Surface Laser Procedures – PRK & LASEK

PRK (Photo Refractive Keratectomy) and LASEK (Laser Epithelial Keratomileusis) are both surface laser ablation procedures that permanently change the shape of the cornea by reshaping it with the excimer laser.  The removal of thin layers of tissue causes the center of the cornea to flatten in the case of nearsightedness, steepen in the case of farsightedness, or become more rounded in the case of astigmatism thereby resulting in the desired/targeted changes to the focusing power of the cornea.  The surgery is performed using topical anesthetic (drops on the eye).   

For PRK (Photo Refractive Keratectomy), the surgeon prepares the eye for treatment by removing the epithelium (a layer that covers the cornea) either mechanically, with a diluted alcohol solution, or with the excimer laser. After the epithelium is prepared, the cornea can be reshaped to improve your eyesight. A thin layer of corneal tissue is removed with the cool beam of light from the excimer laser.  The surgery is then completed by placing a protective contact lens on the treated eye to make it more comfortable while it heals. During the healing process, new epithelium grows back over the treated area, usually in 3-5 days.

LASEK (Laser Epithelial Keratomileusis) is a form of PRK that differs in the way the surgeon prepares your cornea for the laser treatment.  In the LASEK procedure, the epithelium (the top layer of the cornea) is loosened with a diluted alcohol solution and is rolled back; or moved aside in one piece.  After the epithelium has been pushed aside the light from the excimer laser removes a thin layer of corneal tissue, thereby reshaping the surface of the eye. The treatment is completed by replacing the epithelium in its original position and placing a protective soft contact lens on the eye. 

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Only an eye care professional trained in laser vision correction can determine whether you are a suitable candidate. As with any surgical procedure, you should discuss the risks and complications associated with laser vision correction with your doctor. You should also understand that there may be risks not known to your doctor, which may become known later. For further information on laser vision correction and LASIK you could visit the LASIK webpage for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration .  You should ask your doctor for and carefully review the Patient Information Booklet provided by the laser manufacturer prior to having your laser vision correction procedure.

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