Diary of My PRK Corrective Eye Surgery
PRK Surgery on YouTube (Not Mine!)
If you're not familiar with the acronym, PRK stands for Photorefractive Radial Keratectomy and was once the mainstream laser eye surgery to correct vision. Now it is an alternative surgery to the less invasive Lasik surgery, when a patient's eyes have thin corneas, making the patient not a candidate for Lasik.
There are online resources that describe PRK surgery in detail, but the intent of this article is to document my experience with the surgery. However, here is a brief overview:
- Prior to PRK surgery, each eye is anesthetized with numbing drops.
- During surgery the patient's eye is held open by a retainer, as he looks steadily at a target light.
- The surgeon views the eye through a microscope and sends pulses of light to the cornea, reshaping it according to the prescription.
- The procedure is painless and over in just a few minutes.
- A protective contact lens is placed to cover where the tissue was removed, acting like a "bandage" and the eye heals beneath the contact. (watch to the end of the video and you'll see the surgeon covering the surgical site with the contact!)
If you are considering PRK surgery, keep reading so you'll know what to expect!
Why Did I Have PRK?
I've now had two PRK surgeries. Here's my story.
Prior to PRK, I was extremely near sighted. For many years, I wore contact lenses that fully corrected both eyes. After I hit that big 4-0, I found that I couldn't read up close with my contacts in, so I had to purchase drugstore cheaters to slip on when I needed to read a menu or a pill bottle. Now I was wearing both contacts AND glasses. That was depressing!
Eventually, I was prescribed mono-vision contact lenses, whereby one contact corrected my vision for up-close activities such as reading or threading a needle, etc, and the other for distance. The monovision lenses worked together to give me good vision for all my daily activities, for instance, I could drive and see the road, plus glance at a map and be able to read it. I also bought bifocal glasses which I wore around the house at times.
I had kicked around the idea of Lasik surgery for years, but the idea made me nervous. The turning point for me was the week that two things happened. I had worn a torn contact lens for a few hours during the day (that hurts!) and later that night the nose pad of my bifocals broke off. I decided at that moment that I didn't want to spend another dime on glasses or contact lenses!
My First PRK Surgery
That's when I went to The Schwartz Laser Eye Center in Scottsdale, Arizona for my first PRK surgery six years ago. I chose them because The Schwartz Laser Eye Center is the official LASIK center of the Phoenix Suns, Phoenix Coyotes, and Arizona Diamondbacks. Stellar references!
I was told not to wear my contacts for ten days prior to my exam at the center. During the exam, I learned that my corneas were too thin for Lasik, but that they could still perform PRK to correct my vision. They explained the differences between Lasik and PRK, and also that they could correct my eyes for monovision as well. Since I was used to monovision, I elected to go that route.
The surgery was a piece of cake, and I was amazed at how painless and fast it was! I went home with eye drops and other meds and slept the afternoon away. I had very little pain in one eye, but the other eye was extremely uncomfortable. This concerned me, but when I called the center, they explained that each eye is a separate organ and that it wasn't unusual for them to heal differently. I had never thought of my eyes that way!
The discomfort subsided after a few days, and within a week, my vision was great and I was going about my life as usual. I couldn't believe I had waited so long to have Laser surgery!
Why PRK Laser Surgery a Second Time?
Over the past six years, the vision in my distance eye steadily changed, finally to the point that driving became worrisome. For whatever reason, my eyesight had worsened in this eye, while the vision in my close-up eye worked fine. The Doctor explained that I have signs of early cataracts and gave me the option of a contact lens for that one eye, glasses for driving, or a second surgery on my distance eye only.
I elected to have my distance eye corrected again.
