Laser Eye Surgery For Astigmatism

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If you have astigmatism, it’s likely that you might’ve considered getting laser eye surgery to treat it. After all, it has a very high success rate for treating other vision problems, including both near and farsightedness.

But does laser eye surgery for astigmatism actually work?

And what do you need to know about the process, before moving forwards?

Let’s break it down.

First off: What is astigmatism?

As you’ll probably know, astigmatism is a common vision problem where the lens of the eye or the cornea has an irregular curve. In simple terms, it means that your eye is shaped more like a rugby ball than a football.

This curvature changes the way that light enters the eye, as it provides two focal points instead of one, which can cause blurry and distorted vision.

There are two main types of astigmatism:

  • Corneal astigmatism, which is when your cornea is misshapen
  • Lenticular astigmatism, which is when your lens is misshapen

Both cause the same side effects, and both are often accompanied by farsightedness (hyperopia) and nearsightedness (myopia), though this isn’t always the case.

What causes astigmatism?

It’s not known what causes astigmatism, although it is usually present at birth, which indicates a link to genetics. It can also result from an injury, scar or operation to the eye if the corneal surface is damaged.

Your risk of developing astigmatism may be higher if you have:

  • A family history of astigmatism (or other eye conditions)
  • A scarred or thin cornea
  • Blurry vision, either up close or at a distance
  • Previously had an operation on your eye

Astigmatism can occur at any age and doesn’t always have a clear cause.

If you think you might be at risk of astigmatism, contact your optometrist for advice.

What are the signs of astigmatism?

Common symptoms of astigmatism include:

  • Blurry vision (up close and/or far away)
  • Limited night vision
  • Eyestrain
  • Squinting
  • Difficulty reading
  • Eye discomfort
  • Eye irritation
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue

Astigmatism doesn’t always present any symptoms, however. Some people will have astigmatism, without knowing it. That’s why it’s important to book regular appointments with your optometrist to quickly identify any problems and prevent them from worsening.

An optometrist can diagnose astigmatism by examining your eye with a keratometer, which measures the curvature of your cornea. They can also carry out a visual acuity assessment and refraction test, which assesses your ability to read letters at different distances.

If you are diagnosed with astigmatism, you’ll then be prescribed glasses and/or contact lenses, which will be able to temporarily correct your vision.

Can laser eye surgery correct astigmatism and how does it work?

In a word: yes!

If you’re tired of blurry vision and relying on glasses or contact lenses to stop it, laser eye surgery for astigmatism offers a great and more permanent solution.

Laser eye surgery for astigmatism is slightly more complicated than treating myopia or hyperopia, however. This is because it requires correction in more than one place in the eye, due to the irregular curvature of the cornea or lens. That said, the procedure is still relatively straightforward and has a very high success rate. In fact, up to 90% of patients achieve 20/20 vision, depending on the surgery they have.

In simple terms, laser eye surgery for astigmatism sees the irregular curvature of the lens or cornea corrected with a laser, reshaping it to look more like a football than a rugby ball. This then removes the blurry vision caused by astigmatism.

The exact procedure of laser eye surgery for astigmation will depend on the type of surgery you choose. There are three main options for laser eye surgery to choose from, SMILE, LASIK or LASEK/PRK.

Read our article comparing these, here, for a detailed breakdown of what each procedure involves — including their pros and cons.

The most popular laser eye surgery for astigmatism is usually LASIK surgery because it can treat the widest range of prescriptions.

LASEK surgery involves the following steps:

  1. First, a small laser is used to cut a thin ‘flap’ into the cornea, which is peeled back to expose the corneal stroma.
  2. A different laser is then beamed onto the corneal stroma to reshape the irregular curvature causing astigmatism.
  3. The corneal flap is then repositioned back in place, where it will naturally heal.

The procedure usually takes around 15-30 minutes, and is completely pain-free. You’ll usually be able to return to work just a few days after your surgery, too.

You should expect to pay around £1,500-2,700 per eye for LASIK surgery, depending on your prescription and choice of clinic.

FAQs

Is laser eye surgery for astigmatism safe?

Laser eye surgery for astigmatism is a very safe procedure that’s carried out frequently and successfully. That said, as with any other surgery, there are some potential risks to be aware of. These include:

  • The cornea could get damaged during or after surgery
  • Side effects, such as dry eyes, discomfort and visual disturbances, may persist for up to six months before improving
  • You may need repeat surgery for best results

Severe loss of vision is very rare, but you should speak to your doctor about this for advice tailored to you. They’ll know if you are a good candidate for the surgery or not.

Not everyone is a suitable candidate for laser eye surgery. Those with thin or damaged corneas, for example, are more predisposed to the risks of the surgery, and you have to be at least 21-years-old to be eligible for it.

What results can you expect from laser eye surgery for astigmatism?

With or without astigmatism, laser eye surgery has a very high success rate. Up to 90% of patients achieve 20/20 vision. Of course, all patients respond differently, but the odds of restoring your vision are certainly very high.

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