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What is Astigmatism?
Astigmatism is a treatable imperfection of the cornea, the clear outer front layer of the eye. A normal cornea is smooth and evenly curved.
Someone with astigmatism has an irregularly shaped cornea (corneal astigmatism) or eye lens (lenticular astigmatism). In these cases, light rays do not focus well on the retina. This causes blurry or distorted distance and near vision.1
The retina is the part of the eye that senses light rays and sends images to the brain for interpretation.2
Astigmatism may occur alongside other refractive errors such as nearsightedness (myopia) and farsightedness (hyperopia).3 When it occurs concurrently with myopia, it's referred to as myopic astigmatism.
On the other hand, when it occurs with hyperopia, it's referred to as hyperopic astigmatism.
According to research, astigmatism affects about 32 percent of the US population. It's common among people ages 65 years and older.4
What Causes Astigmatism?
You can also develop astigmatism after eye surgery. This includes cataract surgery or LASIK (laser in-situ keratomileusis).
Symptoms of astigmatism include:
- Blurred or distorted vision
- Eyestrain or squinting to see clearly
- Poor night vision
It's difficult to detect astigmatism in young children. Your child may also not notice vision changes until they have progressed.
If your child experiences frequent headaches or has a sudden drop in school performance, your doctor may check for signs of astigmatism.
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Can LASIK Correct Astigmatism?
LASIK surgery involves reshaping the cornea. It does so by using laser technology to correct refractive errors, including astigmatism. The effect of LASIK is permanent.6
Typically, a normal cornea has zero diopters of astigmatism.7 People with more than 1.5 diopters are likely to use glasses and/or contact lenses.
LASIK surgery offers a permanent solution and eliminates the need for glasses and/or contacts. Severe astigmatism often affects the cost of LASIK due to the likelihood of LASIK enhancement.
Can You Develop Astigmatism After LASIK?
Although more than 90 percent of LASIK beneficiaries achieve 20/20 vision without complications, astigmatism after LASIK surgery can occur.8
Residual astigmatism is astigmatism that persists after laser surgery.9 It may occur due to inaccurate preoperative measurements, incorrect corneal markings, posterior corneal curvature, or other surgical mistakes.
To minimize the risk of complications after LASIK surgery, such as severe astigmatism, visit a qualified and experienced ophthalmologist.
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How Long Does Astigmatism Last After LASIK?
Most people who get LASIK realize a difference in their astigmatism immediately after surgery.
Schedule a follow-up appointment 24 to 48 hours after LASIK. This way, your doctor can monitor the healing process closely. They can also detect and correct any issues before they worsen.
If you develop astigmatism after surgery, you may benefit from LASIK enhancement.10 However, you may have to wait until you fully recover from your first surgery (usually 3 to 6 months).
How to Treat Astigmatism After LASIK
Treatment for astigmatism may vary based on various factors. But the main goal of treatment is to improve vision and ease discomfort.
Notable treatment options include:
Eyeglass lenses help focus light on the retina. This improves visual acuity.
Astigmatism eyeglasses are different from typical glasses. They include CYL (cylinder) and AXIS specifications, which dictate the lens power and the rotation of astigmatism correction.
Progressive lenses may be appropriate for people with astigmatism occurring alongside other refractive errors.
Contact lenses work just like eyeglasses and are customized for each person. Examples of contacts for astigmatism include disposable lenses, rigid contact lenses, and toric lenses.
You can choose your contact lens based on your budget and personal preference. They cost about $150 to $1,500 per year.
Ortho-k is a lens correction treatment for myopia that also corrects astigmatism. It involves wearing rigid gas permeable contact lenses designed to reshape your cornea over time.
Once your eyes adapt to the intended corneal shape, your doctor will prescribe retainer lenses to maintain it.
Lens replacement procedures, such as refractive lens exchange, are permanent solutions to astigmatism. This procedure involves removing the faulty natural eye lens and replacing it with an artificial one that works better.
Lens replacement surgery is recommended in the case of lenticular astigmatism or cataracts.
Your doctor will thoroughly examine you to ensure your eligibility for these procedures. People with thin corneas are not eligible for LASIK surgery.
Phakic Intraocular Lenses (IOLs)
Phakic IOLs such as implantable collamer lens (ICL) are also permanent solutions to vision issues. ICL corrects nearsightedness (myopia) and astigmatism.
Unlike lens replacement, which completely replaces the natural eye lens, phakic IOLs involve placing the lens in front of the natural lens to enhance its focus.
How Much Does LASIK for Astigmatism Cost?
LASIK for astigmatism is considered an elective procedure. Therefore, insurance does not cover it.
On average, LASIK costs $2,500 per eye in the United States. This fee includes a consultation and follow-up care.
This price may change based on your type of astigmatism, location, the technology your surgeon uses, and their experience level.
Before making a decision, speak to your ophthalmologist about pricing. Some surgeons offer payment plans.
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