Day of PRK Surgery - Friday
I ate breakfast and my daughter drove me to my surgery, which was scheduled for 10 a.m. I wore comfortable, warm clothes (the surgery room is cold) no make up, lotion or perfume. The center staff rechecked my eye to make sure the prescription was correct, covered my hair with a paper cap and gave me paper booties to cover my shoes. They stuck a label on my hair cap with my name, began a regimen of antibiotic and numbing eye drops, and placed a dot over my right eye, marking the surgery target! I was given Valium to help me relax and sleep later.
I sat with three other patients in a pre-op room and we chatted as we waited nervously for our turn. Within a few minutes I was positioned under the surgical equipment and in no time it was over. My daughter drove me home, I added the required eye drops, and then took an Ambien. Within an hour I was snoozing.
I woke up in the evening, watching TV for a few hours, took another Ambien and then went to bed. Only slight discomfort on this day.
Day 1 Post PRK - Saturday
I was due back at the Schwartz Eye Center the day following my surgery at 8 a.m. My BFF drove me to the appointment where they examined my eye and said things looked good. I read the bottom line on the eye chart - 20/15 vision! I reported that I was not having much pain, and the doctor warned me to expect some pain in the next few days as well as a degradation in my vision, which is normal for day 2 and 3 after PRK.
My BFF and I stopped for a scone and coffee and chatted for a bit before she took me home.
As the day wore on, however, I began to feel more discomfort in my eye. I added the eye drops on schedule, took a few naps and kept my eye shut quite a bit, but the pain increased. That evening I called the on-call doctor and he said that the type of discomfort I was feeling was normal. I lightly applied a cold compress per his suggestion (you can NOT rub or apply pressure to your eye) which relieved the pain somewhat. Since I knew sleep would help, I took another Ambien and within an hour I was in bed.
Day 2 Post PRK - Sunday
I woke up on Sunday thinking the pain had subsided. I showered, being very careful not to get anything in my eye, and ate a light brunch. The pain gradually increased during the day which was relieved only when I closed my eye or napped. I napped a lot and went to bed early. The Doctor was right, this turned out to be the worst day for pain.
Day 3 Post PRK - Monday
I woke up feeling very rested and in a little less pain. However, I had moderate intermittent pain throughout most of the day at a less intense level than the two days prior. I was feeling very grumpy and really tired of my eye hurting, but then, almost suddenly the pain seemed to magically subside around 8 PM.
Day 4 Post PRK - Tuesday
Woke up with no pain at all. I'm fairly certain that I crossed over the hump around 8 o'clock the night before, and that major healing occurred overnight. I felt a few twinges here and there before my follow-up exam in the late morning, but was feeling exhuberant that the pain was almost non-existant. Still no eye makeup allowed, but I was allowed foundation if i avoided my eye.
My sister drove me to the appointment, because my vision was still cloudy. The doc said my eye was healing nicely (in fact he said the tissue under the contact may have completely regenerated), but that he wanted to leave the protective contact lens in place until my next appointment on Thursday. I could only read the larger letters on the eye chart, but the doc said not to worry because my vision would improve daily and that my progress was typical and on schedule.
Lunch with sis, nice afternoon and evening...things were SO much better!
Over the Hump!
As I am finishing this hub tonight I realize that I am no longer in any pain. After only four days my eye feels almost normal and my spirit has lifted. My vision isn't 20/20 yet, but I am confident I am over the hump and nearly healed from my PRK surgery. I am so glad to have gotten to this point. Sure, I've got a few more appointments and hurdles, but the worst is over!
If you have decided on Laser Surgery to correct your vision and PRK is the solution, my advice to you follows: 1) Make sure you have enough time to heal before you have to drive or return to work, 2) Arrange for a ride to and from surgery and for the first few followup appointments because you will NOT be able to drive yourself, and 3) Expect some pain, be patient, sleep as much as possible and follow the doctor's directions for eye drops and other meds.
Once it's all over, you'll be glad you had laser eye surgery to correct your vision, and you will get through the PRK procedure and its aftermath....I did TWICE! Then you can kiss your contacts and glasses goodbye!