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5 Possible PRK Eye Surgery Side Effects You Should Know

By Jon McKenna
Before scheduling a PRK laser procedure to correct your vision problems, make sure you are fully aware of, and comfortable with, potential side effects during your recovery

You may be considering photorefractive keratectomy, or PRK, laser surgery to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism. As with any surgical procedure, it’s smart to research and understand any common side effects of PRK to minimize your surprises during recovery.

During PRK, an eye surgeon uses a cool, pulsing beam of ultraviolet (UV) light to reshape the surface of your cornea. This is different from LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis) surgery, which works underneath your cornea. 

“It can take a few months to get full vision benefits with PRK, starting with 70% after a week and 90% after a month,” Christopher Hood, MD, an associate professor at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

During those weeks and months, your eye surgeon may speak with you about PRK post-op expectations, including:

1) Mild to moderate discomfort or itching. This can last for one to three days after surgery. You may be prescribed pain medication or a solution to induce tears in dry eyes, Brian Boxer-Wachler, MD, a Beverly Hills, Calif., ophthalmologist, tells WebMD Connect to Care. When explaining recovery to patients, he likens the situation to the first few days of skin redeveloping. Some patients have a harder time with pain, Hood says.

2) Light sensitivity. This may be an issue for 72 hours after the PRK procedure.

3) Halos or bursts of light for a few weeks. These can hit you at nighttime, in particular. The outer layer of your cornea is growing back, and it may take time to smooth over properly. For the first few days, you may be given a temporary contact lens to compensate, Boxer-Wachler says. 

4) Potential cloudy vision. This condition, also called corneal haze, is mild and rare after PRK surgery but can persist for two to four months. An ophthalmologist may apply a medication called mitomycin C, or MMC, during PRK to reduce the risk of corneal haze, Hood says.

5) A possible over- or undercorrection of your vision. Sometimes healing doesn’t go perfectly after any surgery. In that case, you might need a mild prescription for glasses or contacts to achieve your best possible vision.

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