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Primary Eye Care Associates

What to Expect during PRK Recovery

By Dr. Steven Chander on February 15, 2018

Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) may be recommended for patients who are not candidates for LASIK. Both of these procedures can correct myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism. However, the recovery process is slightly different due to the difference in the surgical techniques. The team at Primary Eye Care Associates in Chicago, IL, can walk patients through what to expect during PRK recovery. They can outline what you should know during the days, weeks, and months following your procedure.

digital four-panel illustration of photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) procedure

LASIK vs. PRK: A Recap

Before discussing PRK recovery, it is important to review how it is different from LASIK. The two procedures have similar end goals. The primary difference is that LASIK involves making a corneal flap while PRK involves the complete removal of the outermost layer of the cornea. Generally, PRK is performed when the cornea is too thin or is recommended for individuals with a higher risk of experiencing flap complications.

Immediately after PRK Surgery

Immediately following PRK, patients will notice discomfort, itchiness, and increased light sensitivity. It is not uncommon to see halos, light bursts, or glaring around bright objects or lights. During this time, the epithelium will regenerate. It is important to rest the eyes as much as possible for the first few days, keeping them close or sleeping if you can. Avoid rubbing the eyes, as this can disrupt the healing process. Typically, patients will be asked to wear a protective mask during sleep to prevent unconscious rubbing or scratching.

PRK patients will also be given detailed post-operative instructions. Closely following these guidelines is crucial to a successful and comfortable recovery.

The First Few Weeks

Light sensitivity and the halo effect will endure weeks after your surgery. This is a normal aspect of recovery and should continue to improve as your eyes heal. Most patients note the most dramatic improvement in vision within the first month, oftentimes with a noted enhancement within the first week.

The Months Following Treatment

For most patients, it takes between three and six months to enjoy full visual acuity. However, during this time, the initial symptoms including discomfort, itchiness, and light sensitivity will fade and eventually disappear. In most cases, full vision will be restored by the six-month mark.

Tips for a Successful Recovery

While you will be provided with post-surgical guidelines and recommendations from your doctor, there are a few tips and tricks that are commonly suggested for those recovering from PRK:

  • Sun protection: Because PRK commonly causes light sensitivity, it is important to shield your eyes from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Make sure to wear sunglasses or a large-brimmed hat when you are outdoors.
  • Be mindful of nighttime driving: Patients undergoing PRK will need to be especially cognizant of driving at night during the first few weeks. In fact, it is recommended that you rely on mass transit or have a friend or family member drive you if it is dark outside.
  • Use artificial tears: Dry eyes are one of the most common side effects of PRK. It is important to carry artificial tears with you wherever you go and use them as often as necessary.

Learn More about PRK Recovery

If you are considering vision correction with PRK, or if you have recently undergone the procedure, our team can help you know what to expect during your recovery. As always, you can reach out to a team member with any questions or to schedule an appointment. 

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