Astigmatism is a common vision condition that affects millions of people worldwide. In fact, most people have a tiny bit of astigmatism, but the degree is sometimes so small that correction is not required. Astigmatism occurs when the cornea or lens of the eye has an “irregular shape”- ie oval rather than perfectly round.  Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for astigmatism can help individuals manage this condition effectively.

Causes of Astigmatism:

Astigmatism typically results from irregularities in the shape of the cornea or lens of the eye. In most cases, the cornea or lens are more oval than round, which causes light to focus on two different points in the retina. While the exact cause is not always clear, several factors may contribute to its development:

  • Genetics: Astigmatism often runs in families, suggesting a genetic predisposition to the condition.
  • Eye injuries: Trauma or injury to the eye can cause changes in the shape of the cornea, leading to astigmatism.
  • Eye surgery: Previous eye surgeries, such as cataract surgery, can sometimes result in astigmatism.
  • Keratoconus: This progressive eye disorder causes the cornea to become thin and bulge outward, leading to astigmatism among other vision problems.
  • Other corneal conditions: While astigmatism is most common, other corneal conditions like pellucid marginal degeneration can cause astigmatism. 
  • Cataracts: Because cataracts are changes in the lens, they can also cause, or enhance astigmatism. 

Symptoms of Astigmatism:

The symptoms of astigmatism can vary in severity and may include:

  • Blurred vision: Objects at any distance may appear blurry or distorted.
  • Eyestrain: Individuals with astigmatism may experience discomfort or fatigue, especially after prolonged periods of focusing on near or distant objects.
  • Headaches: Eye strain from untreated astigmatism can lead to frequent headaches, particularly after reading or other visually demanding tasks.
  • Squinting: Squinting can temporarily improve vision for individuals with astigmatism by narrowing the aperture of light entering the eye and reducing the effects of distortion.

Diagnosis and Treatment:

Diagnosing astigmatism typically involves a comprehensive eye examination conducted by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. The following tests may be performed to assess the extent of astigmatism and determine the most appropriate treatment options:

  • Visual acuity test: This standard eye chart test measures how well you see at various distances.
  • Refraction test: Using a phoropter, your eye care professional can determine the exact prescription needed to correct your vision.
  • Corneal topography: This imaging technique creates a detailed map of the cornea’s curvature, helping to identify irregularities associated with astigmatism.

 

Treatment for astigmatism depends on its severity- tiny amounts may not require any correction at all and the individual’s visual needs.

Common options include:

  • Eyeglasses: Prescription eyeglasses are the simplest and most common way to correct astigmatism. Specially designed lenses compensate for the irregular shape of the cornea, improving vision clarity.
  • Contact lenses: Soft toric contact lenses are specifically designed to correct astigmatism. They conform to the shape of the cornea and provide clear vision without the need for eyeglasses.
  • Refractive surgery: Procedures such as LASIK or PRK can reshape the cornea to correct astigmatism permanently. However, surgery may not be suitable for everyone, and potential risks should be carefully considered.

Astigmatism is a prevalent vision condition that can affect people of all ages. While it may cause discomfort and visual disturbances, effective treatment options are available to correct astigmatism and improve overall visual quality. Regular eye examinations are essential for early detection and proper management of astigmatism, ensuring optimal eye health and vision for years to come.

By understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for astigmatism, individuals can take proactive steps to address this common vision problem and enjoy clear, comfortable vision in their daily lives. Curious about whether you have astigmatism? Schedule your eye exam today!

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