The cost of PRK surgery typically ranges from $1,000 to $3,000 per eye, with the average cost being about $2,300 per eye. This procedure is elective, and the cost can vary greatly based on location and the surgeon’s reputation and experience.
Why Do People Choose PRK Surgery?
People choose photorefractive keratectomy (PRK), or surface ablation, to correct their vision, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. It is generally an option for people who are not eligible for LASIK due to thin corneas, dry eyes, or higher refractive errors.
There are clear advantages to PRK surgery, such as less risk of infection, but according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, it takes longer to see stable results from the surgery — about a month on average.
While LASIK is more popular, PRK is a good solution for people who aren’t good candidates for LASIK. The procedure achieves similar outcomes as LASIK.
Costs That Impact What You’ll Pay for PRK
Different surgeons charge different amounts for their services, and this will ultimately influence the final bill the most. Here are some factors that influence the total cost for PRK:
The geographic location of the surgery center will naturally affect how much you pay for the surgery. Getting treated in a large metropolitan city will generally cost more than going to a university surgery center in a more rural area.
Background & Experience of the Surgeon
A surgeon who has a lot of experience performing PRK procedures will command a higher price than a general surgeon who also performs other eye surgeries. What they charge will be based on their designations, popularity, and skill level.
If your surgeon uses newer lasers and technology, this will usually translate into a higher fee for the surgery. Ask about the technology they use to ensure it is up to par with what you want.
Preoperative & Postoperative Expenses
Generally, the cost will include preoperative planning and postoperative care. This involves initial assessment and exam costs as well as follow-up exams after the surgery.
Confirm that these exams are included in the cost beforehand. Some surgery centers may advertise discount fees because they charge for these services separately. In this case, you aren’t getting as good a deal as you might initially think.
You may receive prescriptions for eye drops and medications. These medications may be given to manage pain and reduce the risk of inflammation, promoting faster healing. You’ll fill these prescriptions as you normally would, generally paying a copay or whatever portion your insurance doesn’t cover.
Does Insurance Cover PRK?
Since PRK is considered an elective surgery, it is generally not covered by vision insurance. This is similar to how vision insurance providers view LASIK or any surgery to address refractive errors.
Some vision insurance providers partner with surgeons and clinics to offer discounted rates for laser vision correction surgeries. If you use one of these partners, you might receive a set amount off the final bill.
Ways to Pay for PRK
If you can’t take advantage of any insurance discount programs, there are other ways to offset the cost of PRK. Many surgery centers offer financing, where you can pay off the bill slowly on a monthly basis. This is often much more manageable than paying a lump sum up front.
You can also potentially use funds from your health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA). Both options allow you to use pre-tax money on healthcare expenses, and PRK usually qualifies.
Talk to your surgeon’s office about ways they can make the financial aspects of your care more manageable for you. Most offices are willing to work with you, so you can get the treatment you need.
PRK Costs Compared With Lifetime Costs for Vision Correction
While the cost of surgery to correct refractive errors can seem high, there are lifetime costs to vision correction. This includes the costs of regularly replacing eyeglasses and contacts. Here is how the cost comparison breaks down:
Eyeglass Correction for 1 Year
Researchers found that the average cost for eyeglass correction for a year amounted to $342.50 for correction, bringing it to $9,373.50 for a lifetime cost. This study was done in 2018, and this cost has likely risen with inflation.
Expenses for Contact Lenses
You’ll spend much more than $4,000 to $6,000 (cost of PRK) on a lifetime of contact lenses. The average yearly cost of contacts is around $500. If you wear them for 20 years, that’s $10,000, and most people wear contacts for much longer.
Vision Correction Surgery
Refractive errors are the main cause of low vision problems, affecting 60 percent of people over 40 years old and more than 20 percent of students. While laser eye surgery comes with a higher upfront cost, it saves money in the long term since patients usually no longer need to purchase glasses or contacts.
What Is Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK)? (November 2022). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Refractive Surgery: The Most Cost-Saving Technique in Refractive Errors Correction. (June 2018). International Journal of Ophthalmology.
PRK: Feeling Better and Healing Faster. (September 2008). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of Myopia Management: A Systematic Review. (February 2023). Frontiers in Public Health.
LASIK vs. PRK: Which Vision Correction Surgery Is Right for You? (December 2017). Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan.
LASIK vs. PRK: Which Laser Eye Surgery Is Right for You? (April 2023). Forbes.
Last Updated May 24, 2023
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