If you’re like me and have trouble seeing the nose on your own face, then there’s a good chance that you’ve thought about throwing your glasses and contact lenses into the trash at least once, along with the various cases, solutions, and eye doctor bills that come with them. There are obviously worse problems to be afflicted with (at least we can see a little), but it’s something that we’re always reminded of, whether falling asleep with our contacts still in, resulting in red, irritated eyes, or losing our glasses, then groping around the apartment on our hands and knees looking for our all-important spectacles.
Luckily for us poor-sighted people, we now live in an age of modern science and technology, and if we happen to have good insurance, or have saved up several thousand bucks, we blind can see again, all through the magic of lasers! There are two specific procedures that are the best options for the nearsighted, farsighted, or otherwise optically challenged out there, and they are the subjects of our discussion today: PRK and LASIK. We’ll compare the technologies of the two procedures, as well as cost, effectiveness, and other aspects of these modern marvels. If the idea of lasers curing your vision is a bit too much to handle, then check out this course on eye exercises to enhance vision to take a less invasive route.
PRK (Photorefractive Keratectomy)
We’ll begin with the procedure that’s been around the longest, and PRK has been around since 1995, though the technology existed earlier, it’s only in the mid-1990s that it was approved by the FDA. There’s only a slight difference between the PRK and LASIK procedures, and the costs of the two are comparable, but the it’s post-op where the biggest differences lie.
The PRK procedure uses an excimer laser to reshape the cornea, which allows the light entering the eye to be better focused onto the retina, resulting in sharper vision. Before doing this, the outer, or epithelia, layer of the cornea is completely removed in order to expose the area being corrected. Next, the stromal layer of the cornea is sculpted by the laser until the patient’s vision is back to normal. The actual surgery takes only a few minutes, but because each eye needs time to recover, there is a waiting period of anywhere from several days to a couple of weeks to finish the surgery on the other eye. If you’re in the audio arts, recovering from eye surgery provides a great opportunity to realize your dreams, and this article on podcast production, and this course on how to use Ableton will help you use your free time productively.
PRK procedures are usually not covered by insurance (this course on health insurance will clear up this confusing issue), so the cost must come out-of-pocket. While the overall cost of PRK surgery is comparable to LASIK, the actual surgery costs less than LASIK, but requires more visits to the doctor, which ramp up the price a bit. On average, the cost of PRK for one eye can range from about $1,800 to around $2,500.
- Pros and Cons
The biggest advantage PRK has over LASIK is that there is no corneal flap created during the surgery, which means no complications will arise in this area, both during and after surgery. PRK is also better for those that have thin corneas ,which LASIK could damage. On the downside, PRK requires more time for the patient to recover after the surgery, and can take up to a couple of weeks to return to normal. Also associated with this procedure are greater risk of eye infection, as well as permanent haziness in the patient’s vision.
LASIK (Laser-Assisted Stromal In-Situ Keratomileusis)
First conceived by a Greek doctor in 1989, the LASIK procedure wasn’t FDA-approved until 10 years later in 1999, but is now the most common and popular form of laser eye surgery today.
In the LASIK procedure, the outer layer of the cornea is sliced, creating a flap, differing from PRK, in which this layer is completely removed. The flap is then gently lifted aside, then a laser or knife reshapes the cornea, just like in the other procedure, then the flap is replaced, and the eye is allowed to heal. Unlike PRK, both eyes can be done back-to-back with LASIK, and each eye takes only about 15 minutes, and the patient is able to see clearly the next day.
Like the PRK procedure, the price of LASIK depends on the doctor and location. The average price of getting this procedure done on one eye, as of 2013, is $2,073. Actual prices can vary slightly in both directions, with it going up by about $100 for the laser surgery, and can even go down as far as about $1,500 for the blade procedure. Sometime, deals will pop up every once in a while, offering LASIK for as low as $499 per eye, but there’s usually a catch: it’s usually for low vision correction requirements, there are other fees to pay, or perhaps the procedure is performed with older equipment.
- Pros and Cons
There is a 95% satisfaction rate with LASIK, with only about 5-10% of patients ever needing a touch up. We already mentioned the quick recovery time, but there are a few downsides, including the need for immediate medical attention if the corneal layer becomes detached sometime after the surgery, as well as potential vision issues, including loss of night vision, dry eyes, and halos and haziness, but these are issues with PRK as well.
These two marvels of science are truly incredible, especially for people who have never been able to see clearly without the help of glasses or contacts. If you’re considering getting one of these procedures done, make sure that you do all the research to ensure that you get the best possible treatment. If you don’t quite have faith in your decision-making skills, then you might want to look into this course on critical thinking skills to sharpen this ability.