The cornea surrounding your iris and pupil is, under perfect circumstances, spherical. As light enters the eye from all angles, the cornea's role is to help project that light, aiming it to your retina, in the anterior portion of your eye. What is the result if the cornea isn't exactly round? The eye cannot focus the light correctly on one focal point on your retina's surface, and your vision becomes blurred. This is referred to as astigmatism.
Many individuals have astigmatism and the condition usually comes with other refractive errors that require vision correction. It often occurs early in life and often causes eye strain, headaches and the tendency to squint when left untreated. In children, it can lead to challenges in the classroom, particularly with highly visual skills such as reading or writing. Anyone who works with particularly small or detailed objects or at a computer for extended lengths of time may find that it can be a problem.
Diagnosis of astigmatism starts with an eye exam with an eye care professional. Once detected, an automated refraction or a retinoscopy exam is performed to measure the severity of astigmatism. The condition is easily fixed by contacts or glasses, or refractive surgery, which alters the flow of light onto the retina to readjust the focal point.
Toric lenses are commonly prescribed for astigmatism because they control the way the light bends when it enters the eye. Standard contact lenses move when you blink. With astigmatism, the smallest eye movement can cause blurred sight. Toric lenses are able to return to the exact same position immediately after you blink. Toric contact lenses can be found in soft or rigid lenses.
Astigmatism may also be corrected using laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical procedure involving wearing special rigid contacts to slowly change the shape of the cornea. You should discuss options and alternatives with your eye care professional to determine what the best choice is for your needs.
A person's astigmatism changes over time, so be sure that you are regularly making appointments to see your eye care professional for a proper test. Also, make sure your 'back-to-school' checklist includes taking your kids to an eye doctor. Most of your child's education (and playing) is mostly visual. You can help your child get the most of his or her schooling with a comprehensive eye exam, which will help detect any visual abnormalities before they affect schooling, sports, or other activities. It's important to know that astigmatism is very treatable, and that the earlier to you seek to treat it, the better off your child will be.