When will I know if the procedure is not 100%? If I need another procedure, when would that be possible?
What is the Recovery Timeline After the PRK Procedure?
Doctor Answers (8)
PRK Recovery Timeline
- Stage 1 - seconds to minutes after the procedure, the vision is surprisingly clear, actually better than it is after LASIK at this point.
- Stage 2 - begins about 30-60 min after the procedure, as the numbing drops used during surgery wear off. The patient begins to experience mild to moderate discomfort in the eye. For most, the feeling is akin to sandy gritty sensation, and may be accompanied by some tearing, and light sensitivity. These symptoms, of varying intensity, may last for about 3-4 days. During this time the epithelial layer, or the “clear skin” of the cornea, regenerates. The discomfort is alleviated with “comfort drops” that numb the eye, artificial tears, cold compresses and if needed Motrin or Tylenol. During this stage of of recovery the vision is better than before the procedure, but is still fairly blurry.
- Stage 3 - Around day 4 after the procedure, the discomfort is gone, vision is good, but still a little “misty” usually for a week or two. It may take as long as a 4-6 weeks to get really crisp vision, where one can comfortably perform fine detailed tasks, or drive at night (when conditions are not optimal and really excellent acuity and contrast sensitivity is needed)
- Stage 4 - within the first 6 months after the procedure, the vision stabilizes and sharpens. By month 3 it becomes clear if the vision is satisfactory or a touch up should be considered. Touch up can be done 6 months after the original surgery.
Recovery Time After PRK (Laser Eye Surgery)
The recovery after PRK really has two stages.
The fist stage is the healing of the surface of the eye, called the epithelium. During this phase the vision is more blurry than after LASIK and some patients experience some discomfort. This lasts approximately one week. Once the epithelium is healed, recovery is similar to LASIK. There is no discomfort but the vision gradually improves over several months.
The second stage is the where the vision improves and heals over the next few weeks. While most patients can drive the next day after PRK and are in the 20/20 range within a few weeks, the vision continues to improve for about six months in nearsighted patients and up to a year in far-sighted patients. Typically 95%+ of patients only need 1 laser treatment to bring their vision to 20/20 or better.
Immediately after the procedure your vision will be quite good. Over the next 1-2 days, it will get a little blurrier but still functional, this is because the surface of the cornea is healing and irregular and because there is inflammation in the cornea. The cornea typically heals in 3-4 days, during this healing period some discomfort should be expected. After the cornea is healed and the bandage contact lens is removed, the vision will slowly improve over the next few weeks.
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PRK Recovery Time
I tell my patients that they will need at least 1 week to see well enough to drive. I have found that vision improves for 6 months following the procedure. If after 6 months vision is not to your satisfaction and there is a residual stable refraction, an enhancement may be indicated.
Healing from PRK
We urge our patients to keep their eyes closed 23 1/2 hours a day until healed. We accomplish that with a combination of Valium and Tylenol with codeine. At no point in the healing process is the vision bad and immediately after PRK, the vision is typically better than immediately after LASIK. With appropriate medications and sleep, most patients have little discomfort.
Recovery period after PRK
The recovery period after PRK is typically a bit longer than LASIK. There is often some discomfort for the first 1-4 days and the vision can fluctuate over that time and sometimes longer. Eyedrops after PRK are typically required for about 4-8 weeks. Since corneal healing, and thus minor changes in vision, can occur for up to 4-6 months following surgery I typically wait until that time before performing a touch-up or enhancement procedure.
The PRK recovery process takes a little longer than with LASIK. Your surgeon would be most qualified to determine when and if you'll need a retreatment. Your vision should be pretty stable by about 3 months following your surgery, but fluctuations may continue to occur for up to a year. Be patient with the healing process!