The medical world has discovered exciting developments throughout the years. Specifically, the eye care field has found cutting-edge advancements with vision correction, contact lens materials, blue light protection, and more.
For many decades, people with astigmatism have suffered from blurred vision or even poorly-fitting contact lenses. If you’re tired of wearing glasses and contacts due to astigmatism, you may want to consider astigmatic keratotomy, a surgical vision-correcting procedure. Let’s take a look at astigmatic keratotomy, its benefits, and what to expect from the procedure.
What Is Astigmatism?
Astigmatic keratotomy corrects astigmatism, but what even is astigmatism in the first place? You are probably familiar with near-sightedness (myopia) and far-sightedness (hyperopia), which cause blurred vision and a need for corrective lenses. Astigmatism is another condition that affects eyesight.
Astigmatism is defined as an imperfection in the curvature of an eye’s cornea or lens. Normal corneas and lenses are smooth and curved equally in all directions to help focus light rays onto the retina at the back of the eye. If eyes have corneas or lenses that aren’t smooth or evenly curved, light rays don’t bend properly. Eye doctors refer to this as a refractive error. Symptoms of astigmatism include:
- Blurry or distorted vision
- Eye discomfort
- Needing to squint to see better
A helpful comparison is to think of normal eyes as the shape of a basketball. Eyes with astigmatism are shaped like a football.
There are two types of astigmatism:
- Corneal astigmatism: The shape of the cornea is distorted.
- Lenticular astigmatism: The shape of the lens is distorted.
In either corneal or lenticular astigmatism, near and far vision is blurry and distorted. Many people have astigmatism alongside myopia or hyperopia. Astigmatism is very common, and the likelihood of developing it is hereditary. However, doctors don’t yet know why cornea or lens shapes differ in people.
What Is Astigmatic Keratotomy?
Corrective eyewear is essential for all people with astigmatism, whether it be glasses, contacts, or both. If you are tired of wearing glasses or contacts to correct your eyesight, you may want to pursue a different route for vision correction, such as corneal refractive therapy or LASIK. However, there is another option specifically for astigmatism called astigmatic keratotomy (AK).
Astigmatic keratotomy is a vision-correcting eye surgery that involves a qualified surgeon making one or two incisions at the steepest part of the cornea with a laser. These small incisions cause the cornea to relax and take on a rounder shape. The rounder shape then reduces the effects of astigmatism.
To determine if you are a good candidate for AK, eye doctors will evaluate your medical history and test your eyes. Tests include measuring corneal thickness, pupil dilation, and refraction. If you are a good candidate, you can meet with a surgeon and schedule an appointment. The surgery is completed under local anesthesia. The entire procedure only lasts a maximum of ten minutes for both eyes.
Typically, AK is most successful in people who have mild prescriptions. People with higher or more severe astigmatism may still need to use glasses or contacts after surgery.
Advantages of Astigmatic Keratotomy
Laser eye surgery can feel anxiety-inducing for many people. However, AK and other laser eye surgeries have impressive success rates. AK has been performed since the 1970s, and the effects have been well-studied. Success rates are high, and complications are rare. 95% of people who undergo astigmatic keratotomy achieve 20/40 vision or better. Enhancement corrections are only required in less than 10% of cases. Results are often the most successful in people with mild cases of astigmatism.
The benefits of astigmatic keratotomy include:
- Corrected vision, often to 20/40 or better
- Money saved on glasses and contacts each year
- No bandages or stitches required
- Pain-free due to local anesthetic
- Improved self-confidence
- Fast recovery in days or weeks
What to Expect During and After Astigmatic Keratotomy
If you want to pursue AK surgery, it’s good to be prepared for the procedure and time after surgery. Avoid wearing contact lenses for at least three weeks before AK surgery. Do not wear makeup or any bulky hair accessories, as these can interfere with the laser. On the day of surgery, eat a light meal and have someone with you who can drive you home.
You will likely be given sleeping pills so that you can sleep for a few hours after surgery. Your eyes may be sensitive to light for a few hours. You may also experience a foreign-body sensation, which is the feeling of having something in your eye even when there’s nothing there. Your surgeon will prescribe eye drops to prevent infection and inflammation. The drops will also help reduce the foreign body sensation.
While your astigmatism will almost immediately reduce, it usually takes a few weeks for the results to stabilize. You may experience mild discomfort for a day or two after surgery. Be sure to attend all post-surgical appointments to ensure your eyes are healing properly.
Even though side effects are rare, they can still potentially happen. Your surgeon will clearly articulate all potential side effects of AK so that you can make an informed decision. Side effects can include:
- Weakened cornea, vulnerable to rupture if directly hit
- Fluctuating vision, especially for the first few months
- Light sensitivity
- Glares or starbursts around lights that can be temporary or permanent
- Dry eyes
Is Astigmatic Keratotomy Right For You?
Laser vision correction has changed the lives of thousands of people for the better. When you no longer have to rely on glasses or contacts for vision correction, you can save hundreds of dollars each year on new lenses and experience increased self-confidence. Astigmatic keratotomy isn’t suitable for everyone, but to determine whether you’re a good candidate for surgery, meet with an experienced eye doctor who is familiar with the procedure or a certified AK surgeon near you.
If you decide to pursue astigmatic keratotomy, you can rely on Art of Optiks for all your pre and post-surgical care. Contact us today, and we will be happy to help you schedule an appointment or refer you to a surgeon. Clear vision without astigmatism can be achievable with astigmatic keratotomy!