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LASIK vs. PRK Surgery Recovery for Astigmatism

By Shweta Iyer
Medically Reviewed by Robert Maloney, MD, and member of the Refractive Surgery Council editorial advisory board on December 21, 2020
Curious to learn about astigmatism surgery recovery time? Here’s what you can expect if you get LASIK or PRK.

If you’re living with astigmatism, your eye isn’t completely round, and that can make your vision blurry or distorted. Glasses or contacts help many people with the condition, but some folks get astigmatism surgery, the National Eye Institute says. Your eye doctor can tell you which treatment options are right for you. Two laser surgeries that can treat astigmatism are LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis) and PRK (photorefractive keratectomy).

Both procedures reshape your cornea, the clear, front layer of your eye, the American Academy of Ophthalmology says. They just go about it differently. During LASIK, your surgeon makes a thin flap in your cornea to sculpt the tissue underneath with a laser. During PRK, the outer layer of cells on your cornea is removed before reshaping the cornea with the laser.

What Recovery Is Like After LASIK for Astigmatism

“With LASIK, recovery is quick,” Yuna Rapoport, MD, an ophthalmologist at Manhattan Eye in New York tells WebMD Connect to Care.

After you get the procedure, you’ll need someone to drive you home. Then you’ll rest for a few hours. You may have some discomfort—like an itching or burning feeling—as the numbing eye drops that your surgeon gave you wear off, the American Refractive Surgery Council says. Your eye doctor can suggest a mild pain reliever, and they’ll also send you home with eye drops to ease dryness and promote healing. Call the doctor right away if you have severe pain.

Your eye doctor will advise you to wear sunglasses during the day, and they may provide a shield for you to wear over your eyes for a few nights while you sleep. 

You should be able to get back to your normal routine the next day, with certain exceptions, the American Refractive Surgery Council says. You’ll be asked to avoid swimming for at least a week and contact sports for a month. Your doctor may give you the OK to do certain kinds of exercise after the first week. 

According to Rapoport, you should be able to see clearly in about a week. Your eyes will continue healing for 3-6 months, the American Refractive Surgery Council says.

What Recovery Is Like After PRK Surgery for Astigmatism

As with LASIK, you’ll need someone to drive you home from the procedure. But “in contrast, recovery with PRK takes longer,” Rapoport says. “You will have discomfort, which sometimes feels like a scratch on the eye, for about 4 days after the surgery.” 

Your doctor will ask you to wear “bandage” contact lenses for about 5 days, until the layer of cells on your cornea reforms, the American Refractive Surgery Council says. You’ll need to use eye drops to prevent infections and soothe your eyes. 

Unlike LASIK, you can’t get back to work immediately. Your surgeon may tell you to take a few days off, the American Academy of Ophthalmology says. You’ll need to steer clear of strenuous activities for up to a week, too. You’ll also need to wear protective eyeglasses for a few days and nights, and avoid contact sports for a month during the healing process.

Compared to LASIK, you’ll have to wait longer for your vision to get back to normal. “It takes around a month for you to see clearly after PRK,” Rapoport says. 

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