What is Astigmatism?

by Apr 29, 2020

Refractive error is the general term used to describe vision conditions that occur when light irregularly enters the eye and forms a blurred image.  Conditions like nearsightedness and farsightedness are considered common forms of refractive error that can cause vision problems.  Astigmatism is another form of refractive error.  There are many misconceptions about astigmatism and its impact on the eyes.  The truth is that astigmatism is very common and easily corrected with glasses or contacts.  

Understanding Astigmatism

Just like other forms of refractive error, an astigmatism is caused by an irregularity in the optical system of the eye.  The cornea, which is the clear front surface of the eye, is mainly responsible for bending light so it focuses properly and creates a clear image.  Astigmatism means that the cornea is not perfectly uniform and does not curve evenly in all directions.  Because of this, light bends slightly irregularly and can cause things to appear distorted or blurred.  

Depending on other factors, like the shape of the cornea and the size of the eye, astigmatism can happen along with other forms of refractive error.  It is possible and very common to be nearsighted or farsighted and also have some degree of astigmatism.  Small amounts of astigmatism may be hardly noticeable, but larger degrees of astigmatism tend to be more visually bothersome. An astigmatism is not considered to be progressive, which means it will not typically get worse over time. 


How to Treat Astigmatism

Similar to other optical problems, astigmatism can be easily corrected.  Glasses are an easy way to eliminate blurred or distorted vision associated with astigmatism.  Uniquely designed soft contact lenses, known as toric lenses, are also available to correct an astigmatism.  Toric lenses come in a wide range of prescriptions and brands, and come in options including monthly, bi-weekly, or daily lenses.  For those who have high amounts of astigmatism that is difficult to correct with glasses or soft contact lenses, specialty rigid lenses like gas permeable or scleral lenses can be used to allow for clear vision.  Refractive surgery, such as LASIK, may also be an option for those with smaller amounts of astigmatism who do not want to rely on glasses or contact lenses.  Astigmatism can be easily diagnosed during a routine eye examination, and your optometrist can help you choose the treatment option that is best for you. 


Myths about Astigmatism

There are many misconceptions about astigmatism, like that it is dangerous or painful.  Luckily we know that this is not true.  Astigmatism is extremely common – almost everyone has some degree of astigmatism.  It is also very easy to treat, and completely painless.  In rare cases, a progressive corneal condition known as keratoconus can cause high amounts of irregular astigmatism that is difficult to correct, but luckily this condition is very rare, and is unrelated to the more common form of simple astigmatism.  There are also myths that astigmatism can be caused by screen time or bad visual habits.  This is also false! Just like with other forms of refractive error, genetics is one factor that can cause astigmatism.  Visual tasks will not make astigmatism any better or worse.  

Our eye doctors at EyeDocs Family Eye Care in Brookville, OH excel in prescription of glasses, contact lenses and the diagnosis of a variety of eye disese. Call our optometrists at 937-770-1265 or schedule an eye exam appointment online if you would like to be evaluated for astigmatism. Our eye doctors, Dr. Kyle Maxam and Dr. Cara Wampler, provide the highest quality optometry services and eye exams in Brookville, Ohio.

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