The part of the eye that surrounds your pupil and iris is your cornea, which is, under perfect circumstances, round. When light enters the eye from all angles, part of the job of your cornea is to focus that light, directing it to your retina, in the anterior portion of your eye. What is the result when the cornea is not perfectly spherical? The eye cannot focus the light properly on one focus on your retina's surface, and vision becomes blurred. This condition is called astigmatism.
Astigmatism is actually not a uncommon diagnosis, and frequently comes with other vision errors like nearsightedness or farsightedness. Astigmatism frequently occurs during childhood and often causes eye strain, headaches and the tendency to squint when left uncorrected. With kids, it can cause challenges at school, especially when it comes to highly visual skills such as reading or writing. Anyone who works with fine details or at a computer for excessive lengths may find that the condition can be problematic.
Diagnosis of astigmatism starts with a routine eye test with an optometrist. Once detected, an automated refraction or a retinoscopy exam is performed to calculate the amount of astigmatism. Astigmatism is commonly fixed with contact lenses or glasses, for those who prefer a non-invasive procedure, or refractive surgery, which changes the flow of light onto the retina to readjust the focal point.
Toric lenses are commonly prescribed for astigmatism because they permit the light to curve more in one direction than another. Standard contact lenses move each time you blink. But with astigmatism, the smallest movement can completely blur your sight. Toric lenses return to the same position immediately after you blink. You can find toric contact lenses as soft or rigid lenses.
Astigmatism may also be rectified with laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical alternative that involves the use of special hard lenses to slowly reshape the cornea over night. It's advisable to discuss options with your optometrist in order to decide what the best choice might be.
When demonstrating the effects of astigmatism to young, small children, have them compare the backside of two teaspoons – one round and one oval. In the circular one, their mirror image appears proportionate. In the oval teaspoon, their reflection will be skewed. This is what astigmatism means for your sight; those affected wind up seeing the world stretched out a little.
Astigmatism evolves gradually, so make sure that you're regularly seeing your optometrist for a comprehensive test. Additionally, be sure you have your children's eyes checked before they begin school. The majority of your child's learning (and playing) is predominantly visual. You can allow your child get the most of his or her school year with a comprehensive eye exam, which will help detect any visual irregularities before they begin to impact education, athletics, or other extra-curricular activities. It's important to know that astigmatism is highly treatable, and that the sooner to you seek to treat it, the better off your child will be.