The cornea surrounding your pupil and iris is, under normal conditions, round. As light enters your eye from all angles, the cornea's role is to help focus that light, aiming it at the retina, in the rear part of your eye. But what happens if the cornea is not perfectly spherical? The eye cannot focus the light correctly on one focus on your retina's surface, and will cause your vision to be blurred. This condition is known as astigmatism.
Many individuals have astigmatism and the condition mostly comes with other vision issues that require vision correction. It oftentimes occurs early in life and often causes eye fatigue, painful headaches and the tendency to squint when left uncorrected. In kids, it may cause obstacles in school, especially when it comes to highly visual skills such as reading or writing. Sufferers who work with fine details or at a computer for excessive periods might find that the condition can be problematic.
Astigmatism can be detected by an eye exam with an optometrist and afterwards fully diagnosed with an automated refraction or a retinoscopy test, which measures the degree of astigmatism. The condition is commonly fixed with contacts or eyeglasses, or refractive surgery, which changes the flow of light onto the retina to readjust the focal point.
For contacts, the patient is usually given toric lenses, which permit the light to curve more in one direction than another. Regular contact lenses have a tendency to shift when you blink. But with astigmatism, the most subtle movement can cause blurred vision. Toric lenses return to the same place right after you blink. Toric contact lenses can be found in soft or rigid varieties, to be chosen depending on what is more comfortable for you.
In some cases, astigmatism can also be rectified using laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical alternative that involves wearing rigid contact lenses to gradually change the shape of the cornea. You should discuss options and alternatives with your eye doctor in order to decide what the best choice might be.
When explaining astigmatism to young, small children, show them the back of two teaspoons - one round and one oval. In the circular one, an reflection will appear normal. In the oval spoon, they will be stretched. This is what astigmatism means for your sight; you end up viewing the world stretched out a little.
A person's astigmatism can get better or worse over time, so make sure that you're frequently seeing your eye doctor for a comprehensive test. Also, make sure that you have your children's eyes checked before they begin school. Most of your child's education (and playing) is largely a function of their vision. You'll help your child get the most of his or her schooling with a full eye exam, which will pick up any visual abnormalities before they impact academics, play, or other extra-curricular activities. It's important to know that astigmatism is very treatable, and that the sooner to you seek to treat it, the better off your child will be.