The cornea that surrounds your iris and pupil is, under perfect circumstances, round. When light enters the eye, the cornea's role is to help project that light, directing it toward your retina, right in the back of your eye. But what does it mean when the cornea is not exactly spherical? The eye is not able to focus the light correctly on one focal point on your retina's surface, and will blur your vision. Such a condition is called astigmatism.
Many individuals have astigmatism and the condition usually comes with other vision issues that require vision correction. Astigmatism frequently occurs early in life and can cause eye strain, painful headaches and squinting when left untreated. In children, it may cause challenges in school, particularly with reading or other visual tasks. People working with fine details or at a computer for extended lengths of time might find that it can be a problem.
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 amount of astigmatism. Astigmatism is easily fixed by contact lenses or glasses, or refractive surgery, which changes how that light hits the eye, letting the retina receive the light correctly.
Toric lenses are commonly prescribed for astigmatism because they control the way the light bends when it enters the eye. Regular contact lenses generally shift when you blink. But with astigmatism, the slightest movement can completely blur your vision. After you blink, toric lenses return to the same place on your eye to avoid this problem. You can find toric contact lenses as soft or rigid 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 that involves the use of hard contact lenses to slowly reshape the cornea. You should explore options with your eye care professional in order to decide what the best choice might be.
When demonstrating the effects of astigmatism to children, show them the backside of two teaspoons – one circular and one oval. In the circular one, an mirror image appears normal. In the oval teaspoon, their face will be skewed. This is what astigmatism means for your sight; you end up seeing the world stretched out a little.
A person's astigmatism changes gradually, so be sure that you're regularly visiting your eye care professional for a proper test. Also, make sure your 'back-to-school' list includes taking your kids to an eye care professional. The majority of your child's schooling (and playing) is predominantly visual. You'll allow your child make the best of his or her year with a thorough eye exam, which will help pick up any visual abnormalities before they begin to affect education, sports, or other activities.