Project Alicia : PRK Laser Eye Surgery

Saturday, February 09, 2013

PRK Laser Eye Surgery

I have had many questions regarding my recent eye surgery, so I thought I’d share some of my thoughts all in one place. If you follow me on facebook you may have already seen some of the periodic updates. For those of you who would like to have corrective eye surgery I hope you will be able to extract something useful from this post. This is not to persuade you either way, but rather to serve as informational from my own experience.

The surgery I had performed is known as Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK). It is a procedure where they remove the top layer of your cornea. (Refer to Nov 28th entry below for more details about the procedure as well as a brief comparison to Lasik.)

There are a couple things I want to mention about this surgery right off hand. If you cannot be out of commission for 4-6 weeks, this surgery is not for you. If you have a job that requires sharp attention to detail, it’s going to be difficult for several weeks. My close up vision didn’t come into focus for nearly 6 weeks.

You also can not wear eye makeup for a couple weeks. This may be a deal breaker for some women. ;)

Another surprising aspect of PRK is that the actual procedure was only 30 minutes total. And more surprisingly, the laser only took 15 seconds in each eye. SECONDS. Crazy, right?

Nov 15
I have my PRK Laser Eye Surgery scheduled for Monday and I'm starting to FREAK!

I think my biggest fear was the thought of someone cutting my eye. My anxiety allowed myself to explore all of the “what-ifs”.

Nov 19
Day of Surgery: Today is the day! My PRK Laser Eye Surgery is this afternoon. Emotions are high, so please send some soothing vibes my way (and maybe the dr's way too)!

My doctor was very calming and talked me through all of it in an easy to understand manner. They taped my eyes open, one at a time as they performed the procedure. And the laser is so good that if you happen to move at all during the surgery it will completely shut off. It also detects any imperfections in your eyes and will adjust the prescription as needed. They completely numb your eyes prior to the surgery and you feel nothing. The smell of burning was a little disconcerting but it was only bothersome for a couple minutes.

I had my surgery performed in the evening so I could go home at dark and go straight to bed. I had my prescriptions filled ahead of time and the nerve medicine was a Godsend. For the first couple days I could hardly tell anything was even done.

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Nov 20
1 Day Post Op Update: Thank you for all of the thoughts and prayers! My eye surgery went well and I'm looking forward to sharing the world with you through my new eyes...

When the nerve prescription ran out, my eyes noticed immediately. I had a regimen of antibiotic and steroid drops that I instilled diligently around the clock.

Nov 22
3 Day Post Op Update: My follow-up visit showed I'm a slower healer than anticipated. I can still expect 3 or 4 days of pain and blurry vision. Today's theme song is 'Double Vision' by Foreigner. If you are a praying individual, send some my way.

While I am resting in a dark room with my eyes closed hubs is slaving away preparing our Thanksgiving feast. Today I am so thankful for a husband who has not only pampered me all week but knows his way around a kitchen. I'm a lucky girl.

Unfortunately the numbing drops that I’d used for the first couple days only slowed the healing so I was encouraged to not use them anymore. Light was most difficult those first few days and continued to be bothersome for weeks. I often wore double sunglasses, but my eyes felt best when they were closed or in complete darkness.

My first couple appointments were disheartening. No one wants to know that they are a slow healer. Or that there is nothing to speed up the process. I’m a healthy woman. I take vitamins. It made no sense.

Nov 23
4 Day Post Op (Addendum to Thanksgiving Post) So everything I said about hubs is true. He is certainly very domesticated. However what I didn't know was he had a right hand man, my 13 year old son little man. He has really stepped up to the plate since my surgery on Monday, cleaning, helping with food prep, and being extra helpful in general. In fact, the carrots in the veggie tray were picked by him from his own garden. I couldn't be more proud.

Support from my family was amazing. Even my kids stepped up to help. In retrospect having the surgery right before the holidays may not have been the best choice, but we were going to lose our flex money if we didn’t act on it when we did. And then again, I’m not sure there’s any good time for such a procedure.

