The cornea around your iris and pupil is, under usual conditions, round. When light enters your eye, the cornea's role is to project that light, directing it at the retina, in the anterior portion of your eye. What is the result when the cornea isn't perfectly round? The eye can't direct the light properly on one focal point on your retina, and will cause your vision to be blurred. This condition is called astigmatism.
Many individuals have astigmatism and the condition frequently accompanies other vision issues like nearsightedness or farsightedness. Astigmatism often appears early in life and can cause eye strain, headaches and squinting when left untreated. In kids, it can cause challenges at school, often with reading or other visual tasks like drawing and writing. Anyone who works with fine details or at a computer monitor for excessive periods might experience more difficulty with astigmatism.
Astigmatism can be detected during an eye exam with an eye care professional and then fully diagnosed with an automated refraction or a retinoscopy test, which checks the amount of astigmatism. Astigmatism is commonly corrected by contacts or glasses, for those who prefer a non-invasive procedure, or refractive surgery, which changes how that light enters the eye, allowing your retina to get the light properly.
For contact lenses, the patient might be prescribed toric lenses, which permit the light to curve more in one direction than another. Regular contact lenses generally shift each time you close your eyes, even just to blink. With astigmatism, the most subtle eye movement can cause blurred vision. After you blink, toric lenses return to the same position on your eye to avoid this problem. You can find toric lenses in soft or hard varieties, to be chosen depending on what is more comfortable for you.
Astigmatism may also be rectified using laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical alternative involving the use of special rigid contact lenses to gradually reshape the cornea over night. You should discuss your options and alternatives with your eye care professional in order to determine what the best option is for your needs.
When demonstrating the effects of astigmatism to children, have them compare a round teaspoon and an oval teaspoon. In the round one, an mirror image appears regular. In the oval spoon, they will be stretched. And this is what astigmatism means for your vision; you end up seeing everything stretched out a little.
Astigmatism can get better or worse over time, so make sure that you are frequently visiting your optometrist for a proper test. Also, make sure you have your children's eyes checked before they begin school. Most of your child's schooling (and playing) is mostly visual. You can help your child make the best of his or her school year with a thorough eye exam, which will diagnose any visual irregularities before they impact schooling, athletics, or other extra-curricular activities.