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Astigmatism: The Common Condition Explained

The cornea that surrounds your pupil and iris is, under perfect circumstances, round. As light hits your eye from all angles, part of the job of your cornea is to focus that light, aiming it to your retina, right in the anterior portion of your eye. What is the result if the cornea isn't perfectly spherical? The eye can't project the light correctly on one focus on your retina's surface, and sight gets blurred. This is called astigmatism.

Many individuals have astigmatism and the condition mostly comes with other vision problems such as nearsightedness or farsightedness. Astigmatism oftentimes appears early in life and can cause eye strain, headaches and squinting when untreated. In kids, it may lead to difficulty in the classroom, often when it comes to reading or other visual tasks. Anyone who works with particularly small or detailed objects or at a computer for excessive periods might find that it can be problematic.

Diagnosis of astigmatism starts with an 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 commonly tended to by contact lenses 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. Regular contact lenses have a tendency to move when you close your eyes, even just to blink. With astigmatism, the smallest eye movement can completely blur your vision. Toric lenses are able to return to the same place immediately after you blink. You can find toric lenses as soft or hard lenses.

Astigmatism can also be rectified by laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical procedure that involves the use of hard contacts to slowly reshape the cornea over night. It's advisable to explore your options with your eye doctor to decide what your best option is for your needs.

A person's astigmatism evolves gradually, so make sure that you are periodically making appointments to see your eye care professional for a proper test. Additionally, be sure you have your children's eyes checked before they begin school. Most of your child's education (and playing) is predominantly a function of their vision. You can allow your child get the most of his or her school year with a full eye exam, which will help diagnose any visual irregularities before they affect education, sports, or other extra-curricular activities. It's important to know that astigmatism is highly treatable, and that the earlier to you begin to treat it, the better off your child will be.