LASIK for Astigmatism

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What is LASIK?

LASIK is an FDA-approved refractive correction procedure for myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and other vision problems. It stands for laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis. 

In simple terms, an ophthalmologist performs a thin, hinged flap incision further into the cornea. A laser then removes inner layers of the cornea to provide it with adequate curvature. 

diagram showing six steps of lasik eye surgery

When compared to other corneal surgeries, this laser eye surgery offers quicker and more pleasant recovery experiences. 

How Does LASIK Correct Astigmatism? 

diagram showing eye with normal vision vs astigmatism

Astigmatism is a type of refractive error, in which the curvature of the eye’s cornea or lens is irregular. The curvature is sometimes comparable to the shape of a football or egg. This eye condition can affect how light passes through the cornea and lens and refracts (bends) onto the retina. A refractive error of this kind can make viewing objects challenging. 

When astigmatism is strong, different symptoms may arise, including:

  • Blurry vision in some areas
  • Eyestrain (tiredness in the eyes)
  • Headaches
  • Dry eyes
  • Squinting
  • Eye discomfort
  • Glare
  • Light sensitivity

Because of these problems, an eye doctor may recommend LASIK surgery as a treatment option. 


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The LASIK procedure is a simple process. The steps include:

  1. A topical (eye drop) anesthetic is squeezed into the eye before surgery 
  2. Using a femtosecond laser to create a small flap in the cornea’s epithelium (the outer protective barrier on the eye)
  3. A LASIK surgeon then separates the tissue and folds back the thin flap to one side
  4. Laser energy is then applied for a few seconds to a minute to reshape the corneal tissue underneath the flap
  5. Once completed, the surgeon places the flap back into its original spot for natural healing

Benefits of LASIK For Astigmatism Correction

LASIK surgery has many advantages for those with astigmatism, including:

  • Speed and safety. This surgical procedure is performed on an outpatient basis. In some cases, the surgery may take approximately 20 minutes. Regardless of the time, the laser is safe, having an automatic shut-down function in case of any sudden eye movements. 
  • Earlier results. Clear vision does not take long to arrive after LASIK eye surgery. Individuals undergoing the procedure may notice a positive difference within a few hours after surgery. 
  • Better vision for more extended periods. A surgery like this can result in improved vision for long, if not permanent, periods. This means that individuals may not need to continue wearing glasses or contacts to enjoy regular activities.  

Cost of LASIK For Astigmatism

Laser vision correction procedures may vary in price according to different factors. 

In general, the average cost of LASIK in the United States is around $2,500 per eye. 

This price may include the initial consultation as well as follow-up care. However, as each eye care clinic is different, it is important to speak with the ophthalmologist about an itemized quote. 

Additional factors that may influence costs for this type of refractive surgery include:

  • Types of astigmatism. The severity of astigmatism may influence the length and costs of the procedure. In more extreme cases, LASIK may not even be a suitable option. 
  • Insurance plans. Many insurance companies consider LASIK as elective surgery. This means that they may not cover the costs of the surgical procedure. 
  • Advanced technology. The latest LASIK procedures can now include wavefront and/or topographical analysis of the eyes for more precision. This aspect, while positive, can push up the final costs. 

Alternative Treatment Options For Astigmatism

If an individual decides not to undergo LASIK surgery, there are other options available. 

Before determining treatment and/or corrective lenses, an eye doctor will perform an eye exam to understand the cornea’s shape.  

In many cases, individuals can address mild to moderate astigmatism problems with eyeglasses or contact lenses. One example is a type of soft lenses called toric contact lenses. However, it may be more suitable for individuals who have severe astigmatism to wear rigid contacts or glasses.

Another treatment option is photorefractive keratectomy (PRK). This surgical procedure is similar to LASIK. However, the surgeon does not leave the cornea’s outer protective layer as a flap. Instead, the layer is removed, and the tissue grows back naturally to fit the reshaped cornea. 

A primary reason why individuals may be a good candidate for PRK than LASIK is corneal thickness. If the cornea is too thin, there is not enough tissue for surgeons to create a flap in the superficial layer of the cornea. This step is essential in LASIK surgery. 

However, individuals who consider undergoing PRK should know that recovery time is different from that of LASIK. With PRK, recovery periods are often much longer. 

In any case, it is always best to stop by an ophthalmology clinic and speak with an eye health professional about any invasive or non-invasive treatment options. 

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Author: Anthony Armenta | UPDATED October 19, 2020
Medical reviewer: MELODY HUANG, O.D. 
Resources

Boyd, Kierstan. “What Is Astigmatism?” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 7 Sept. 2018, www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-is-astigmatism.

“Evaluating A LASIK Bargain: 4 Facts You Need To Know.” American Refractive Surgery Council, 30 Apr. 2020, www.americanrefractivesurgerycouncil.org/evaluating-lasik-price-bargain/.

Joy, Kevin. “Pros and Cons of LASIK: Are the Risks Worth the Cost?” Health & Wellness Topics, Health Tips & Disease Prevention, 13 Dec. 2017, www.healthblog.uofmhealth.org/eye-health/pros-and-cons-of-lasik-are-risks-worth-cost

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