Can LASIK Treat Astigmatism?
As a refractive surgeon, this is one of the most common questions I am asked. In short, the answer is “absolutely.” It’s a piece of cake. I just plug the astigmatism measurements into the laser and it precisely treats it down to the exact micron. The visual results are excellent with LASIK when performing treatments with or without astigmatism.
To explain it a little further, we should discuss what exactly astigmatism is and what it isn’t. To be clear, astigmatism is not a dire diagnosis. It can be treated sufficiently with LASIK, glasses or contact lenses. It will not impede your ability to live a full life since there are good methods to correct it. Of all the diagnoses a doctor can give you, astigmatism is probably the one of least concern.
Astigmatism is simply a defocus of the vision causing a distorted view most commonly from a defect in the shape of the cornea and less commonly, the lens. You can think of it like the cornea having a slight football shape as opposed to a soccer ball shape. Almost everybody has a measurable amount of astigmatism since our eyes are not perfect. The good news is, if you don’t have a lot of astigmatism, you can focus right through it without any issues and still have excellent vision.
The confusion with LASIK and astigmatism stems from circumstances that are twenty years in the past. The laser we use to reshape the cornea during LASIK is called an excimer laser. When excimer lasers first gained FDA approval for use in 1995, the lasers could only treat small amounts of astigmatism. This started the reputation that astigmatism couldn’t be treated well by lasers. By 1998, when LASIK was FDA approved, the lasers were already approved to treat large amounts of astigmatism, but the astigmatism stigma still remained. Two decades later, the lasers are much more advanced with even better outcomes. Astigmatism is a non-issue.
LASIK corrects astigmatism better than glasses and contact lenses. With glasses and contact lenses, a corrective lens is placed in front of the eye to counterbalance the distortion caused by astigmatism. With LASIK, the laser corrects the shape of the cornea which corrects astigmatism altogether. Glasses can slip and move on the face, while contact lenses can rotate on the eye. LASIK will not move or wear off. That means with LASIK, the vision will be clear and crisp regardless of what you are doing. Not only does LASIK treat astigmatism, it does it better than any other option.