LASIK is the most common refractive eye surgery. It is used to treat a variety of eye conditions, including myopia (nearsightedness) and hyperopia (farsightedness).
LASIK also corrects astigmatism — a refractive error caused by an abnormally shaped cornea. Patients with astigmatism should understand some basic information about their condition and LASIK as a treatment option.
Astigmatism is one of the most common visual problems, affecting around 1 in 3 people in the United States. This condition occurs when the cornea in the eye is unevenly curved. The curvature alters how light passes through the eye and can cause blurry, fuzzy, or distorted vision.
Most eyes have a round shape that looks similar to a basketball. An eye with astigmatism has a curved or bent shape that more closely resembles a football. The curve makes it difficult for light to pass through and can cause problems at long and short distances.
Researchers have not identified the underlying cause of astigmatism. As with other medical conditions, genetics likely play a role in its onset. Astigmatism is often present at birth but can develop later in life.
Keratoconus, a rare disease that causes corneas to thin or bulge out, can also cause astigmatism — leading to cloudy vision and sensitivity to light. The origins of this disease are unknown but are likely hereditary.
Other things linked to astigmatism are:
Other eye diseases
Chronic eye rubbing
There are two principal types of astigmatism: corneal and lenticular. Corneal astigmatism occurs because of an irregularity in the cornea. Lenticular astigmatism is the result of distortions in the lens.
Another way to differentiate types of astigmatism is regular vs. irregular. Regular (horizontal) astigmatism occurs when the eye is wider than it is tall. Irregular (vertical) astigmatism occurs when the eye is taller than it is wide.
Astigmatism does not go away naturally. However, there are several treatments available for patients with astigmatism.
Corrective lenses such as contacts and glasses offer a non-invasive treatment option. Eye doctors can prescribe specialty glasses or contact lenses that compensate for astigmatism. These lenses help bend light and allow it to enter the eye properly.
Patients can also opt for a procedure called orthokeratology, where they wear a rigid lens at night that evens out the eye's curvature. Over time, the patient's lens will adjust to the shape, and the curve will even out.
Refractive surgery, such as LASIK, offers a safe and effective treatment for patients with astigmatism. During the procedure, an eye surgeon will use a laser to reshape the cornea and correct the uneven curvature caused by astigmatism.
This correction allows light to enter the eye and focus more accurately on the retina. After successfully having LASIK with astigmatism, patients will enjoy improved vision clarity and reduced astigmatism-related visual issues such as blurry, fuzzy, or distorted vision.
LASIK with astigmatism typically takes around 30 minutes to complete. Patients will receive a numbing drop to stabilize the eye. From there the doctor will create a thin flap in the cornea by using a femtosecond laser.
An excimer laser is used to reshape the cornea. The surgeon will then replace the flap over the cornea to promote healing.
Patients will typically see improvements on the same day as the surgery. Complete stabilization can take up to three months, depending on the extent of the procedure.
While LASIK surgery enjoys a success rate of over 90%, the effectiveness of the surgery will depend on the severity of a patient's astigmatism. LASIK is most effective as a treatment for mild to moderate astigmatism.
Additionally, patients should consider other factors to determine if they are a good candidate for LASIK. These include:
Thickness of cornea
If a patient is wondering if LASIK is a safe treatment option for their astigmatism, they should schedule a comprehensive eye exam with their doctor.
Is there an ideal age to get LASIK surgery? Learn what patients of different ages should take into account before considering the surgery.
Don’t forget to ask your LASIK surgeon these 8 important questions during your consultation or before the procedure.