What is Astigmatism and Should You Be Worried?

The term astigmatism is so common in the ophthalmic world that many people are now fully aware of what it means. The word comes from the Greek ‘a’, which means without and ‘stigma’, which means a point. A common example that is often used to describe the eye condition is the difference between a football and basketball. It is important to know that a normal eye’s cornea has a curve like that of a basketball and has the same roundness in all the areas. When light bends differently depending on where it strikes the cornea and passes through the eyeball, it leads to astigmatism.

When astigmatism occurs in an eye that is curved like a football and has some areas that are more rounded than others, you may experience blurry and stretched out vision. Technically speaking, astigmatism implies there are two different foci in the eyes instead of a single point of focus. This means that light fails to merge on a singular point and as a result it merges on two different points. The condition can leady to hazy and blurred vision. Sometimes, it also causes eye strain, headaches and may not be corrected with contact lenses or spectacles.

However, you must know that astigmatism is not a disease. There are millions of people around the world who suffer from some degree of astigmatism. In the ophthalmic world, it is also referred to as a cylinder. The angle and degree at which astigmatism occurs can vary from one individual to the next. This is the reason why two eyeglass prescriptions are rarely the same as the eye can take an infinite number of shapes.

The most common type of astigmatism is regular astigmatism. In this type of condition, the two different curvatures to the eye are 90 degrees apart from each other. A few eye conditions or surgeries often induce irregular astigmatism where the curvatures can be in many different places on the surface of the eye. Since the curvatures can differ from one person to another, it can lead to severe cases of astigmatism.

Nonetheless, regular astigmatism can be successfully treated with contact lenses, refractive surgery (such as LASIK) or prescription glasses. Generally, irregular astigmatism cannot be treated with normal and conventional correctional methods, Sometimes, special treatments are required to completely cure the condition. Astigmatism can be corrected in almost all cases. Although it can lead to several symptoms, such as blurred vision, it does not lead to permanent damage. An eye exam plays an important role in identifying the symptoms, such as headaches, eye strain or blurred vision.

Thousands of children are born with astigmatism and do not realize they have a problem until they get their eyes checked. It may affect the concentration or reading ability of a child. Therefore, it is important to treat the condition as soon as it is diagnosed. Individuals who have astigmatism are usually prescribed rigid gas permeable lenses as these lenses are hard and can hold their shape. They also allow oxygen to pass to the eye. Sometimes, soft contact lenses are also used for more minor astigmatism. A few people with astigmatism are treated with laser eye surgery, such as LASIK.

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