Nov 25
6 Days Post Op Update: Thanks so much for your recent thoughts and prayers. Over the last few days I obeyed strict orders to stay in a dimly lit room and stay off of computers. My family stepped up and took care of chores and typed in my stead. Today I received good news that my discipline paid off. I was able to get my bandaid contacts removed. Unfortunately my vision is the worst it's been yet (I can no longer make out words on the computer) and I'm told it could take another 1-2 weeks before I can see well and 6 weeks before it is clear. Every individual is different so these times are approximate. Please bear with me as I work through this.

And just when the pain seemed more bearable, my vision got worse. Dryness seemed to make everything more fuzzy, so I kept lubricating drops close at hand.

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Nov 28
To clear up any confusion... I did not have Lasik. I had Photorefractive Keratectomy also known as PRK Eye Surgery. With Lasik they cut a flap and there are almost immediate results and little downtime. Some people are not good candidates for Lasik for various reasons. With PRK they cut the entire top layer of the cornea. There is more pain and discomfort and it takes several weeks to recover as it heals but it is more conservative and better in the long run. I am on Day 9 post op and my vision is much blurrier today than it was yesterday. I'm told it will get worse before it gets better which is a sign of the cornea healing as the fibers come together and clump over my pupil. For the next several weeks my vision will go through fluctuations as the healing continues. Some days will be good and some not so good. I've already noticed that my eyes tire easily, but I feel them getting stronger each day and hope that the sensitivity to light and corneal haze will lessen with time. I did not expect the recovery to take quite so long, but everyone heals at different rates and it is impossible to know the outcome for every individual ahead of time. I have had to cancel or postpone many projects and appts. Today I am sad I can't make it to my son's field trip, but I realize driving is still out and that I need to listen to my body and take the appropriate precautions for proper healing. Although I have had my moments of doubt, I know that this is temporary... One day in my near future this will all be behind me and I will have perfect vision without the aid of lenses. Thanks so much for the continued words of encouragement, thoughts and prayers on my behalf.

My eyesight seemed to only get worse over the next couple weeks and I began to doubt my decision. As a photographer and blogger, I was very limited. And extremely frustrated. I was told that this was completely normal as the eye was healing. I would have very short periods where the monitor was clear enough to be productive.

Dec 3
2 Week Post Op Update: I am seeing progress with my vision daily. Just wish it was further along or that I was a more patient person... Numbers and letters on monitors are still fuzzy and my eyes tire easily and then revert backwards a bit. Yesterday I attended church and the Nutcracker. Perhaps too much too fast. I had a migraine last night and my eyes are hurting today. The most frustrating part as a photographer is still not being able to differentiate between clear and blurry photos. It makes editing a little tricky. I'm always stoked when I post something on instagram not knowing what it really looks like and it is well received, ha. So keep that in mind if you see a photo of mine that looks less than amazing. Also, if you are considering PRK Eye Surgery, I suggest you wait til after the holidays...

I began driving short distances around 3 weeks. Night vision was bad. I didn’t feel comfortable driving in the dark until about 4 weeks and even then I wasn’t confident. My distance vision was better than my close up, but it was still very sporadic. You don’t realize how much you rely on your vision until it is taken from you. Or shoddy.

Dec 10
3 Week Post Op Update: Turns out I'm a slow healer and I'm looking at more like 8 weeks before things are clear. These readers will be my friend for a while. I'm trying to not be too depressed, but chocolate is sounding really good about now...

After three weeks I was ready to get back to work, but everything was still quite blurry. The doctor recommended I find some dollar store readers to help. Unfortunately they merely magnified the mess.

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Dec 17
‎4 Week Post Op Update: I'm happy to report that last night was my last eye drop and today things seem clearer than yesterday. I know that every day will only get better and I'm looking forward to the end result. Today I'm watching Home Alone with my littles, snuggling on the couch... Their holiday break began Friday and I'm so thankful to have them home with me.

