Using a liberal definition of corneal irregularity, modern videokeratoscopy may define approximately 40% of normal corneas with a toric refractive error as possessing primary irregular astigmatism. The causes of secondary forms of irregular astigmatism include corneal surgery, trauma, dystrophies, and infections. Internal refractive surface and media irregularity or noncorneal astigmatism (ocular residual astigmatism) contribute to irregular astigmatism of the entire refractive path of which crystaline lenticular astigmatism is usually the principal contributing component.
Treatment options have increased in recent years, particularly, though not exclusively, through the advent of tailored corneal excimer laser ablations. However, discussion continues concerning the systematic approach necessary to enable treatment to achieve an optimal optical surface for the eye. Discussion also continues as to what constitutes the optimal corneal shape. Some refractive procedures may increase higher order aberrations in the attempt to neutralize refractive astigmatism. The way to further refinement of the commonly performed refractive techniques will ultimately lie in the integrated inclusion of a trio of technologies: topographic analysis of the corneal surface, wavefront analysis of ocular refractive aberrations, and vector planning to enable the appropriate balance in emphasis between these two diagnostic modalities. For the uncommon, irregularly roughened corneas, the ablatable polymer techniques show some promise.