Personal story on PRK, Laser Vision Correction
Disclaimers: The information contained in this post is based only on my personal experience.
I also reference to the source of information I gathered while doing my own research on this procedure.
I am not a medical professional, therefore I am not providing any type of medical advice to anyone.
I am also not a professional or experienced blogger and not planning to become one anytime soon, therefore you may notice some rambling going on.
You are probably reading this because you are thinking of having PRK or just had PRK.
While everyone's experience may be different, I am hoping that sharing my personal experience will help others who are just recovering from PRK. If you recently had PRK done, don't feel discouraged. It took me a whole month to gain the ability to finally see clearly enough to start feeling somewhat normal again.
Prior to having the surgery I thought I had done enough research, it was not until after I had the surgery when I started to read more on personal stories and finding out even more. I hope you find this information helpful.
Why I chose Laser Vision Correction
I had been wearing glasses and contacts for over 23 years. At one point contacts got very uncomfortable to wear. I also work in front of a computer for 8-10 hours a day. I had three pairs of glasses; my driving glasses, my computer glasses and my prescription sun-glasses. I get headaches often (3-4 times a week) and for some reason my eyeglasses felt so heavy on my face and nose during those times, I could hardly stand them, but I had to wear them anyway. Well enough said, I wanted no more glasses!
Why I chose PRK vs. Lasik
I started researching laser vision correction procedures. I chose PRK vs. Lasik because PRK does not involve cutting a flap in the cornea, while both procedures as with any medical procedure have risks of complications, I felt that PRK leaves less room for more serious complications, well based on the information I read.
What is PRK
PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) is a type of refractive surgery to correct myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism.
PRK was one of the first types of laser eye surgery for vision correction.
Difference between PRK and Lasik
PRK works by reshaping the cornea using an excimer laser, allowing light entering the eye to be properly focused onto the retina for clear vision. The epithelium repairs itself (grows back over the corneal surface) within a few days after surgery.
In LASIK, a thin flap is created on the cornea. This flap is lifted to expose the underlying corneal tissue and is replaced after the cornea is reshaped with an excimer laser.
My Original Prescription
Myopia with astigmatism and no signs of Presbyopia
OD (right eye) -1.75 +0.75 X 130
OS (left eye) -3.00+0.50 X 20
Finding an experienced doctor
This is very important, an experienced surgeon may be more expensive and may involve more steps to have the procedure done, but when it comes to your vision, it is totally worth doing some research.
Tips for finding an experienced ophthalmologist who does laser vision correction surgeries:
Note: there are many resources available, the following is what I used:
Below are some useful links, for Medical Board websites other than AZ or CA, just search for "Medical Board" and add your state and navigate to doctor search or license search.
American Board of Ophthalmology
Medical Board of AZ
Medical Board of CA
This varies based on location, facility and the individual who is performing the procedure, based on what I've read. The procedure I am describing in this post was $3530
*This price includes the pre-screening, evaluation, the procedure, and all necessary follow up visits after the procedure
*The lubricating eye drops and the other medications are not included in this price
Laser Vision Correction Screening
I contacted the doctor I researched and made an appointment for a "complimentary screening", this type of screening was to determine if I was a good candidate for any type of laser vision correction surgery and involves miscellaneous tests, such as: checking the refractive error, measuring of the pupil size, obtaining a topographic map and thickness profile of the corneas.
From information I gathered while researching, you may be a "good candidate" for one of the laser vision correction surgeries and not a "good candidate" for another or may be or may not be for either procedure.
The following may be taken into consideration; refractive error and stability, pupil sizes, cornea thickness, corneal scarring, age, certain medical conditions, occupation, for example: if you play a lot of sports and there is an increased risk for eye injury, you may not be a "good candidate" for Lasik, but you may be for PRK.
The assessment was performed by an ophthalmic assistant, after this the surgeon introduced himself and went over the findings, my specific situation, my medical history and went over the potential risks and explained the different types of procedures available. Since I was a "good candidate" for either surgery (PRK or Lasik) after explaining each one, he left it up to me to decide which one I wanted done.
