Refractive Surgery Eliminates Glasses for Many Astigmatic Patients

Thanks to continued advances in refractive surgery tools and techniques, glasses and contact lenses are fast becoming obsolete for many patients with astigmatism. Patients with undetected astigmatism often experience headaches, fatigue, eyestrain and
blurred vision at all distances. Because astigmatism may not be recognized as the cause of these symptoms, this condition may go undiagnosed and continue to affect sufferers. Astigmatism can also
be present in children, affecting their ability to see well in school and while playing sports.

Characterized by an irregular curvature of the cornea, astigmatism can be detected by regular eye examinations and successfully treated using procedures such as laser in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK), photorefractive keratectomy (PRK), laser epithelial keratomileusis (LASEK), laser thermokeratoplasy (LTK) and astigmatic keratotomy (AK; Table 1). An ophthalmologist can determine which type of procedure will work best for each patient.

Worldwide, >17 million people have undergone laser refractive surgery, and refractive surgery is one of the most commonly performed operations in the United States. The newest laser-assisted procedures are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat up to 6 diopters (D) of astigmatism correction, which includes roughly 98% of all astigmatism patients. Advances in laser technology continue to improve treatment outcomes.

Guttman reported on a recent study by Barraquer, a private practitioner in Colombia, of 364 astigmatic myopic patients treated with a new generation “flying spot” excimer laser. Barraquer reported postoperative best-corrected visual acuity of 20/20 or better in 99% of treated eyes at 3 months. Astigmatic correction was achieved to within ±0.50 D in 92% of eyes.

Regular eye examinations can detect the presence of astigmatism and treat it in its early stages. Because children may also have astigmatism, it is important that eye examinations be scheduled at regular intervals to detect any astigmatism early on.

Guttman C. Laser yields safe, predictable correction for astigmatism. Ophthalmology Times, Advanstar Communications, January 1, 2008;36.