The part of the eye that surrounds your iris and pupil is your cornea, which is, under usual conditions, round. When light hits the eye from all angles, the cornea's role is to focus that light, aiming it to the retina, right in the back of your eye. But what does it mean if the cornea is not exactly round? The eye is not able to focus the light properly on one focus on your retina, and your sight becomes blurred. Such a condition is known as astigmatism.
Many individuals have astigmatism and the condition usually comes with other vision issues that require vision correction. It oftentimes occurs early in life and often causes eye fatigue, painful headaches and squinting when left untreated. With children, it may cause challenges at school, particularly when it comes to reading or other visual tasks. Those who work with fine details or at a computer for long lengths may experience more difficulty with astigmatism.
Diagnosis of astigmatism starts with an eye test with an optometrist. Once detected, an automated refraction or a retinoscopy exam is performed to calculate the severity of astigmatism. Astigmatism is easily corrected by contact lenses or eyeglasses, for those who prefer a non-invasive procedure, or refractive surgery, which changes how that light enters the eye, allowing your retina to receive the light correctly.
Toric lenses are commonly prescribed for astigmatism because they control the way the light bends when it enters the eye. Standard contact lenses generally shift each time you blink. With astigmatism, the slightest eye movement can totally blur your sight. After you blink, toric lenses return to the same position on your eye to avoid this problem. Toric lenses are available in soft or hard varieties, to be chosen depending on what is more comfortable for you.
Astigmatism can also be corrected with laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical alternative that involves the use of rigid contacts to slowly change the shape of the cornea over night. It's advisable to explore options with your optometrist to determine what your best option might be.
Astigmatism can get better or worse over time, so be sure that you're periodically making appointments to see your optometrist for a comprehensive exam. Additionally, be sure that your 'back-to-school' checklist includes a trip to an eye doctor. The majority of your child's schooling (and playing) is largely a function of their vision. You can allow your child get the most of his or her schooling with a full eye exam, which will diagnose any visual irregularities before they begin to affect academics, play, or other activities.