Astigmatism is a common eye condition we often hear in contact lens commercials on TV and tossed around by eye doctors. But what is astigmatism? How does it affect vision, and how can it be treated?
The cornea, or outer covering of the colored part and pupil and the lens within the eye should be smooth and evenly curved in all directions. An equally curved eye will properly refract light, allowing clear vision. Irregular shape of the cornea or lens is called astigmatism. Many people are born with astigmatism, as well as other eye conditions such as nearsightedness or farsightedness. There are two types of astigmatism – corneal astigmatism and lenticular astigmatism. Astigmatism means light does not hit the eye in such a way that it is properly focused on the retina and both distance and close range vision is affected.
Because children won’t necessarily recognize there is a problem with their vision, routine vision exams are important in diagnosing any vision problems such as astigmatism so that it can be properly corrected. Astigmatism is also often an inherited trait. People who are not born with astigmatism can develop it as a result of eye injury or disease.
Symptoms of astigmatism include blurry vision, eye strain, headaches and squinting to see clearly. If you or your child have experienced any of these symptoms, schedule a visit with your eye doctor for an exam. These symptoms may also be related to other refractive vision errors, but only your doctor will be able to diagnose the cause of distorted or blurred vision.
Mild to moderate astigmatism is most commonly treated with eye glasses or contact lenses. Astigmatism patients are no longer limited to rigid contact lenses or eye glasses. Toric lenses, which are soft contact lenses can be used to correct vision in some instances of astigmatism. In some more serious cases, LASIK eye surgery can treat astigmatism by reshaping the cornea. Reshaping of the cornea will improve how the eye focuses light rays on the retina. A consultation with your eye doctor is necessary to determine the best treatment options for astigmatism.
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When the astigmatic patient is ready for cataract surgery, options are available to treat astigmatism as well as the cataract. These include limbal relaxing incisions or the Toric intraocular lens implant by Alcon.