One of the most common vision conditions is astigmatism, which can cause issues like blurred vision at any distance. Astigmatism occurs when the cornea, the clear front cover of the eye, has an irregular shape. It can also be caused if the lens inside the eye has an unusual curvature. When the cornea or lens is shaped in an irregular way, it keeps light from focusing on the retina. The retina is a light-sensitive surface at the back of the eye and when the light cannot focus properly, you can experience blurry vision at any distance near or far. If it goes uncorrected, astigmatism can lead to headaches and eye discomfort.
What Is Astigmatism?
While there are many different eye conditions that can cause your eyesight to become less clear, astigmatism is a common issue that affects adults and children alike. The term astigmatism refers to an imperfection in the way your eye's lens or the cornea is curved. Think of your eye like a basketball in terms of shape. When you're diagnosed with astigmatism, the shape is closer to an elongated football than a perfectly round basketball. Astigmatism can run horizontally or vertically, depending on how the cornea or lens is shaped.
Types of Astigmatism
A normal cornea and lens are smooth, and they curve perfectly equal in every direction. This curvature is what helps light focus onto the retina and reach the back of your eye. When the lens or cornea is uneven and not smooth, the light rays are not bent or refracted correctly. The scientific term for this is ""refractive error.""
If your cornea is distorted, you'll likely be diagnosed with corneal astigmatism. If the lens is distorted, you probably have lenticular astigmatism. Whichever type you have, you probably notice that it's difficult to see words and objects both at a far and near distance. Objects may seem distorted or blurry, and they may appear to be too wide, short, or too thin. In addition to this issue, you could be either nearsighted (myopia), or farsighted (hyperopia).
Most adults will realize that they have astigmatism as their eyesight becomes blurry or distorted over time. For children, however, the issue might not be as easy to recognize right away. If your child complains about blurry vision, have them scheduled for an eye exam so their eye doctor can confirm. If the issue isn't corrected, it can be difficult for kids to read clearly and they could struggle with schoolwork or other tasks. The sooner you can have them checked out, the better.
What Causes Someone to Have Astigmatism?
Simply put, astigmatism is caused by an irregular curving or shape of the eye's lens or cornea. When these parts of the eye are not curved perfectly even, the light rays cannot refract correctly. You'll have a blurry or distorted vision at both near and far distances (in most cases). This condition is quite common, and there's no explanation as to why some peoples' lenses or corneas are shaped differently. However, the odds of having astigmatism increase if someone in your family has it since many cases are genetic.
There are other times when astigmatism can develop as a result of an eye injury, eye surgery, or eye disease. Despite the rumors, astigmatism does not get worse or develop due to reading in low light or by sitting too close to the computer screen or TV set.
Some of the most common symptoms of astigmatism are:
- You're straining to see objects, or you need to squint in order to see things clearly
- Distorted or blurry vision
- Frequent headaches
- Discomfort of the eye or eyes
If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, it doesn't necessarily mean you have astigmatism. Visit your ophthalmologist for a complete eye exam so they can determine the cause and give you the proper astigmatism contacts prescription or treatment as needed.
There may be many reasons why your optometrist diagnoses you with astigmatism. The condition can be hereditary, and it's often presented at birth but may not be noticed until later in life. In some cases, the severity of your astigmatism can get worse or may improve over time. You will need a comprehensive eye exam that includes special testing for astigmatism. If your eye doctor diagnoses you with it, there are special eyeglasses or contact lenses specially designed to help those suffering from astigmatism to help with clearer vision.
Contact Lenses for Astigmatism
If you have astigmatism, you may not be able to use traditional glasses or contact lenses. You'll need a special prescription that corrects the problem by altering the way the light enters your eyes. Most soft contact lenses used to correct astigmatism are known as toric contact lenses. These lenses are typically made of a special hydrogel or silicone hydrogel material for breathability. Toric contact lenses are different from traditional spherical soft contact lenses made to correct myopia or hyperopia. The toric lenses for astigmatism use different powers in different meridians of the lens to fix specific amounts of nearsightedness or farsightedness. These amounts and their variances are what make astigmatism so unique.
If you need contact lenses for astigmatism, look for toric lenses that enable the lens to rotate to the proper orientation on the cornea. This ensures that the meridians of the lens align with the right meridians of your eyes to help ensure you're getting crisp, clear vision. You may need to try several pairs of toric contact lenses until you find the brand, format, and prescription that's right for you. Ultimately, your contact lenses for astigmatism should be comfortable, fit your eyes well, and help to provide you with clear vision that lasts. The fitting process may cost more than a standard eye exam and lens fitting, so be sure to check with your eye doctor for more details.
If you're tired of wearing glasses, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor and ask about toric contact lenses or another type of lens for your astigmatism. They can help you determine which type of lenses will work best depending on your specific measurements and needs. When you switch to contact lenses, you may enjoy the freedom of comfort that contacts provide and may experience fewer headaches and clearer vision. You don't have to continue to suffer from astigmatism. Find out more about contact lenses for this special condition so you can enjoy the freedom that contact lenses provide.