Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis, better known as LASIK, remains a commonly advertised alternative to eyeglasses and contact lenses. It gained United States Food and Drug Administration approval in 1999, four years later than its predecessor Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK.) Because PRK is not widely advertised and technically pre-dated LASIK, some people mistakenly believe that LASIK is the superior choice for permanently correcting nearsightedness or farsightedness. However, some people will have better results and fewer complications by having PRK instead of LASIK.
All surgeries carry a small risk of both minor and serious complications. PRK as well as the newer LASIK technology work wonders in more than 95 percent of patients, but a small number of people experience double vision, overcorrection, or undercorrection.
Having thin corneas might seem like a minor inconvenience, but it really is not. Even if you never have vision correction surgery, thin corneas place you at higher risk for eye pressure problems such as glaucoma. Since people with thin corneas are more likely to lose some or all of their vision even if they do not need eyeglasses, ethical ophthalmologists would not perform LASIK on such patients. LASIK literally cuts a flap in the cornea to change vision. PRK on the other hand does not cut into the cornea and thus does not create an unacceptable level of risk to people with thin corneas.
Military personnel and people who play a lot of contact sports also are usually better candidates for PRK than LASIK. LASIK cuts a flap into the cornea that can be somewhat easily dislodged if a ball strikes the eye. Thus, people who frequently risk even minor eye trauma should opt for PRK if they want to get rid of their eyeglasses or contact lenses.