Can PRK Restore Your 20/20 Vision After A Corneal Infection?

The human eye is an amazingly resilient structure and can regenerate cells damaged by infection and physical trauma. But some traumatic events like deep corneal scratches or a long-term infection like acanthamoeba keratitis (AK) can permanently damage or blur one's vision. An alternative to traditional LASIK vision correction surgery, photorefractive keratectomy (PRK), may be able to restore 20/20 vision even for patients who have some corneal damage. Read on to learn more about this procedure and who may be a good candidate for PRK surgery.

What is PRK surgery?

Both LASIK and PRK involve the use of a laser to reshape the cornea. However, PRK is more often used for patients who have corneal malformations, scarring, or other issues related to past eye problems.

In a LASIK procedure, the surgeon creates a tiny "flap" in the surface of the eye. The laser is directed underneath this flap to make tiny modifications to the cornea to improve patient vision. After the cornea has been reshaped, the flap is lowered and left to heal. LASIK recovery is usually fairly quick, and most patients will notice an improvement in their vision almost immediately.

PRK doesn't involve the use of a flap. Instead, the laser simply sears off the outer few layers of the cornea. A protective contact lens is placed on the surface of the eye to promote healing and protect the raw surface (much in the same way as the flap in LASIK surgery), and after a few days, the protective lens is removed.

Because PRK doesn't require a flap, it can be performed on corneas that are thin, scarred, or otherwise not ideal for LASIK. It does involve a longer (and more painful) recovery process but poses few complications, and many who have had this procedure indicate their only regret was not doing it sooner.   

How do you know whether you're a good candidate for PRK?

If you've had a corneal infection that has damaged your vision, it's likely you won't be an ideal candidate for LASIK vision correction. Depending on where the scarring begins, it may affect the placement of the flap and therefore impact the parts of your cornea that can be reshaped.

However, PRK casts a wider net over ideal candidates and may be a viable alternative for those who have already written off vision correction surgery as impractical. At a vision exam, your ophthalmologist should be able to take detailed pictures of the inside of your eye to see whether there are any complicating factors. As long as the scarring on your cornea doesn't run so deep that it can't be sheared off (or worked around) by the laser, you may benefit from this surgery. And as a bonus, foregoing the use of contacts can reduce your risk of future eye infections.

For more information, contact a company like Macomb Eye Care Specialists.