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“Astigmatism is a relatively minor eye condition which is caused when the cornea is slightly misshaped. ”
Ideally the cornea should be perfectly curved. When mishaped the cornea results in blurred vision. Usually astigmatism is caused by the cornea becoming slightly flatter than it should. This cornea in astigmatism is likened to being like a rugby ball shape rather than the smoother football. This is what causes the blurring. The blurring means that the eye must compensate in order to see things clearly. This compensation can often lead to squinting, irritation and discomfort in the eye, and in extreme cases, headaches.
Along with myopia (short-sightedness) and hypermetropia (long-sightedness), astigmatism belongs to a group of eye conditions known as refractive errors. Though astigmatism can be the caused by eye injuries, or as a result of an operation on the eye, in the vast majority of cases it is something we develop in the early years of our life.
What can be done about it?
Astigmatisms are relatively manageable because they are constant. Usually, they stay the same as time goes by getting neither better, or worse. This means that even in cases where treatment is necessary, a single pair of prescription glasses or contact lenses will usually be sufficient.
If a stigmatism is particularly severe or causes symptoms, then there are a number of surgical options:
Limbal Relaxing Incision (LRI)
LRI's are a form of surgery which falls under the wider group of astigmatic keratotomy procedures. The LRI procedure works by making very small incisions in the cornea.
These incisions are intended to encourage and create a more rounded cornea, correcting the flattening that causes the blurred vision. The side effects of LRI surgery are relatively few and mild.
Additionally, the recovery times for patients who have undergone LRI surgery have proven to be very short.
The procedure itself is relatively short, safe and effective. Before the surgery begins the surgeon will apply anaesthetic eye drops to the patient. The surgeon will then use a speculum to hold each eye open in turn.
Once these preparations have been made the surgeon will begin making the very small incisions in an attempt to 'relax' the cornea.
Quite often LRIs are used in co-operation with other treatments, such as cataract surgery or lens exchange. To determine whether or not either of these treatments is right for you, you should speak to one of our specialised eye doctors.
Toric Intraocular Lenses (IOL)
The common aim of most people seeking eye surgery is to be able to go about their daily business without the hassle of glasses.
If you suffer from a refractive error then one of the ways to achieve this goal is often through the implantation of an artificial lens.
There are many lenses available to surgeons, each of which is designed to correct a different type of refractive error. Through choosing the right one for your eyes, the results can be exceptional in reducing or eliminating the astigmatism. The AcrySof Toric IOL is a lens designed to be implanted specifically to correct astigmatism.
The Toric IOL works by correcting the focus of the light entering the eye. Astigmatisms are usually caused by the flattening of the cornea which causes the light to be scattered. The Toric IOL refocuses this light so that the eye can see clearly again.
The results for Toric IOLs used to treat astigmatisms can be excellent. For some people they offer by far the best option. For others the best option may be Limbal Relaxing Incision surgery. It is also possible to use these two effective procedures together to give the best possible results. To discuss your options please feel free to talk to one of our specialised eye care professionals.