A normal cornea is perfectly symmetrical like a dome and has matching curves in all directions. When an individual has astigmatism, their corneas have asymmetrical or mismatched curves.
Astigmatism is a disorder of the cornea. When someone has astigmatism, their vision is blurred at all distances. Other symptoms include eye strain or discomfort, headaches, and frequent squinting. Symptom severity will depend on the individual’s degree of astigmatism.
Astigmatism is a common refractive error (problem with focusing light accurately onto the retina due to the shape of the eye or cornea) found in individuals worldwide. Studies indicate that most people have some degree of astigmatism. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 33 percent of the population (1 in 3 Americans) have some degree of astigmatism.
There are many different options for treating or correcting astigmatism, and this post will guide you through each of them.
- Contact lenses
Contact lenses are one of the most common treatment options for astigmatism.
Soft contact lenses, known as toric contact lenses, are popular among individuals with mild to moderate astigmatism. Toric contact lenses are different from standard soft contact lenses and are designed to correct astigmatism (Acuvue Oasys for Astigmatism monthly, and Biofinity Toric 6 Pack are examples of popular options). These contact lenses have a particular orientation, and individuals need to place them on top of the cornea in a specific position for the contact lenses to work correctly.
Unlike standard soft contact lenses, toric contact lenses have a different construction. They have thin and thick zones. Toric contact lenses also have a middle axis to keep the wearer’s line of vision clear.
Proper fitting is especially critical for toric contact lenses. Improperly fitted toric contact lenses are uncomfortable to wear and tend to slip from their correct position.
For individuals with severe to extreme astigmatism, eye care professionals (ECPs) generally recommend hard or rigid gas-permeable (RGP) contact lenses because they can be customized to suit the individual’s unique vision requirements.
Eyeglasses are another popular choice for correcting astigmatism, and they’re ideal for individuals who have mild to moderate astigmatism.
Many astigmatic individuals opt for eyeglasses because they are simple and easy to wear. Unlike contact lenses, eyeglasses don’t require a strict care and cleaning regimen, and they can be taken off and worn again at any time should the individual feel the need.
To correct astigmatism, lenses for eyeglasses have a particular cylindrical shape. ECPs mainly prescribe single-vision lenses to astigmatic individuals. However, for individuals over 40, ECPs can prescribe bifocal lenses or progressive lenses.
Bifocal lenses contain two optical powers to help individuals see at all distances once their eyes lose the ability to focus as a natural result of aging (presbyopia). Bifocal lenses have lines between the two optical powers or fields of vision.
Meanwhile, progressive lenses are multifocal lenses that enable the individual to see at all distances without the bifocal line. Progressive lenses provide seamless transitions between fields of vision but are also more expensive than bifocal lenses.
- Refractive surgery
Surgery may or may not be the best option depending on the individual’s degree of astigmatism, other eye conditions, and age. ECPs tend to recommend surgery only for individuals with severe to extreme astigmatism.
Undergoing refractive surgery will also likely depend on the individual’s budget. In the U.S., the cost of refractive surgery ranges from approximately $2,000 to $3,000. Insurance companies consider refractive surgery an elective procedure, which means your insurance won’t cover the cost of refractive surgery. You’ll have to pay out of pocket, so consider it carefully if you’re thinking about undergoing refractive surgery.
What is the best way to treat or correct astigmatism?
Ultimately there is no “best” way to correct astigmatism. It all depends on things such as your age, eye conditions apart from astigmatism, and budget. However, a significant factor when considering your treatment options is the severity of your astigmatism.
If you have mild to moderate astigmatism, toric contact lenses or eyeglasses are great options. For a more severe case of astigmatism, you can opt for hard or RGP contact lenses. If you have severe or extreme astigmatism and the budget for it, you can consult your ECP about undergoing refractive surgery to fix your astigmatism permanently.