Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK)

An Effective Alternative to LASIK for Vision Correction

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PRK is a type of laser vision surgery that can correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, and blurry vision due to astigmatism. It is an alternative to LASIK and may be recommended if you have thin corneas, dry eyes, or are involved in high-impact activities. Our board-certified, specially trained eye surgeons use the latest laser technologies to help restore your vision and improve your quality of life.

How does PRK surgery work?

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What’s the Same

PRK and LASIK are outpatient procedures that correct refractive errors -- problems with light bending properly as it passes through your eyes -- that cause blurry vision. Your surgeon will use a laser to change the shape of your cornea -- the clear outer layer at the front of your eye. This allows your eye to focus properly so you see clearly. After you recover from surgery, you may not need to wear glasses or contact lenses or may only require them for some activities like reading or driving at night. The quality of long-term vision from PRK is generally as good – or even better -- as with LASIK.

What’s Different

PRK removes cells on the surface of your eye, and a laser is used to reshape your cornea. With LASIK, your surgeon creates a flap in your cornea. With intense activity, the LASIK flap could move or become dislodged. If you have an active job or lifestyle -- for instance, if you are a firefighter or play contact sports -- PRK might be a better choice for you. PRK may also be recommended for people with thinner or irregular corneas because it does not disrupt corneal tissue as much as LASIK.

Our Locations

Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.

Is PRK Right for Me?

A Complete, Free Eye Evaluation

To determine if you are a good candidate for PRK, you will undergo a complete evaluation of your eyes. You should not wear contact lenses the week before your evaluation. A technician will perform a basic eye exam, imaging, and diagnostic testing. Then your eyes will be dilated, and an ophthalmologist will examine them to determine if PRK is a good option for you. You must be 18 or older to be considered for PRK. 

Beyond PRK

Certain conditions may prevent you from having PRK, for example, having keratoconus or cataracts. In these cases, our surgeons may recommend other refractive procedures. They will help you understand your options to achieve the best possible vision. 

PRK and Insurance

Because PRK is an elective procedure, it is not covered by most insurance plans. Our evaluation exams are free, and the cost includes the surgery, all follow-up appointments, and a follow-up procedure if your vision requires fine tuning later. We follow you closely, especially the year after PRK, to ensure the results meet your expectations. 

Request a Consultation

Request a consultation appointment for LASIK, PRK, clear lens exchange, intraocular lens exchange, or refractive lens exchange. 

What to Expect for PRK

Before Surgery

If you and your doctor decide that PRK is the best choice for you, you can schedule surgery right away, or our office can contact you later to schedule surgery. We will answer your questions and explain how to prepare for surgery, what surgery entails, and the recovery process. If you wear contact lenses, you will be asked to wear glasses instead for several weeks before surgery. You will need to identify an adult to drive you to and from your outpatient procedure. 

The Day of Surgery

Your eyes will be examined before surgery to confirm your eye health and your exact vision-correction requirements. You will be given drops to numb your eyes before the surgery, and you may also be given a mild sedative to help you relax. A clear contact lens is placed at the end of surgery to protect your eye as it heals. This will be removed a week after your procedure. Although you can expect to spend two to three hours at the Eye Center, the surgery itself takes just a few minutes. 

After Surgery

After PRK, you will remain in an exam room so we can check your eyes. You will go home wearing your protective contact lenses and sunglasses or protective eye shields but will need someone to drive you. You may have some eye pain or discomfort for two or three days, but you can take a prescription or an over-the-counter pain reliever. 

Your vision may be hazy after PRK but will improve after three to five days. It may take a month of more before you see full improvement. You can return to your normal activities within a week. Follow-up appointments will be scheduled for the next day and again one week later. 

Long-Term Results

You can expect the results of PRK to last until there is a medical change in your vision. For example, presbyopia -- the loss of reading vision -- can occur as part of the natural aging process, even if you have had PRK.

Call for an Appointment

Why Choose Duke

Experience Matters

Our vast experience and regular use of the most advanced technology ensure you achieve better vision with reduced risk of halo and glare, which have been associated with some refractive procedures. Duke PRK surgeons are cornea specialists who have additional training in laser vision-correction procedures including LASIK, implantable contact lenses (ICL), or a clear lens exchange. We also perform PRK enhancements if you had PRK at another center and are not satisfied with the results.

Continuity of Care

Our doctors work with you from your first evaluation through all your follow-up visits. Or if you prefer, we can coordinate follow-up care with your local eye doctor. 

Board-Certified, Fellowship-Trained Ophthalmologists

Our eye surgeons are board-certified ophthalmologists who are fellowship trained, which means they have completed several years of advanced training in cornea and refractive surgery. Collectively, our surgeons have performed more than 28,000 refractive procedures since Duke began offering them nearly 30 years ago.

Best Eye Hospital in North Carolina

Where you receive your care matters. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our ophthalmology program is ranked seventh in the nation and is the highest-ranked program in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2024–2025.

This page was medically reviewed on 06/15/2022