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What is Astigmatism?

Around your iris and pupil is your cornea, which is, under perfect circumstances, spherical. When light enters your eye from all angles, the cornea's role is to focus that light, directing it toward the retina, right in the rear part of your eye. But what is the result when the cornea isn't exactly round? The eye is not able to project the light properly on one focus on your retina, and sight gets blurred. Such a condition is called astigmatism.

Many individuals have astigmatism and the condition frequently comes with other vision problems like nearsightedness or farsightedness. Astigmatism oftentimes occurs during childhood and can cause eye fatigue, painful headaches and squinting when untreated. In children, it may lead to difficulty 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 monitor for excessive lengths may experience more difficulty with astigmatism.

Diagnosis of astigmatism starts with a routine eye exam with an optometrist. Once detected, an automated refraction or a retinoscopy test is performed to calculate the degree of astigmatism. Astigmatism is easily fixed by contacts or eyeglasses, 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 control the way the light bends when it enters the eye. Regular contacts have a tendency to shift when you close your eyes, even just to blink. But with astigmatism, the smallest movement can completely blur your vision. After you blink, toric lenses return to the same place on your eye to avoid this problem. You can find toric contact lenses as soft or hard lenses.

Astigmatism may also be corrected using laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical alternative involving the use of special rigid lenses to gradually reshape the cornea during the night. You should explore options and alternatives with your optometrist in order to determine what the best choice is for your needs.

A person's astigmatism evolves over time, so be sure that you're periodically seeing your eye doctor for a comprehensive test. Additionally, be sure that your 'back-to-school' list includes a trip to an optometrist. Most of your child's education (and playing) is largely a function of their vision. You can help your child make the best of his or her school year with a thorough eye exam, which will pick up any visual irregularities before they affect academics, sports, or other extra-curricular activities. It's important to know that astigmatism is very treatable, and that the sooner to you begin to treat it, the better off your child will be.


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