I choose PRK. See Why I chose PRK vs. Lasik section.
After the initial screening, I was scheduled for a”comprehensive medical evaluation", this was to confirm my suitability for PRK.
According to the info I was given or read, this includes; "CustomVue Wavescan assessment to map higher order corneal aberrations to provide a custom treatment if applicable, a thorough un-dilated and dilated refraction, and a complete ophthalmic dilated eye exam."
I had the exam as mentioned above, the surgeon, I felt was very thorough, I was also tested for dry eyes, because that is a possible contraindication and actually a very common side effect after any laser vision correction.
The surgeon again went over more details, discussed the healing time, discussed concerns about healing times for people who work in front of a computer full time, because according to him, we tend to "forget to blink" and blinking and keeping your eyes moist is crucial for healing after laser eye surgery.
At that time of scheduling, I was given a folder with information, prescriptions and instructions.
I was instructed to fill the prescriptions at least 2 weeks in advance to ensure any non-stock items would be available by the procedure date and to bring all of the medications on the day of the procedure.
The prescriptions included:
Instructions Included: do not drive until your vision has returned
Activities to avoid for 2 weeks after the procedure included; no rubbing eyes, no swimming or hot tubs, no water in the eyes, no eye makeup
Recommended Time Off
My doctor said I would have the procedure on a Wednesday and by Monday I should be able to return to work (yes, you are reading this right, off Thursday, Friday and the weekend and then on the 5th day, I will be well enough for work...).
I had PRK surgery on both eyes on August 3rd 2016, 21 weeks ago (today is 12/29/16)
You have to have someone drive you to the appointment.
I was brought back to the exam room for prepping; I was given the Valium for anxiety, the medications I brought were all reviewed, I was given some anti-inflammatory eye drops, hair placed in a protective cap, gauze around my face and was taken into the procedure room.
In the procedure room, I was asked to lie down on a procedure chair, the doctor explained that he would apply some numbing drops and all I had to do is remain calm and look into a target light straight ahead and to just focus on the light the whole time.
I heard the doctor programming the laser machine as he was reading the details from my chart. I heard him verbally verifying the info, then I was given what seemed like the same amount of numbing drops into each eye, iodine was applied on both eyelids and surrounding areas.
My right eye was done first.
I was told to look up, my left eyelid and eyelashes were held open with an adhesive and then a lid speculum was used to keep my eyelid open.
Ok... it was about now, that started to feel nervous. I was again instructed to look into the target light.
The doctor squeezed a cold solution into my eye, he tapped my eye (yes my actual eye ball) with an instrument and asked if I felt any pain, he said pressure was OK. He said to let him know if I felt any pain.
I did feel pressure when he tapped but not pain.
The doctor proceeded to use what felt like an electric type of buffing instrument on my eye, this is done to remove the corneal epithelium to prepare the cornea for the laser.
As soon as he started with the buffing instrument I did feel pain! I am not sure how to describe the feeling, it felt as if someone poked my eye sideways and kept rubbing it, you know that feeling you get when you are unexpectedly poked in the eye and you have to shut your eye and starts to tear and takes a while to recover, well that and it was an awful feeling :-(.
I did inform my doctor that I could feel pain, but he continued with the buffing instrument and said he was almost done... I really wanted to cry, it only lasted seconds I am sure, but at that time, it seemed a lot longer. All sorts of feeling were starting to bundle up inside; I started to think why I got into this in the first place, wondered if I should not do the left eye, and did not know if the left eye would feel the same way.
After the buffing, it felt like he used also a blunt instrument to move some of the epithelium around or away from certain areas, this just felt like a little pressure but no pain, just a weird feeling and I kept visualizing the You Tube video I had watched...
After the above prepping of the eye (removing the epithelial cells, etc...), he instructed me to continue to focus on the light target, the laser started pulsating around, the doctor counted down exactly 15 seconds,
I did smell a little bit of a burning smell, but at least I did not feel any pain there, I was just nervous.
