The cornea around your pupil and iris is, under usual conditions, spherical. As light enters your eye, part of the job of your cornea is to focus that light, directing it to the retina, in the back of your eye. What happens when the cornea is not perfectly spherical? The eye is not able to project the light correctly on one focus on your retina's surface, and sight gets blurred. Such a situation is called astigmatism.
Many individuals have astigmatism and the condition mostly accompanies other vision issues like nearsightedness or farsightedness. It often occurs during childhood and often causes eye strain, headaches and squinting when uncorrected. In kids, it may cause challenges in school, often when it comes to reading or other visual tasks. Anyone who works with fine details or at a computer for long periods of time might experience more difficulty with astigmatism.
Diagnosis of astigmatism starts with a routine eye exam with an eye care professional. Once detected, an automated refraction or a retinoscopy test is performed to check the amount of astigmatism. Astigmatism is easily tended to with contacts or eyeglasses, or refractive surgery, which alters how that light enters the eye, letting the retina get the light correctly.
For contacts, the patient might be given toric lenses, which allow the light to curve more in one direction than another. Regular contact lenses generally move when you close your eyes, even just to blink. With astigmatism, the smallest eye movement can totally blur your sight. Toric lenses return to the exact same place right after you blink. Toric contact lenses are available as soft or rigid lenses.
Astigmatism can also be corrected with laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical procedure that involves the use of special hard contact lenses to slowly reshape the cornea during the night. It's advisable to discuss options with your eye doctor to decide what the best choice is for your needs.
For help explaining astigmatism to young, small children, show them a circular teaspoon and an oval teaspoon. In the circular teaspoon, an reflection will appear normal. In the oval teaspoon, their reflection will be stretched. And this is what astigmatism means for your sight; those affected end up viewing the world stretched out a bit.
A person's astigmatism changes gradually, so be sure that you are regularly visiting your eye care professional for a comprehensive exam. Additionally, be sure that you have your children's eyes checked before they begin school. The majority of your child's learning (and playing) is predominantly visual. You'll allow your child get the most of his or her year with a thorough eye exam, which will help pick up any visual irregularities before they begin to impact schooling, athletics, or other activities. It's important to know that astigmatism is very treatable, and that the sooner to you seek to treat it, the better off your child will be.