what we mean.

In LASIK, a flap is created on the outer cornea by a laser microkeratome. This flap is then gently folded back to expose the underlying surface of the cornea. A computer-controlled amount of laser energy is then used to remove the desired amount of cornea tissue to correct the shape of the cornea and correct the refraction. Corneas that aren’t the correct shape create refraction problems that lead to issues such as near- or far-sightedness. Once the cornea tissue is removed, the corneal flap is placed back into its original position and allowed to heal. No sutures are needed. The whole process only takes seconds, and the patient experiences significant improvement in their vision anywhere from one to five days after the procedure.

In PRK, the corneal epithelium is removed and discarded, unlike in LASIK where a flap is made and later placed back down. Since this layer is removed in PRK, the eye has to regenerate those cells in recovery. Once the corneal epithelium is removed, the laser is then used to reshape the cornea, as is done in LASIK. Recovery isn’t quite as fast with PRK as LASIK, and the patient’s results will take a little while longer to fully show. But in the end the results of the procedures are similar.

Can’t have LASIK? See clearly with PRK

So, if you don’t qualify for LASIK, PRK is a similar surgery that will provide similar results. You probably have no idea if your eyes are right for LASIK or if you would need PRK, but that’s something we will check during your consultation to see if laser eye correction is right for you. Either way, if you’re tired of glasses or contacts, call the team at Millennium Park Eye Center, (312) 996-2020, and make an appointment.


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