If you're considering laser-based eye surgery to correct your vision, the two primary surgical options your eye doctor is likely to suggest are LASIK (laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis) and PRK (photorefractive keratectomy). Each surgery has its pros and cons, so you should spend some time weighing your options before making your decision.
Overview: PRK involves using a laser to reshape the cornea. Unlike other laser-eye surgeries, like LASIK, which creates a flap in the cornea before reshaping it, PRK removes the entire outer layer of the cornea. Reshaping the cornea alters the way that light hits the retina, allowing for clearer vision.
Advantages: PRK often has "clearer" results than LASIK. For this reason, many military agencies only allow their pilots and captains to undergo PRK, and not LASIK. There is a lower risk of permanent side effects, such as eye dryness and halos in the visual field, associated with PRK. This is mostly because no flap is created in the cornea during the procedure. PRK is often recommended for athletes who participate in contact sports since they don't have to worry about the flap becoming dislodged.
Disadvantages: Recovering from PRK is a bit harder than recovering from LASIK. Whereas LASIK patients may be comfortable and able to drive the day after their surgery, PRK patients' eyes remain sore for a week or longer. Vision improves slowly over a period of several weeks, and contacts need to be worn to protect the eyes during recovery.
Overview: In LASIK, a laser is first used to create a flap in the cornea. (Older versions of LASIK used a blade to make this flap.) Then, a second laser is used to re-shape the cornea under the flap. The flap is then folded back down over the eye.
Advantages: The primary advantage of LASIK is its short recovery time and lack of discomfort. Patients experience only mild itching and burning after the procedure, but this wears off within a day or so. Within 24 to 48 hours after the procedure, most patients see a huge improvement in vision. Many are able to drive the day after their appointment.
Disadvantages: Though many patients have few to no side effects following LASIK, there is a higher risk of side effects than with PRK. There is a chance of the flap becoming dislodged during healing, and if this happens, an additional surgery is required to repair the damage. Some patients experience ongoing eye dryness and poor night vision following LASIK. If you're considering a military career, it's important to check with any outfits you're considering joining prior to surgery since some do not accept applicants who have had LASIK.
To learn more about these two procedures and which is best for you, speak with your eye doctor.