Learn More About Astigmatism And How LASIK Can HelpAuthor: Dr. William Tullo
July 10, 2013
About one in three people suffers from astigmatism, yet many would be surprised to know so many others also suffer from this condition. While common, astigmatism is often misunderstood, and many don’t know that LASIK surgery can treat it.
What is astigmatism?
A normal cornea’s shape should mimic that of a baseball. A person with astigmatism has a cornea that is shaped more like a football. Because the cornea is oddly shaped, light bends unequally as it enters the eye, causing vision distortion or blurriness.
Some people with astigmatism might frequently squint in an effort to see clearly because astigmatism can make it hard to focus on fine details or objects. Squinting too much can cause headaches from the strain of trying to focus.
Regular vs. irregular astigmatism
Regular astigmatism, the most common type of this condition, is found in almost half of the adult population. Irregular astigmatism is less common and can be caused by eye disease, surgery or injury. The most common cause of irregular astigmatism is a disease called keratoconus, which gradually thins the cornea, typically in the second decade of life. Irregular astigmatism can be difficult to treat with eye glasses. Custom contacts may be useful depending on the severity of irregular astigmatism.
Can laser eye surgery treat astigmatism?
Depending on the type and severity of astigmatism, the condition can often be treated with laser eye surgery. Laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) is a type of laser eye surgery that reshapes the inner layer of the cornea to correct astigmatism. It is important to determine which type of astigmatism you have in order to determine which eye treatment option is best for you.
LASIK eye surgery has proven an effective treatment for people with mild or moderate astigmatism. LASIK is also a convenient option for physically active people who find eye glasses or contacts a nuisance, even if they don’t have astigmatism.
Outdoorsman Angus Chan suffered from astigmatism and wore prescription lenses for 24 years before he opted for LASIK eye surgery.
Chan had worse than 20/500 vision, which means what a normal person could see from 500 feet away, Chan could not see from 20 feet away.
“Prior to LASIK, my world was really just a big blur unless something was about a foot in front of my nose,” Chan said.
His eye doctor suggested LASIK five years ago, but Chan didn’t think he’d need it. He changed his mind later, as he became a father of kids who liked to snatch his eye glasses from his face, and as he was a swimmer and snowboarder. Eye glasses tended to get in the way, and contact lenses dried his eyes.
How well can laser eye surgery leave someone who had astigmatism?
“I've been giving my daughter swimming lessons,” Chan said. “Being able to demonstrate how to do front floats and glides without worrying about my glasses falling to the bottom of the pool is a joy.”
It’s been three months since LASIK eye surgery corrected Chan’s astigmatism. He noticed significantly improved vision immediately after LASIK, and his eyesight continued to improve over the following days.
“After experiencing the results, I regret not taking advantage of the procedure when I first could have,” Chan said. “Not having to worry about glasses or contact lenses provides much more freedom than I realized.”