Differences between PRK and LASIK

The two most common laser surgery types used at the moment to help people improve their eyesight are PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) and LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis). While PRK has been used for a longer time, both surgeries are widely utilized.

With both surgeries, the doctor will modify the eye’s cornea. The way in which vision is corrected though is different.

Procedural Differences At A Glance

With PRK surgery, the doctor removes the cornea’s top layer (epithelium). After, lasers are used to reshape the cornea’s other layers. Irregular curvature is fixed at the same time.

With LASIK surgery, the doctor creates a flap inside the cornea with a small blade or a laser. Then, the flap is raised. This allows the surgeon to use lasers for cornea reshaping. After the reshaping is done, the flap is put back in place. It will take a number of months for the cornea to get back to its original healthy status.

With both surgeries, your health insurance will cover recovery costs. And the procedure itself might be covered by health insurance in some cases. However, it is important to note that the surgeries are considered to be elective. This means regular health insurance policies do not cover costs.

Both PRK and LASIK are used to solve eye problems related to:

  • Astigmatism
  • Farsightedness (also known as hyperopia)
  • Nearsightedness (also known as myopia)

The PRK Procedure

During PRK:

  • You receive numbing drops. These remove the pain you might feel as the surgery happens. Extra medication is possible.
  • The cornea tissue’s top layer is removed completely. The time needed for this is around 30 seconds.
  • An excimer laser (a precise surgical tool) is used by the doctor to fix deep corneal tissue layer irregularities. This step takes up to one minute.
  • A bandage is added on top of the cornea to help during the healing process. The bandage is very similar to a regular contact lens.

During LASIK:

  • Drops are also given to numb eye tissues.
  • A femtosecond laser is utilized to cut a part of the cornea. The surgeon then moves the entire cut area to the side. Other layers are then reshaped with the use of lasers. As the epithelium remains fully attached, it is put back in place when the doctor finishes the surgery. With PRK, it is fully removed.
  • Corneal tissues are reshaped and eye curvature issues are fixed with the use of an excimer laser.
  • The epithelium flap is placed back to allow healing.

Is The Recovery Process Different?

PRK vs LASIK which is better

Discomfort and pressure are felt during both procedures. Also, vision changes are noticed as eye tissue is being modified. However, pain is not felt. The difference in recovery is that with LASIK, it is usually faster.

PRK Recovery

After the surgery, a contact-like eye bandage is kept over the eye. This can lead to some light sensitivity and irritation. Vision can be blurry until the removal of the bandage, which tends to last for around 7 days.

Medicated eye drops or lubricating eye drops can be prescribed by the surgeon in order to help maintain proper eye moisture levels during the healing process. If discomfort and pain are felt, medications can be offered.

After the surgery, vision is going to considerably improve. However, until the eye heals, it is possible vision will be worse. You are not allowed to drive during the PRK surgery recovery process.

With PRK surgery, you should expect the recovery process to last around 30 days. Every day, vision gets better. Regular checkups are necessary until the eye fully heals.

LASIK Recovery

It is possible to have perfect vision even one day after the LASIK surgery. Not much discomfort or pain is felt during healing but in some cases, it is possible to feel burning hours after the procedure is over. This should not last too long.

The doctor can offer medicated eye drops or lubricating eye drops if an irritation appears. Full recovery is possible in just days after the LASIK surgery.

Are The Procedures Equally Effective?

Generally, it is considered that both LASIK and PRK are equally effective when it comes to correcting your vision. The results are permanent and the main difference appears when analyzing recovery time.

After LASIK surgery, you just need to wait a few days until you can see clearly. After the PRK procedure, full vision returns after around a month. However, PRK surgery is seen as being safer. It is also considered to be more effective because there is no flap that is left in the eye cornea. The LASIK procedure leaves a flap that can lead to complications or extra damage in the unwanted event that the eye is injured.

Eligibility Differences

There are some scenarios in which you are not eligible for one of the procedures but you can use the other one to correct your vision. Some that are common are:

  • Chronic allergies exist and they affect eye healing and eyelids.
  • A major condition exists, like diabetes or glaucoma.
  • You suffer from an autoimmune condition affecting healing, like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Corneas are not strong enough and cannot handle the stress of the procedure. Usually, this means you cannot use LASIK.
  • Large pupils are in place so visual disturbance risks are higher. This stops you from being eligible for LASIK surgery.
  • An eye surgery was performed in the past and it would be too risky to perform another one.


Last but not least, both eye surgeries cost up to $5,000. However, PRK is usually more expensive. This is because you need more check-ins or post-op procedures while the eye doctor monitors healing during the 30 days after the surgery.

In order to cover surgery costs, if you do not have a suitable health insurance plan, you can use a flexible spending account or a health savings account to help. Such plans are often available through health benefits with the sponsorship of the employer.

To sum up, both PRK and LASIK surgeries are viable options when you need visual corrections. Always discuss the best options for you with an eye specialist before you make a final choice.