Crisp, clear vision allows you to see the beauty in the world around you. Astigmatism is just one of the conditions that can block clear vision, and this condition is incredibly common. (Learn more) Astigmatism is measured in diopters, and if your prescription is 6 diopters or less, you may qualify for correction with laser assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK). (Learn more)
Most people who have LASIK for vision issues caused by astigmatism and other related issues are satisfied, but some types of LASIK surgery work better than others on astigmatism. (Learn more) To get the best level of correction, you will likely need the form of LASIK surgery that can cost $4,500. (Learn more)
Learn More About Astigmatism
Crisp images originate with light hitting the back of the eye at a perfect angle. Two structures within the eye, the cornea and the lens, are meant to be smooth and curved. That curvature should be equal in all directions, and there should be no bumps or troughs on the surface.
When an eye is shaped like this, light moves through the eye, hits the retina at the back of the eye at a perfect angle, and produces an image that is crisp and clear.
People who have astigmatism have an irregularity in the shape or smoothness of the retina or the lens. The American Academy of Ophthalmology reports that astigmatism tends to be an inherited condition, so if your parents have it, you are likely to have it as well. Astigmatism can also develop due to an eye injury, eye surgery, or eye disease.
The subtle shape differences caused by astigmatism may be invisible to the naked eye. You won't be able to look at your eyes in a mirror and notice that anything is unusual. But astigmatism can cause symptoms, according to Mayo Clinic. Those symptoms can include:
- Blurred vision at all distances, including near and far.
- Headaches of varying intensities.
- Eye discomfort or strain.
- Low night vision.
The American Optometric Association reports that almost everyone has some level of astigmatism. At low levels, it may not be troublesome at all. But people with a high degree of astigmatism may find it hard to see clearly without glasses or contact lenses. People who want to avoid the use of those tools may consider surgical correction with LASIK, but that surgery isn't right for everyone with astigmatism.
Your Astigmatism Prescription and Suitability for Surgery
Astigmatism is measured in diopters, and higher numbers indicate a higher level of astigmatism. According to the American Refractive Surgery Council, LASIK surgery has the potential to amend an astigmatism level of up to 6 diopters. If your astigmatism is measured at higher levels, this form of surgery may not be right for you. The amount of tissue a surgeon would have to remove during surgery to fix the issue could leave your eyes vulnerable to future health issues.
According to Medscape, some health issues could also make you a poor candidate for LASIK. Those issues include the following:
- Corneal ulcers
Your doctor can assess your eye health before surgery to ensure these issues won't complicate your recovery. You may also have tests to rule out dry eye disorders that can keep your eye from healing.
How Successful Is LASIK for Astigmatism?
Researchers have conducted multiple studies to determine if people who have LASIK for vision problems caused by astigmatism can see better after surgery. In one such study, published in the journal Ophthalmologica, researchers found that the surgery was both safe and effective in people who were severely nearsighted and had high levels of astigmatism. At the end of surgery, patients could see clearly and had few surgical side effects.
Despite studies like this, there are some people who have LASIK surgery and experience complications. In a study published in BMJ in 2006, researchers found that 0.6 percent of people treated with LASIK saw worse after surgery than they did before surgery. The team writing this article suggests that all patients have a clear, direct conversation with doctors before surgery in order to understand the potential risks involved with surgery, so they can make an informed choice.
Additional research suggests that the type of LASIK surgery performed can have an impact on how well the surgery seems to work. In one study, published in the Journal of Refractive Surgery, researchers suggest that a form of LASIK that involves mapping the surface of the eye and following that map with a computer-guided machine results in better outcomes for people with astigmatism.
This is an advanced form of LASIK known as Wavefront LASIK. It is not available from all surgeons, and not all LASIK machines are capable of performing this type of surgery. Patients considering LASIK would be wise to ask their doctors about the type of LASIK considered for their surgery and to only consider doctors who use advanced techniques to correct vision. Since their blurred vision begins with abnormalities in shape, tracking those abnormalities closely with surgery might be the best way to correct their vision.
Cost of LASIK for Astigmatism
Because people with astigmatism have abnormally shaped eyes, they benefit from surgeries that track those abnormalities with computers and correct them accordingly during LASIK. This is an advanced form of surgery that requires modern equipment, and that means this is a form of surgery that tends to be expensive.
According to the American Refractive Surgery Council, advanced LASIK procedures like this can cost $4,500. Insurance plans consider this an optional, elective expense since you can use glasses and contacts to amend vision instead. That means you are likely to be required to spend the entire amount out of pocket. When compared to the cost of glasses and contacts over the lifespan, this can seem like a small cost, but it is still one you should account for.
It is important to remember that the more expensive form of surgery is likely to give you the best vision after surgery. You may be tempted to cut expenses by using a surgeon who can use older, less expensive technology. But that surgery may not save you money, as you may need another surgery to truly help you get the clear vision you are looking for.
Get the Help You Need
Astigmatism can leave you squinting and straining even with glasses and contacts. LASIK could be the solution you've been looking for, but you will need an experienced surgeon to perform the work. We can help. At NVision, we have a roster of surgeons who can help to explain your options clearly, so you can make an informed choice. Contact us to find out more about professionals in your area.
What Is Astigmatism? (August 2018). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Astigmatism. Mayo Clinic.
Astigmatism. American Optometric Association.
Does My Eyeglass Prescription Qualify for LASIK? (February 2017). American Refractive Surgery Council.
LASIK Astigmatism. (March 2017). Medscape.
Outcomes of Epi-LASIK for the Correction of High Myopia and Myopic Astigmatism After More than 1 Year. (February 2009). Ophthalmologica.
People Considering Laser Eye Surgery Should Be Warned of Risks, Says NICE. (April 2006). BMJ.
Influence of Internal Optical Astigmatism on the Correction of Myopic Astigmatism by LASIK. (December 2011). Journal of Refractive Surgery.
LASIK Cost: Finding Ways to Pay for Vision Surgery. (March 2016). American Refractive Surgery Council.