Again some cold solution was squeezed into my eye, the doctor said I did great, everything was great.
He placed a bandage contact over the right eye and proceeded with the left eye.
My left eye was done second.
The doctor administered more numbing drops on the left eye, he said because I told him I felt something on the right eye during the procedure... so this was for extra precaution. I was still nervous, and scared because I did not want to feel the same feeling on my left eye. I still just wanted to cry, but I was already in too deep, cannot just get up and walk away now... I thought.
Luckily the left eye, I did not feel the pain I felt on my right eye and the same procedure was followed.
After both eyes were done, I was taken to the exam room, the doctor examined my eyes and said everything looks great. I was told to go home and get lots of rest, take a nap in a dark room and follow all medication and post op instructions, which I did.
Day(s) Post PRK
The next day after the surgery, my eyes did feel uncomfortable, very irritated feeling, but tolerable.
The second day, I could barely open my eyes, this was intolerable. I was extremely sensitive to light and felt as if I had dirt in my eyes and both eyes were painful but the right was the worse.
I had an appointment on this day, the doctor said it was because my eyes were super dry and instructed me to use the lubricating drops every 15 minutes to every hour for the next few days. I can tolerate pain very well, and absolutely do not like taking pain pills, but I had to take the Tylenol # 3 that was prescribed every 4 hours, this did help the discomfort some, but still very uncomfortable.
I was completely disabled for a couple of days after that, only thing I was able to do is lie down in a dark room, on Monday I was definitely not ready to work still.
As far as vision, far vision was clear, except for feeling of dryness and irritation, but lots of trouble focusing, cannot see my cell phone text at all, even with reading glasses and huge fonts.
TV is sort of blurry also.
Week (s) Post PRK
At this point my eyes were starting to feel better. I was seen at the doctor's office, the bandage contact lens was removed, this was quick but still uncomfortable, and this again irritated my eyes and made them uncomfortable once again. I was instructed to continue to use the lubricating drops hourly which I did.
Eyes are improving day by day, still having trouble focusing, starting to see my cell phone with reading glasses and huge fonts.
The following week, eyes are feeling better, again, improving day by day, slowly I can decrease fonts on cell, still using reading glasses and starting to see more.
Returning to Work
OK, here is where my "extensive research" started to failed me I think...
Remember the recommendation, surgery on Wednesday, able to return to work on Monday...
Well OK, Mr. M.D. let's just say this is true, but ONLY if my job only required a physical presence without my vision being a requirement. And, let’s be realistic, for most jobs you must be able to see unless you are proficient in Braille or hold a position in quality control for audio books (please, excuse my sarcasm, but soon you will understand why I felt this comment was necessary).
I was by NO means able to return to work on the 5th day after the surgery. I actually returned to work on August 22nd (almost 3 weeks after the surgery, and I work from home) and my vision was still not clear enough to see the computer monitor clearly. I had to adjust the text sizes to be bigger and my monitor's resolution because I was still very light sensitive. I had to get a pair of reading glasses which I got from Walmart, for about $5.00.
As far as the reading glasses; I initially got a +3 and only used the pair a day or two, then I went and got a +1.75 because the +3 was too much started to see blurry.
I was able to use the +1.75 and was able to see the screen better, this made me feel relieved, and because it meant that my vision was improving within just a matter of days.
Months Post PRK
12/29/2016 4.5 Months after PRK.
As far as my vision goes; for distance I can see very clear during the day and at night, I am very happy that I no longer have to hunt down my glasses in order to see TV or the clock, and don't need contacts or glasses in order to drive.
My vision acuity has been 20/20 or 20/15 now on both eyes during my last follow up appointments.
Near Vision continues affected
Since PRK, I now have to use reading glasses to do close up tasks like cell phone usage, nail art and even for makeup application which I did not have to prior to having PRK. I am still using the +1.75 readers I picked up at Walmart during my first weeks of PRK recovery for other close up tasks. I have not replaced this pair with a better pair because I still have hopes my close up vision will improve and will not need them anymore...
