The surface of the eye (also known as the cornea) can develop scar tissue, non-adherent cells or an irregular surface that can make the vision blurry, even with glasses, and at times may cause discomfort. When glasses or contact lenses and eye drops are not sufficient for vision or comfort, a surgical procedure may be helpful.
Phototherapeutic Keratectomy (PTK) is a common laser procedure performed to smooth the surface of the cornea. This surgery is less invasive than a Corneal Transplant and the recovery process is not as extensive. Unfortunately, not everyone qualifies for the PTK procedure. Your doctor will discuss which option makes the most sense for you depending on your individual situation.
The PTK Procedure
PTK is performed using the excimer laser to smooth the scarred, irregular, or poorly adhering corneal surface to improve vision and/or to reduce discomfort. The treatment is done under a topical anesthetic and there is minimal discomfort during the procedure. The PTK is done while lying on your back and your eyelids are held apart to prevent blinking during the procedure. The surface cells are brushed away, and a cool, non-penetrating laser smooths the surface of the cornea. A soft contact lens is placed on the eye as a bandage for comfort. This lens will remain in your eye for about 5-7 days after the procedure. If the lens falls out of your eye, do not reinsert it. Instead, call the office to discuss whether or not it needs to be replaced, and schedule an appointment if necessary. The entire procedure typically lasts less than 15 minutes. Patients may experience some pain after the surgery, however medications in the form of drops and pills typically help minimize discomfort. Vision will fluctuate during the healing process, which can take as long as 3-6 months for some patients.
The primary goal is to produce a smoother and clearer cornea. You may still need to wear contact lenses or glasses to reach your best vision after the surgery. Other more serious problems such as infection or scarring of the eye may potentially occur, but are unlikely.
After the PTK Procedure
You will be instructed to use eye drops and oral medications following the procedure. An ointment is sometimes recommended for use at night to prevent corneal erosions during the healing period. If prescribed by your physician, you should begin using this medication the evening the contact lens is removed.