What are the Differences Between PRK and LASIK?

Over the last few decades, laser vision correction has transformed ophthalmology. According to the Vision Council of America, approximately 75% of the adults in the United States rely on some form of vision correction. Glasses and contact are the most commonly worn visual aids. While they are effective, many patients dislike the impact that wearing glasses or contacts has on their lifestyle and appearance, in addition to the expense of these products over an individual’s lifetime.

Many people mistakenly believe that laser vision correction surgery is one, standard procedure. In actuality, there are several different types of laser vision correction. The two most common laser vision surgeries are known as PRK and LASIK. Although similar, there are a few key differences between these surgeries.

To help you understand which might be right for you, Progressive Ophthalmology has put together this guide explaining a bit about each type of laser vision correction.

What Do PRK and LASIK stand for?

PRK stands for Photo-Refractive Keratectomy.

​​​​​​​LASIK stands for Laser-Assisted In-Situ Keratomileusis.

What Types of Vision Problems Can PRK and LASIK correct?

Both PRK and LASIK are able to either completely correct or substantially improve the vision of patients who are far-sighted, near-sighted, or suffering from astigmatism.

LASIK eye surgery


Laser vision correction works by reshaping the cornea, so that the light refracts more accurately. The exact reshaping process depends on the type and seriousness of the refractive error (eyeglass prescription) the patient has.

Both PRK and LASIK are incredibly similar, with the exception of the initial part of the procedure. The difference relates to which part of the corneal tissue is exposed to reshape the cornea with the laser.

With LASIK, the surgeon makes an incision in the cornea to create a flap of tissue. This can be done with a blade in traditional LASIK or a laser in all laser LASIK. The corneal flap is then lifted and a laser is applied to the underlying corneal bed to reshape the cornea. The flap is then put back into its original position and allowed to heal naturally over the next several days.

With PRK, the surgeon does not make an incision to create a flap of cornea, as is done in LASIK. Instead, the fine outer layer of the cornea (called the epithelium) is removed to expose the underlying cornea to allow the same laser application as with LASIK. The removed epithelium will re-grow naturally. This usually takes about 1 week.

How Long Does Laser Vision Correction Take?

Both PRK and LASIK vision correction surgeries take approximately 5 minutes per eye. The actual laser time is usually less than 1 minute per eye. However, you can expect to spend up to 30 minutes in the surgery suite, which allows for prep and recovery time.

Recovering From PRK vs LASIK

One of the primary differences between PRK and LASIK is the recovery process. There is a slight difference in the initial discomfort after the procedure, and the speed with which better vision can be achieved.

In LASIK surgery, the discomfort that follows is usually mild and short lived. Many patients report that their visual acuity is dramatically improved within a few hours after surgery, although this continues to refine over the coming months. Peak clarity is normally achieved in under three months.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​However, with PRK surgery, the initial discomfort, blurriness, and distorted vision can last for several days. Dr. Ahdoot may prescribe you eye drops to use while your epithelium grows back. These will keep your eyes moist and promote the healing process. Peak clarity from PRK laser eye surgery can take up to six months. The advantage of PRK is, however, it leaves the integrity of your cornea stronger than LASIK, as less tissue is compromised by omitting the flap. PRK is an excellent choice for individuals with thin corneas and/or high prescriptions.


Candidacy for PRK and LASIK

Both PRK and LASIK are extremely safe and successful treatments. Which is right for you will depend on your individual conditions. In most cases, PRK is recommended for patients with thinner corneas, a history of dry eyes, large pupils, or irregular corneas. Some patients may also prefer PRK, if they are worried about flap complications. To determine which surgery will deliver the best results for your ocular needs, you will need to attend a consultation appointment with Dr. Michael Ahdoot.

If you live in Sunnyside Queens or the surrounding metropolitan NY area and would like to learn more about which laser vision correction is right for you, call Progressive Ophthalmology today at 718-565-2020.