What is Flapless LASIK Surgery?
LASIK is such a familiar term that most people don’t question the meaning. However, LASIK is a form of corrective eye surgery that involves utilizing a “flap.” During vision correction surgery, the laser treatment is performed on the cornea. When a corneal flap is created, the first few layers of the cornea are lifted away, exposing the middle stroma layer. One portion of the first layer remains attached, however, so it can act as a hinge. The laser then reshapes the middle layer and repositions the flap over the treated area.
With a flapless procedure, also known as PRK, the laser treatment is placed directly on the surface layer of the cornea. PRK is known as “flapless eye surgery” because the treatment happens directly on the surface of the cornea and not under a flap.
The biggest benefit to the flap procedure is the speed and comfort of recovery. Because the surface layer of the cornea is largely undisturbed, discomfort is minimal – usually just a scratchy feeling for a few hours. Although vision can be blurry at first, it recovers quickly, and almost all patients enjoy clear vision within 24 hours.
With the flapless procedure, the eyes can be somewhat uncomfortable with a burning or scratchy feeling for up to four days following the procedure. Pain medication can be used to relieve that discomfort. Because the surface of the cornea is temporarily disturbed with the flapless surgery it can also take several weeks to obtain vision clarity. In the end, there is no significant difference in the vision whether the flap or flapless procedure is performed.
Both the flap and flapless procedures provide excellent vision correction, so why would someone choose flapless vision correction surgery? PRK surgery is recommended by doctors for many patients who don’t qualify for LASIK because of a thin or irregularly-shaped cornea or their involvement in contact sports.