Astigmatism is a common eye problem resulting from an irregular curve of the in the lens of the eye or the cornea, the front surface of the eye. It can change the way light passes, or refracts, to your retina, causing blurry, fuzzy or distorted vision.
While it’s not known what causes astigmatism, we do know that genetics play a big factor. It’s often present at birth but may develop later in life. It may also occur as a result of an eye injury or after eye surgery, and it does often occur with nearsightedness or farsightedness.
In addition to blurry, distorted or fuzzy vision, up close and far away, symptoms of astigmatism may also include difficulty seeing at night, eyestrain, squinting, eye irritation, and headaches.
Your optometrist can diagnose astigmatism through a comprehensive eye examination. There are several tests that he or she may use to diagnose the problem, including a visual acuity test in which your eye doctor will ask you to read letters from a chart at a specific distance to determine how well you see the letters. A refraction test may also be conducted, or the doctor may measure the curvature of your cornea through the use of keratometer.
Corrective eyeglasses and contact lenses are the most common and least invasive treatments for astigmatism, or your optometrist may decide to use rigid contact lenses to temporarily correct the irregular curvature of your cornea as part of a treatment called orthokeratology. You would wear these lenses for limited periods of time, maybr just during the time that you’re asleep – some people have clear vision during the day without corrective lenses when undergoing this.
In the most severe cases, your eye doctor may recommend refractive surgery, which involves using lasers to reshape your cornea. This would permanently correct your astigmatism.
William C. Womble, OD
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