By definition, astigmatism is an eye defect characterized by an imperfection in the curve of the cornea of the eye or in the shape of the eye’s lens. A natural cornea, for instance, is perfectly curved in a circular fashion, where a cornea with astigmatism looks more like a football in its shape. In normal circumstances, the eye is able to focus properly. However, if this isn’t the case – as it is in those with astigmatism – then the eye has difficulty focusing, usually resulting in blurred far away vision (though vision is compromised at all distances). Hence, astigmatism is a refractive error.
While astigmatism is characterized as an eye defect, it’s a very common one that is easily corrected with either contact lenses, prescription glasses or even laser eye surgery. Astigmatism can affect both children and adults, and while exact statistics aren’t available on how many people exactly have the condition, most optometrists agree that most everyone has astigmatism to some degree, however only those with moderate to severe cases need corrective treatment.
Signs and Symptoms
While the most obvious sign of astigmatism is blurred vision, especially when it comes to seeing objects in the distance, there are a number of other signs and symptoms that can validate the eye defect. For instance, headaches, eye strain, squinting and trouble driving during the night can all be related to astigmatism. If you experience any of these signs or symptoms, make sure to schedule an eye exam to better determine whether or not you have astigmatism.
When it comes to children, many go untreated for astigmatism simply because the child doesn’t know there’s a problem and isn’t getting regular eye exams. However, vision difficulties that result from astigmatism can really take their toll on a child’s life, particularly when it comes to school and sports activities.
Can Astigmatism be Prevented?
Astigmatism is naturally occurring, so there’s no way to prevent it. In fact, many people are even born with it to a certain degree. Also, while astigmatism is more common in adults, children can certainly have it too. That’s why it’s important to seek annual eye exams regardless of age. When it comes to children and astigmatism, studies indicate that about 10 percent of all preschool children have it. Furthermore, about 23 percent of all infants six months to a year old also have it. Many children grow out of this however, as it’s estimated that less than 10 percent of all children have astigmatism by the time they reach Kindergarten.
Are There Different Types of Astigmatism?
Generally, there are two common types of astigmatism – corneal and lenticular.
Corneal astigmatism is where the cornea is irregularly shaped,
Lenticular astigmatism describes astigmatism where the eye’s lens is abnormal.
Both types of astigmatism usually present the same vision challenges. Astigmatism can occur in either one eye or both eyes.
Diagnosis and Treatment
As we’ve noted before, the best way to diagnose astigmatism is via an eye exam at your optometrist’s office. As far as treatment goes, there are three main options:
- Contact lenses
- Laser eye surgery
In terms of the last corrective option – laser eye surgery – the surgeon can actually work to reshape the cornea. It is worth noting that in order to qualify for laser eye surgery, the eyes need to be healthy and free of disease, retina issues and more. An additional consideration is that there’s generally more risk when having eye defects – let alone astigmatism – corrected via laser eye surgery.
The type of corrective measure for astigmatism should largely be dictated based on the type of lifestyle you lead and what type of work you do. For instance, for someone that is active outdoors and plays a lot of sports, contact lenses or laser eye surgery would likely be the two best treatment options.
Living with Astigmatism
Astigmatism is a common eye condition that’s easily corrected, so it’s little to no inconvenience once corrective measures are in place and shouldn’t require you to adjust the way you live your life. It’s just important to see the optometrist at least once a year so that any condition with the eyes can be properly monitored to ensure that your vision is never compromised.
For more information on astigmatism, and to schedule an eye exam, contact the Sealy Eye Center today.