Since I cannot wear reading glasses while applying eye makeup, I had to get a magnifying mirror.
I got the Conair Lighted Mirror from Bed Bath & Beyond which flips from 1X on one side and 10X on the other, and has three light choices, I really like the 10X for eye makeup application, even if you don't have the issues I have, this is very helpful for applying very precise makeup on your eyes, I will keep using it, even if my close up vision improves :-)
I have asked my doctor a couple of times, he says it may improve, and to just give it time, but I am not very optimistic about this, also given the fact that I am in my early 40s which is when your near vision starts deteriorating, this is called Presbyopia and most people will need reading glasses anyway...
This may also just be a coincidence; maybe I was already going to become a Presbyopian even without PRK... hmm I will never know...
While doing research prior to PRK, I did read about this being a side effect, I was also informed in the consents about this... yet I thought, "well, dry eyes, how bad can that be, I can just put some eye drops in and be done with it", well I was wrong...
When it comes to dry eyes, this can be very uncomfortable, similar to the feeling you get when you have been wearing contacts all day and towards the night, you blink and feels dry and even scratchy at times, eyelids feel heavy and you even look and feel tired when you really aren't.
Lubricating drops can be expensive and the effects are only temporary, some work better than others, some cloud your vision for a few minutes and you can't see very clearly until the cloudiness is gone.
So far my favorites have been Refresh Plus, I can use these during the day and do not cloud my vision.
My second favorite are the Systane Ultra, I tend to use mostly at night or early morning because it clouds my vision for a few minutes.
The dryness is worse in the mornings, at times it is scary to open my eyes, they feel so dry, makes me think of my eyelids being a suction cup... I have the Systane drops on my night stand to use first thing.
And, like the other side effects, my doctor has said this will improve with time... I really hope so, because it is very uncomfortable.
I have been asked if I would do this again.
I think of this often, and have mixed feelings about it. I am happy that I no longer need contacts or glasses for distance such as driving, I can also see the computer monitor just fine without glasses, but taking into consideration the pain I felt during the procedure, the recovery time, and now having to wear glasses for near vision, and the dry eyes, at this point I probably would not do it again.
This is only my opinion and experience, I encourage everyone to do their own research and weigh in on their own pros and cons on having PRK.
I will report back in a few weeks.
Update-Months Post PRK
04/27/2017 9 Months after PRK.
As far as my vision goes; for distance I can still see very clear during the day and at night, I am still very happy that I no longer have to hunt down my glasses in order to see TV or the clock, and don't need contacts or glasses at all in order to drive.
My last vision acuity was 20/20 on the right eye and 20/30 on the left eye. The optometrist said this is great because one eye has to be less corrected so that you can see closer more clearly, what will happen is the eye with the 20/30 will kick in to try and adjust for closer vision, where as the 20/20 eye will mostly be used for distance, so this is sort of a very mild mono-vision where one eye is corrected but not the other.
As I mentioned before, I now need reading glasses, but this was explained by the optometrist at my last appointment. He said this was quite normal. Prior to PRK I required glasses for distance, and now I require glasses for reading, this is due to age (I am 43), he said we can't have everything.. LOL
If I had PRK 20 years ago for example, I would not need reading glasses at all and would be glass free.
So you have to consider, if you are almost 40 and don't wear reading glasses now, it is very possible you will need them after PRK. If you are a lot younger than 40 and only need glasses for distance then you wont need any glasses at all after PRK, that is until after you hit 40s of course.
As far as the dry eyes, it has gotten better, but still occasional especially if there is a fan going or AC in the car, etc... but I have learned to just apply lubricating drops. I will update at 1 year Post Op.
I love life and all things pretty in it, I love spending time with my family which I love very much. I enjoy reading, researching and learning about new things, especially related to health, beauty, medicine and psychology. I LOVE, LOVE hair, makeup, nail art, trying new beauty products and recently became interested in the DIY project extravaganza.