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Laser Vision Correction... What to Expect

Reviewed by Denis M. Humphreys, O.D.

The Procedure

Laser vision correction is an advanced method for correcting nearsightedness (myopia), astigmatism, and farsightedness (hyperopia). An excimer laser applies pulses of cool ultraviolet light to reshape the cornea, or front surface of the eye, to match the prescription in your glasses or contact lenses. The excimer laser is used for the two most common laser vision correction outpatient procedures: laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK) and photorefractive keratectomy (PRK). Although both procedures are effective and produce similar results, LASIK is performed over 90 percent of the time.

LASIK (Laser-In-Situ-Keratomileusis)

During LASIK, the surgeon creates a corneal flap revealing the inner corneal tissue. This flap is folded back while the excimer laser is applied to the inner layers of the cornea. These inner layers are reshaped to duplicate your contact lens or glasses prescription. The flap is folded back and heals naturally and securely.

PRK (Photorefractive Keratectomy)

During PRK, the excimer laser is applied to the surface of your cornea to reshape the eye's curvature. This is done by removing the protective surface layer (epithelium) from the eye. This epithelial layer is regenerated after five days.

The Difference Between LASIK and PRK

Laser Procedure LASIK PRK
Average Time Back to Work 2 days 4 days
Average Visual Recovery 1 week (good vision next day) 2 to 4 weeks (good vision by one week)
Probability of Pain (Immediately after the procedure) 2% 10%
Safety (Risk of complication) Low Risk Least Risk
Speed of Procedure 5 to 10 minutes 5 minutes