Jan 1
6 Week Post Op Update: Anyone who has been following my eye surgery will be happy to know 6 seems to be the magic number. My distance vision has been very crisp the last few days, including night driving. My up close is not perfect yet but much improved and I'm told it's the last to come into focus so I'm going to give it the full 8 weeks the doctor recommended. I can't tell you how excited I am to be able to roll over and see the numbers on my clock or the path to the bathroom in the dark. I'm told that my vision will soon be better than perfect and I'm looking forward to the range of colors and fine details I'll be able to capture through my lens in the coming months...

It’s strange how it all healed so gradually I hardly noticed, but by 8 weeks I could tell there was significant improvements since 6 weeks. Everything continued to become clearer and more vibrant. The durations of good vision also continued to improve.

Jan 29
10 Week Post Op Update: I spent half the afternoon at the eye doctor and now I am basking in the glorious news. It's been 10 weeks since my PRK Eye Surgery and I tested better than perfect for both distance and close up vision. And that's not even the best part. I celebrated 40 years of life yesterday and today the doctor informed me I have the eyes of an 18 year old! I'm smiling from ear to ear.

It’s really a modern day miracle that within 10 weeks I could be transported back nearly 20 years to the vision of my youth. I feel completely blessed.

Since having this procedure, I’ve come across so many people that have had the same surgery or know someone who has and it’s always the same story, “ You’ll be so happy you did it.”

I must admit I had my doubts along the way. It is not an easy task being without good vision for such an extended period of time, but the results are remarkable.

I still have occasional periods of dryness with pain from time to time. I’ve also noticed when my eyes are tired my vision is not as perfect, but I’m told it will continue to heal over the next few months or more; that it can only get better from here.

I haven’t had the opportunity to talk with anyone who has had Lasik in depth, but I’ve read that one of the major differences between the two surgeries is that with Lasik they cut through the nerves that control dryness. With PRK that is not the case and my doctor assures me eventually I will not be bothered by it.You can see a comparison chart here

It is certainly not the easiest route, but if you are a good candidate and can take a few weeks off, in my opinion this is definitely the best surgery long term for correcting your vision.

I am happy I went through with it. But mostly, I'm thrilled that I won't be dealing with bifocals in this lifetime.

Each individual must do what feels right to them, but should you decide to do any kind of eye surgery, do your homework. Ask around. Make sure you choose the best surgeon over a cheap deal.

And read. Read until there is nothing left to read. Take advantage of this amazing age of information available at our fingertips. Read reviews. Read about the different procedures in depth. And don't do anything unless you are confident it is the best thing for you.

I'm happy to answer any other questions you may have. Good luck on your decision! 


  1. Is this something covered by insurance? Or did you pay for it? 

  2. No Dawn, most insurances don't cover this type of procedure. You should check to make sure but with the declining health care coverage nationwide I can't imagine it would have changed. It runs around $1500-$4000 depending on your area. We paid on the high end. I know there are great doctors in CA that offer it for cheaper because they do so many, but I would never pay less for subpar work or a doctor that doesn't have good reviews or ratings. Make sure to do your homework. Sometimes groupon will offer specials, so keep your eyes peeled. Just make sure the special is for a good doctor. 

  3. Glad you are happy with the end result! 

  4. I completely agree, I love a bargain as much as the next person but
    there are some things you really shouldn't cheap out on; cars, security
    and medical procedures certainly spring to mind, not to mention body
    armour, deodorant and of course, condoms.

    It's always worth doing a background check on any doctor before letting them go
    anywhere near your eyes, after all you only get one pair and they are vital to your way of life.

    Congratulations by the way, it's great to hear stories like this. The healing process
    may have been longer than you expected but the results are brilliant, it
    has been a year now since your laser eye surgery, how have you found your 18 year old eyes?

  5. Hi! thanks for sharing the experience! I'm curious about which and how much vitamins and supplements you took during this period ?