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At UT Southwestern Medical Center, our eye specialists have extensive expertise in treating all types of eye diseases and vision problems. Using advanced technology, our doctors provide photorefractive keratectomy (PRK), a type of laser eye surgery to treat vision problems such as nearsightedness.

Latest Technology for PRK

PRK, the first FDA-approved laser eye surgery to correct vision, works by reshaping the cornea (the clear layer of tissue covering the front of the eye). Similar to LASIK, it is an outpatient procedure that can reduce the need for glasses or contact lenses for proper vision.

Our doctors are nationally recognized leaders in eye care advancements. We regularly participate in clinical trials to evaluate new procedures and technology, and we teach other doctors about laser eye surgery. We bring our research results directly to our patients to provide the best possible outcomes.

Conditions We Treat with PRK

With normal vision, light enters the eye through the cornea and lens, which bend the rays and focus them on the retina (the layer of light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye). The retina converts light into electrical pulses, which travel through the optic nerve to the brain to produce images.

Vision problems, also called refractive errors, occur when the eyeball’s shape prevents the cornea and lens from properly refracting, or bending, light rays. PRK can be a good treatment option for people who cannot have LASIK for a variety of reasons. At UT Southwestern, we use PRK to treat common refractive errors such as:

  • Nearsightedness (myopia): Light focuses in front of the retina, causing close objects to appear clear and distant objects to appear blurry.
  • Farsightedness (hyperopia): Light focuses behind the retina, resulting in blurry close vision and clearer distant vision.
  • Astigmatism: An irregularly shaped cornea causes overall blurry vision because light focuses unevenly.

Treatment with PRK

The Laser Center for Vision Care offers the latest laser eye technologies available to ensure the best experience for all of our patients. UT Southwestern physicians work closely with each patient to determine the best treatment options for their needs. From exam to surgery to follow-up, patients receive care from the same doctor.

Results with PRK

PRK differs from LASIK because it reshapes the surface of the cornea without creating a flap of tissue. PRK has certain advantages over LASIK, such as:

  • Less disturbance to the cornea, a benefit to people who have thin or abnormally curved corneas
  • Less risk of dry eye, because corneal nerves recover faster than with LASIK

The potential risks include:

  • Longer vision recovery time
  • Longer overall recovery time, up to one week to return to work and other daily activities
  • “Bandage” contact lens needed for four to five days as the top layer of the cornea grows back
  • Potential need, over time, for eyeglasses to provide clear vision

What to Expect


Our doctors begin by evaluating patients to ensure that they are good candidates for the PRK procedure. Patients who wear contact lenses usually need to stop wearing them and wear only glasses for several days or weeks, depending on the type of lens, before the evaluation and procedure.

In the evaluation, patients will have a complete eye exam to:

  • Check for infections, inflammation, or other issues that affect eye health.
  • Measure the cornea’s shape, thickness, and any irregularities.
  • Map the details of each eye to determine the areas of corneal tissue to be removed.

On the day of the procedure, patients should:

  • Arrange for someone to drive them home.
  • Avoid wearing lotion, makeup, perfume, or similar substances on their face.


The procedure usually takes about 15 minutes, with the entire appointment lasting about one hour including preparation and recovery. The appointment involves these steps:

  1. Patients can choose to take a medication such as Valium to help them relax.
  2. The doctor places numbing drops into the eyes and uses an instrument to hold the eyelids open.
  3. The doctor operates on one eye at a time, using laser equipment to remove only the topmost layer of the cornea, the epithelial layer.
  4. The patient looks at a specific point of light to keep the eye steady, and the doctor reshapes the cornea by removing tissue using a laser programmed with the patient’s eye measurements.
  5. At the end of the procedure, the doctor places a special contact lens over the eye to protect the cornea as it heals.


Patients rest in the office for a short time, then a member of the care team does a brief check before patients leave. Patients can expect:

  • Some itching, burning, or watering of the eyes that may last a few days
  • Light sensitivity for a few days
  • Discomfort, such as scratchiness or a feeling of something in the eye for a few days
  • Blurry or hazy vision for up to two weeks

We typically recommend that patients:

  • Take a nap or rest with their eyes closed for several hours just after the procedure.
  • Take pain medication as necessary for discomfort.
  • Wear eye shields while sleeping for several nights to prevent rubbing or pressure on the eyes.
  • Do not rub the eyes for several weeks.
  • Avoid using lotion, makeup, perfume, or similar substances for two to four weeks.
  • Avoid swimming, hot tubs, or contact sports for several weeks.
  • Contact us if they experience severe pain or other worsening symptoms.

Patients will have follow-up appointments usually one to two days after the procedure and regularly for several months.

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