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LASIK vs PRK: A Guide to Laser Vision Correction Procedures

lasik vs prk


When it comes to laser vision correction, LASIK and PRK are two of the most popular procedures. Both offer the promise of improved vision and a life less dependent on glasses or contact lenses. However, understanding the differences, LASIK vs PRK, is crucial in making an informed decision about your eye health.

Understanding LASIK

LASIK, or Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis, is a type of refractive eye surgery. It works by reshaping the cornea, the clear front part of the eye, to allow light entering the eye to be properly focused onto the retina for clearer vision.

Here’s a brief overview of how LASIK works:

  1. A thin flap in the cornea is created using a femtosecond laser.
  2. The surgeon folds back the hinged flap to access the underlying cornea (called the stroma) and removes some corneal tissue using an excimer laser.
  3. The flap is then laid back in place, covering the area where the corneal tissue was removed.

LASIK is most suitable for people who have moderate degrees of:

  • Nearsightedness (myopia), where you see nearby objects clearly, but distant objects are blurry.
  • Farsightedness (hyperopia), where you can see distant objects clearly, but nearby objects are blurry.
  • Astigmatism, which causes overall blurry vision and distortion.

For more detailed information on LASIK, you can visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s guide on LASIK.

Understanding PRK

PRK, or Photorefractive Keratectomy, is another type of refractive eye surgery. It was actually the precursor to LASIK and is still commonly performed today.

Here’s a brief overview of how PRK works:

  1. The outer layer of the cornea (epithelium) is removed to expose the area for the laser.
  2. An excimer laser is used to reshape the cornea, allowing light entering the eye to be properly focused onto the retina.
  3. A “bandage” contact lens is placed on the cornea while the outer layer regenerates naturally over one week.

PRK is most suitable for people with:

  • Moderate to high degrees of myopia.
  • Thin corneas, dry eyes, or patients with pre-existing minor corneal issues.
  • Patients involved in any contact sports e.g. boxing, football, hockey etc.

Read more in-depth information on PRK from All About Vision.

LASIK vs PRK: The Procedure

Both LASIK and PRK aim to correct vision by reshaping the cornea using an excimer laser. However, the procedures differ in the way they prepare the eye for the treatment:

  • LASIK: The surgeon creates a thin flap in the cornea with a laser, lifts the flap to reshape the cornea with a laser, then lays the flap back in place.
  • PRK: The surgeon removes the outer layer of the cornea, reshapes the cornea, then allows the outer layer to grow back naturally.

While both procedures have their own set of risks and complications, they are generally considered safe and effective. The choice between LASIK and PRK often depends on the individual’s eye condition, lifestyle, and personal preference.

LASIK vs PRK: Recovery Time

The recovery process for LASIK and PRK varies.

  • LASIK: Most patients notice an immediate improvement in their vision after surgery, with vision stabilizing fully within a one to two weeks. The recovery is generally quick, with minimal discomfort. Most patients notice a big improvement in their vision the very next morning.
  • PRK: The recovery process is a bit longer, as it takes a few days for the outer layer of the cornea to heal. There is more discomfort during this first three to five days as that layer is regenerating. Vision improvement is typically noticed within a seven to ten days, but it can take a month or longer for vision to stabilize completely.
  • LASIK vs PRK: It is important to note that although the vision recovery for LASIK is faster than PRK, the end result in vision sharpness and acuity for LASIK vs PRK is shown to be the same.

In both cases, it’s important to follow your doctor’s post-operative care instructions to ensure a smooth recovery.

LASIK vs PRK: Cost

The cost difference of LASIK vs PRK is usually the same. The cost of LASIK and PRK can vary widely, depending on factors such as the surgeon’s experience, the type of laser used, and the geographic location of the clinic. On average, you can expect to pay between $1,500 to $3,000 per eye for both procedures. It’s important to note that most insurance plans consider these procedures cosmetic and do not cover the cost.

Making the Decision: LASIK or PRK?

Choosing between LASIK and PRK is a decision that should be made in consultation with a qualified ophthalmologist. The best procedure for you will depend on various factors, including:

  • The thickness and shape of your corneas
  • Your lifestyle (certain occupations and hobbies may make you a better candidate for one procedure over the other)
  • Your personal comfort with the recovery process

Remember, the goal is to choose the procedure that will give you the best possible outcome for your individual needs and lifestyle.

In conclusion, both LASIK and PRK are effective procedures for correcting common vision problems. By understanding the differences between these two procedures, you can make an informed decision about which is the best fit for your needs. Always consult with a qualified ophthalmologist to discuss your options.

Still skeptical about LASIK? Here are 12 myths about LASIK and their facts.

Also, read our comprehensive guide on a third type of laser vision correction called SMILE eye surgery.


  • Is PRK or LASIK more painful?

    While both procedures involve some discomfort, most patients report minimal pain. PRK may involve more discomfort during the recovery process as the outer layer of the cornea heals. The discomfort typically lasts about two to three days.

  • Can I have PRK after LASIK?

    Yes, it’s possible to have PRK after LASIK, particularly if you’re not a candidate for a second LASIK enhancement procedure. This is something you would need to discuss with your eye doctor.

  • Are the results of PRK and LASIK permanent?

    Both PRK and LASIK permanently reshape the cornea and the results are generally stable for many years. However, it’s important to note that neither procedure can prevent age-related vision changes, such as presbyopia or cataracts.