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Astigmatism: Facts and Answers

Surrounding your pupil and iris is your cornea, which is, under normal conditions, spherical. When light hits your eye from all angles, part of the job of your cornea is to help project that light, directing it to your retina, in the rear part of your eye. What does it mean when the cornea is not perfectly spherical? The eye can’t direct the light correctly on one focal point on your retina’s surface, and vision becomes blurred. This condition is called astigmatism.

Many individuals have astigmatism and the condition usually accompanies other vision problems that require vision correction. It oftentimes appears early in life and often causes eye fatigue, headaches and the tendency to squint when left uncorrected. With kids, it can lead to obstacles in school, especially when it comes to highly visual skills such as reading or writing. Anyone who works with fine details or at a computer for long periods might experience more difficulty with astigmatism.

Diagnosis of astigmatism starts with a routine eye exam with an eye care professional. Once detected, an automated refraction or a retinoscopy test is performed to check the severity of astigmatism. Astigmatism is commonly corrected by contacts or eyeglasses, or refractive surgery, which changes the flow of light onto the retina to readjust the focal point.

With contacts, the patient might be prescribed toric lenses, which control the way the light bends when it enters the eye. Standard contacts generally move when you close your eyes, even just to blink. But with astigmatism, the most subtle movement can totally blur your vision. After you blink, toric lenses return to the same position on your eye to avoid this problem. Toric lenses can be found as soft or hard lenses.

Astigmatism may also be rectified by laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical alternative involving wearing rigid contacts to slowly change the shape of the cornea during the night. You should discuss your options with your eye care professional in order to determine what the best option might be.

For help demonstrating the effects of astigmatism to children, let them look at the backside of two teaspoons – one circular and one oval. In the circular spoon, an reflection will appear proportionate. In the oval one, their face will be skewed. And this is what astigmatism means for your sight; those affected wind up seeing the world stretched out a little.

A person’s astigmatism can get better or worse gradually, so make sure that you are periodically visiting your eye doctor for a comprehensive exam. Additionally, make sure that you have your children’s eyes checked before they begin school. Most of your child’s learning (and playing) is mostly a function of their vision. You’ll allow your child make the best of his or her year with a full eye exam, which will help pick up any visual abnormalities before they begin to affect education, athletics, or other extra-curricular activities.