The goal of treating astigmatism is to improve vision clarity and eye comfort. Treatments are corrective lenses or refractive surgery.
Wearing corrective lenses treats astigmatism by counteracting uneven curvatures of your cornea and lens.
Types of corrective lenses include:
- Eyeglasses. Eyeglasses are made with lenses that help compensate for the uneven shape of your eye. The lenses make the light bend into your eye properly. Eyeglasses can also correct for other refractive errors, such as nearsightedness or farsightedness.
Contact lenses. Like eyeglasses, contact lenses can correct most astigmatism. They are available in a variety of types and styles, including disposable soft; extended wear; rigid, gas permeable; and bifocal.
Contact lenses are also used in a procedure called orthokeratology. In orthokeratology, you wear rigid contact lenses for several hours a day until the curvature of your eye evens out. Then you wear the lenses less frequently to maintain the new shape. If you discontinue this treatment, your eyes return to their former shape.
Wearing contact lenses for extended periods of time increases the risk of infection in the eye.
Ask your eye doctor about the pros and cons and risks of contact lenses and what might be best for you.
Refractive surgery improves vision and reduces the need for eyeglasses or contact lenses. Your eye surgeon uses a laser beam to reshape the curves of the cornea, which corrects the refractive error. Before surgery, doctors will evaluate you and determine if you're a candidate for refractive surgery.
Types of refractive surgery for astigmatism include:
- Laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK). With this procedure, your eye surgeon makes a thin, hinged flap in your cornea. He or she uses an excimer laser to sculpt the shape of the cornea and then repositions the flap.
- Laser-assisted subepithelial keratectomy (LASEK). Instead of creating a flap in the cornea, the surgeon loosens the cornea's thin protective cover (epithelium) with a special alcohol. He or she uses an excimer laser to change the curvature of the cornea and then repositions the loosened epithelium.
- Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK). This procedure is similar to LASEK, except the surgeon removes the epithelium. It will grow back naturally, conforming to your cornea's new shape. You may need to wear a bandage contact lens for a few days after surgery.
- Epi-LASIK. This is a variation of LASEK. Your doctor uses a special mechanized blunt blade — instead of the alcohol — to separate a very thin sheet of epithelium. He or she then uses an excimer laser to reshape the cornea and repositions the epithelium.
Other newer refractive surgeries include clear lens extraction and implantable contact lenses. There is no one best method for refractive surgery, and the decision should only be made after a complete evaluation and thorough discussion with your surgeon.
Some of the possible complications that can occur after refractive surgery include:
- Undercorrection or overcorrection of your initial problem
- Visual side effects, such as a halo or starburst appearing around lights
- Dry eye
- Corneal scarring
- Rarely, vision loss
Discuss the potential risks and benefits of these procedures with your eye doctor.