The part of the eye that surrounds your iris and pupil is your cornea, which is, under usual circumstances, round. When light hits the eye, part of the role of your cornea is to help project that light, directing it toward your retina, in the anterior portion of your eye. But what does it mean if the cornea is not exactly spherical? The eye is not able to project the light correctly on one focal point on your retina, and sight gets blurred. Such a situation is known as astigmatism.
Many individuals have astigmatism and the condition usually accompanies other refractive issues that require vision correction. It frequently occurs during childhood and can cause eye strain, painful headaches and squinting when left uncorrected. With kids, it may lead to challenges in school, often when it comes to highly visual skills such as reading or writing. Sufferers who work with fine details or at a computer monitor for long lengths might find that it can be problematic.
Astigmatism can be preliminarily diagnosed in a routine eye test with an optometrist and afterwards fully diagnosed with either an automated refraction or a retinoscopy test, which calculates the amount of astigmatism. Astigmatism is commonly fixed with contacts or eyeglasses, or refractive surgery, which alters the flow of light onto the retina to readjust the focal point.
With contacts, the patient is usually given toric lenses, which control the way the light bends when it enters the eye. Regular contacts shift when you blink. With astigmatism, the most subtle movement can cause blurred sight. Toric lenses return to the same position immediately after you blink. You can find toric lenses in soft or hard varieties, to be chosen depending on what is more comfortable for you.
In some cases, astigmatism may also be rectified with laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical alternative involving the use of rigid lenses to gradually change the shape of the cornea over night. It's advisable to explore options and alternatives with your eye doctor in order to determine what the best choice might be.
When explaining astigmatism to children, it can be useful for them compare the back of two teaspoons – one round and one oval. In the circular one, an mirror image will appear normal. In the oval spoon, they will be stretched. This is what astigmatism means for your vision; those affected wind up seeing everything stretched out a bit.
A person's astigmatism evolves over time, so make sure that you're regularly visiting your optometrist for a proper exam. Additionally, be sure you have your children's eyes checked before they begin school. The majority of your child's schooling (and playing) is predominantly visual. You can help your child get the most of his or her schooling with a thorough eye exam, which will detect any visual abnormalities before they begin to impact education, athletics, or other activities.