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Focusing on Astigmatism

The cornea surrounding your iris and pupil is, under perfect conditions, spherical. As light enters the eye, the cornea's role is to focus that light, aiming it toward the retina, right in the back of your eye. But what happens if the cornea isn't perfectly spherical? The eye can't focus the light properly on a single focus on your retina's surface, and will blur your vision. This condition is called astigmatism.

Many individuals have astigmatism and the condition mostly accompanies other vision issues such as nearsightedness or farsightedness. Astigmatism frequently appears during childhood and can cause eye fatigue, headaches and the tendency to squint when untreated. In kids, it can lead to obstacles in school, particularly when it comes to reading or other visual tasks like drawing and writing. Anyone who works with fine details or at a computer for excessive periods might find that the condition can be a problem.

Astigmatism can be preliminarily diagnosed during a routine eye exam with an eye care professional and then properly diagnosed with either an automated refraction or a retinoscopy test, which measures the degree of astigmatism. Astigmatism is commonly tended to with contact lenses or eyeglasses, for those who prefer a non-invasive procedure, or refractive surgery, which changes how that light enters the eye, letting the retina get the light correctly.

With contact lenses, the patient might be prescribed toric lenses, which control the way the light bends when it enters the eye. Standard contacts have a tendency to shift when you close your eyes, even just to blink. But with astigmatism, the smallest eye movement can completely blur your vision. After you blink, toric lenses return to the same place on your eye to avoid this problem. Toric lenses are available as soft or hard lenses.

Astigmatism can also be corrected with laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical procedure involving wearing rigid contact lenses to gradually reshape the cornea during the night. You should discuss options and alternatives with your eye doctor to decide what your best choice might be.

Astigmatism evolves over time, so make sure that you're regularly making appointments to see your eye care professional for a proper test. Also, make sure that you have your children's eyes checked before they begin school. Most of your child's schooling (and playing) is predominantly visual. You can help your child make the best of his or her school year with a full eye exam, which will pick up any visual abnormalities before they begin to impact schooling, athletics, or other extra-curricular activities.