The cornea surrounding your iris and pupil is, under normal circumstances, spherical. As light hits your eye from all angles, part of the job of your cornea is to project that light, aiming it toward the retina, in the anterior portion of your eye. But what does it mean if the cornea is not exactly spherical? The eye can't direct the light correctly on one focus on your retina, and your vision gets blurred. Such a situation is called astigmatism.
Many individuals have astigmatism and the condition frequently comes with other vision issues like nearsightedness or farsightedness. It oftentimes appears early in life and often causes eye fatigue, painful headaches and squinting when untreated. In children, it may lead to obstacles at school, especially when it comes to highly visual skills such as reading or writing. Sufferers who work with particularly small or detailed objects or at a computer monitor for excessive lengths may experience more difficulty with astigmatism.
Astigmatism is preliminarily diagnosed during a routine eye exam with an optometrist and afterwards properly diagnosed with an automated refraction or a retinoscopy exam, which measures the severity of astigmatism. The condition is easily fixed with contacts or glasses, or refractive surgery, which changes the flow of light onto the retina to readjust the focal point.
For contacts, the patient is usually prescribed toric lenses, which permit the light to bend more in one direction than another. Standard contact lenses shift when you close your eyes, even just to blink. With astigmatism, the slightest eye movement can cause blurred vision. Toric lenses are able to return to the same place immediately after you blink. Toric lenses are available in soft or rigid lenses.
Astigmatism may also be corrected with laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical alternative that involves wearing special hard contact lenses to gradually reshape the cornea during the night. It's advisable to discuss your options and alternatives with your optometrist in order to decide what your best option is for your needs.
When demonstrating the effects of astigmatism to children, show them the backside of two teaspoons – one circular and one oval. In the circular one, an reflection will appear normal. In the oval spoon, they will be skewed. This is what astigmatism means for your eye; you wind up viewing the world stretched out a bit.
A person's astigmatism can get better or worse gradually, so make sure that you're periodically visiting your eye care professional for a comprehensive exam. Additionally, make sure your 'back-to-school' list includes a trip to an eye care professional. Most of your child's learning (and playing) is mostly visual. You'll allow your child get the most of his or her year with a thorough eye exam, which will help detect any visual irregularities before they affect academics, play, or other activities. It's important to know that astigmatism is highly treatable, and that the sooner to you begin to treat it, the better off your child will be.