Can astigmatism be corrected with refractive surgery?
Astigmatism, a common type of refractive error, can be the result of disease or injury but is most often a natural occurrence that most individuals are born with to some degree or other. Refraction is the result of light being bent as it passes through one object to another. In the case of the eye, light rays are refracted (bent) as they pass through the cornea and the lens and focus on the retina. The retina then translates these light rays into messages that can be interpreted by the brain as images. Simply put, when someone has astigmatism, the eye is not completely round, which distorts refraction, resulting in blurry images.
How the eye works has been the subject of intense study for thousands of years, leading to a variety of options for most conditions. The most often prescribed corrections for astigmatism are eyeglasses, contact lenses and refractive surgery. When the degree of astigmatism is mild to moderate, it can usually be successfully corrected with glasses or contacts. In the past, contact lens wearers with astigmatism were restricted to RGP lenses (rigid gas permeable), commonly known as “hard contacts”. This changed with the introduction of toric soft lenses, which are designed to enable the lens to rotate to the proper orientation on the cornea so the power meridians of the lens align with the appropriate meridians of the eye to correct the varying amount of nearsightedness or farsightedness.
Toric contact lens successfully correct vision for many patients but there are those whose astigmatism is severe enough to require the RGP contacts or glasses. For others, refractive surgery may be the more appropriate option. There are different types of refractive surgery. The most commonly performed type is LASIK surgery, which is short for laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis. A thin flap is cut in the cornea and lifted, allowing the curvature of the cornea to be reshaped with a laser. Once this is completed, the flap is replaced and covered with a protective contact lens.
The other common type of refractive surgery, clear lens extraction (CLE), which is also called refractive lens exchange, replaces the natural lens of the eye with one meant to enhance vision. While sometimes used with astigmatism patients, CLE is not usually the treatment of choice and, when it is used, often has to be in combination with LASIK.
For optimal results, the better your general health, the better the outcome with LASIK surgery, or any other surgical procedure for that matter. There are some specific issues that your eye surgeon will be looking for that can make the outcome of your LASIK surgery less predictable. These include:
- Immune system impairments
- Immunosuppressive medication
- Irritable bowel syndrome
There is no one-fits-all, best method when it comes to the correction of refractive errors. The key to successful treatment for astigmatism, as well as other vision issues, is finding and consulting with an experienced and highly skilled eye care professional.
If you believe that you may have an issue with astigmatism, Long Island Ophthalmic Concepts is ready to provide high-quality, comprehensive care in one of our four office locations. For more information about astigmatism, or if you have other questions or comments, please call the office most convenient to you, Bellmore, Great Neck, Little Neck or Huntington. If you would like to schedule an appointment, simply click here to go to our online scheduler.