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Can I Get LASIK Surgery If I Have Astigmatism?
LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis) is an FDA-approved laser eye surgery that corrects mild to moderate astigmatism by reshaping your cornea.
It improves your visual acuity, eliminating or greatly reducing your blurry vision. LASIK can also treat other refractive errors like:
- Myopia (nearsightedness)
- Hyperopia (farsightedness)
- Presbyopia (age-related vision changes)
Many people who undergo LASIK surgery no longer need corrective eyewear.
What is Astigmatism?
Astigmatism is a type of refractive error. It means the curvature of your eye’s cornea (corneal astigmatism) or lens (lenticular astigmatism) is irregular, making objects look blurry.
A regularly shaped cornea or lens is often compared to the shape of a basketball. An irregular curvature is similar to the shape of a football or egg.
Many people with astigmatism also have another refractive error. This could be myopia or hyperopia (nearsightedness or farsightedness).
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LASIK Limitations Regarding Astigmatism
LASIK is only recommended for corneal astigmatism. It cannot treat lenticular astigmatism.
LASIK can also correct up to 6.00 diopters of astigmatism. However, if you also have myopia or hyperopia, it may not be able to provide this much correction.
LASIK Procedure Basics
The LASIK procedure is a simple process:
- A topical anesthetic is squeezed into the eye before surgery
- A LASIK surgeon creates a small flap in the cornea’s epithelium (the outer protective barrier on the eye)
- They then separate the tissue and fold back the thin flap to one side
- Laser energy is then applied for a few seconds to a minute to reshape the corneal tissue underneath the flap
- The surgeon places the flap back into its original spot for natural healing
LASIK surgery offers quicker and more pleasant recovery experiences than other corneal surgeries.
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Is LASIK Right for Me?
LASIK surgery is a viable option for most patients with astigmatism. However, certain conditions may disqualify you from LASIK.
Speak with your ophthalmologist to find out if you're an ideal candidate for LASIK.
An Ideal Candidate for LASIK:
- Is at least 18 years old
- Has good overall health
- Has good eye health
- Not pregnant or nursing
- Not planning on becoming pregnant for at least six months after surgery
You Should NOT Get LASIK If:
- You have a thin cornea
- You have a family history of thin corneas
- Your glasses or contact lens prescription has changed in the last year (refractive instability)
- You have glaucoma, cataracts, or other eye conditions
- You have keratitis, uveitis, herpes, or other eye infections
- You have an autoimmune disease
- You have large pupils (this can cause glare, halos, double vision, and starbursts after surgery)
- You have chronic dry eyes
- You are an athlete in a contact sport where blows to the face or eyes are common
- You are on certain medications such as corticosteroids and certain acne medications
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 can take approximately 20 minutes.
In addition to that, the laser has an automatic shut-down function in case of any sudden eye movements.
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 the procedure.
Better vision for more extended periods
LASIK can improve vision for long, if not permanent, periods. Individuals may not need to continue wearing glasses or contacts to enjoy regular activities.
How Successful is LASIK for Astigmatism?
LASIK has very high success rates for correcting astigmatism. According to the American Refractive Surgical Council:
"The latest research reports 99 percent of patients achieve better than 20/40 vision and more than 90 percent achieve 20/20 or better. In addition, LASIK has an unprecedented 96 percent patient satisfaction rate – the highest of any elective procedure"—American Refractive Surgical Council
Cost of LASIK Surgery For Astigmatism
Laser vision correction procedures may vary in price according to different factors.
The average cost of LASIK in the United States is around $2,500 per eye. LASIK may be more expensive for patients with astigmatism, but it depends on the eye surgeon's rates.
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.
Factors Affecting LASIK’s Cost
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.
Many insurance companies consider LASIK an elective surgery. This means your vision benefits may not cover the costs of the surgical procedure.
Advanced LASIK 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.
Does Insurance Cover LASIK For Astigmatism?
Unfortunately, most health plans consider laser surgery an elective treatment. Elective procedures are usually not covered by traditional insurance plans. However, some vision insurance companies are starting to offer discounts on LASIK.
Some vision insurance policies that offer discounts include:
- Vision Service Plan (VSP)
- Davis Vision
If you get one of these plans, you might have to use an in-network eye doctor for your LASIK treatment. They usually have contracts with specific LASIK clinics.
This is helpful because the surgeons in these networks have been vetted and approved by the insurance company to provide comprehensive LASIK treatment to correct astigmatism.
Alternative Treatment Options For Astigmatism
If you decide not to undergo LASIK surgery, other options are available.
Before determining treatment and/or corrective lenses, an eye doctor will perform an eye exam to understand the cornea’s shape.
Glasses and Contacts
One example is a type of soft lens called toric contact lenses. However, it may be more suitable for people 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 you 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, people who consider undergoing PRK should know that recovery time is different from that of LASIK. With PRK, recovery periods are often much longer.
Ask an Expert
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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