If you have cataracts, you may have heard that intraocular lens implants (IOLs) can restore your vision and improve nearsightedness and farsightedness. But what if you have astigmatism? IOLs can fix that, too! Keep reading to learn how astigmatism can be addressed during cataract surgery.
What is Astigmatism?
Astigmatism is a common eye condition that simply means the eye is not perfectly round. People with astigmatism have eyes that are more oblong-shaped, like an American football. As a result, light is bent more in one direction than another when it enters the eye, which means that only part of an object may be in focus. Most cases of astigmatism can easily be corrected with glasses, contacts, or surgery.
Cataract Surgery and Astigmatism
There are several ways cataract surgery can correct astigmatism. The most common option is to replace the cloudy lens with a premium intraocular lens called a toric IOL.
A toric IOL is a premium IOL that functions similarly to toric contact lenses for astigmatism — toric IOLs correct astigmatism by changing the way light is refracted through the lens. Because the toric IOL is implanted securely inside the eye, however, it results in a more stable correction than a toric contact lens, which moves on the surface of the eye when you blink. Like toric contact lenses, toric IOLs are made in different powers to correct the asymmetrical power of the eye.
Laser cataract surgery is the best method of cataract surgery for implanting a toric IOL. Using a laser to make the initial incision in the cornea involves a higher degree of precision, which results in a more accurate positioning of the toric IOL inside the eye.
Limbal Relaxing Incisions
As an alternative to a toric IOL, or in addition to it, your surgeon can make a few small incisions in your eye that can correct your astigmatism during cataract surgery. These are called limbal relaxing incisions (LRI) and are designed to essentially fix the shape of your eye by making small but deep cuts around the outer edges of the cornea.
Limbal relaxing incisions may vary based on the skill and technique of your surgeon. Most surgeons who offer LRI are skilled enough to make the incisions safely and effectively, but the degree of that effectiveness depends on how strong your astigmatism is. In most cases, astigmatism can be fixed entirely by LRI. If any remaining correction is necessary, a surgeon may recommend a laser corrective surgery like LASIK or PRK. For most patients, however, either a toric IOL or LRI are satisfactory in correcting astigmatism.
Cataract Surgery for Astigmatism
Cataract surgery is the safest, most effective method for cataract removal. However, not everyone is a candidate for the procedure. In general, cataract surgery should be considered when cataracts start to affect your quality of life — this includes vision loss that interferes with daily activities such as driving, reading, using a computer, or reading text messages. If your vision loss isn’t this severe, cataract surgery may not be necessary.
A personalized evaluation is a great first step toward determining your candidacy for cataract surgery. Here at the Nielsen Eye Center, our professional staff of eye care experts are happy to help. Contact us to schedule a consultation for cataract surgery at any of practices in the greater Boston and South Shore areas.