The part of the eye that surrounds your iris and pupil is your cornea, which is, under usual circumstances, spherical. When light hits the eye from all angles, part of the role of your cornea is to help project that light, directing it at the retina, which is in the rear part of your eye. But what happens if the cornea isn't exactly spherical? The eye can't focus the light properly on one focus on your retina, and your vision gets blurred. Such a condition is known as astigmatism.
Many individuals have astigmatism and the condition usually comes with other refractive errors that require vision correction. Astigmatism frequently appears during childhood and often causes eye fatigue, painful headaches and squinting when left untreated. With kids, it may cause challenges at school, especially when it comes to highly visual skills such as reading or writing. People who work with particularly small or detailed objects or at a computer monitor for excessive periods may experience more difficulty with astigmatism.
Astigmatism is preliminarily diagnosed during a routine eye exam with an eye care professional and afterwards properly diagnosed with either an automated refraction or a retinoscopy test, which checks the severity of astigmatism. Astigmatism is commonly corrected by contact lenses or eyeglasses, or refractive surgery, which changes the flow of light onto the retina to readjust the focal point.
For contacts, the patient is usually prescribed toric lenses, which allow the light to curve more in one direction than another. Regular contacts have a tendency to shift each time you blink. But with astigmatism, the most subtle movement can cause blurred vision. Toric lenses are able to return to the exact same position right after you blink. Toric contact lenses are available in soft or hard lenses.
Astigmatism can also be rectified by laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical procedure involving wearing special hard contacts to gradually reshape the cornea during the night. You should discuss your options with your optometrist to determine what your best option is for your needs.
When explaining astigmatism to children, it can be useful for them compare the backside of two teaspoons - one round and one oval. In the round one, their reflection appears normal. In the oval teaspoon, their reflection will be stretched. This is what astigmatism means for your eye; you wind up viewing the world stretched out a little.
Astigmatism changes gradually, so make sure that you're frequently seeing your eye care professional for a proper test. Additionally, be sure you have your children's eyes checked before they begin school. A considerable amount of your child's learning (and playing) is predominantly visual. You'll allow your child get the most of his or her school year with a full eye exam, which will help detect any visual abnormalities before they impact academics, sports, or other activities.