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Astigmatism: Facts and Answers

Surrounding your pupil and iris is your cornea, which is, under normal circumstances, spherical. When light enters the eye from all angles, part of the job of your cornea is to focus that light, directing it at your retina, which is in the rear part of your eye. But what happens if the cornea isn't exactly round? The eye cannot direct the light correctly on a single focus on your retina's surface, and your vision gets blurred. This is referred to as astigmatism.

Many individuals have astigmatism and the condition mostly comes with other vision errors like nearsightedness or farsightedness. Astigmatism oftentimes occurs early in life and can cause eye fatigue, headaches and the tendency to squint when untreated. In children, it can cause challenges in the classroom, often with highly visual skills such as reading or writing. People who work with fine details or at a computer monitor for extended lengths might experience more difficulty with astigmatism.

Astigmatism is detected by an eye test with an eye care professional and then fully diagnosed with an automated refraction or a retinoscopy exam, which measures the degree of astigmatism. Astigmatism is easily fixed with contact lenses or glasses, or refractive surgery, which changes the flow of light onto the retina to readjust the focal point.

Toric lenses are commonly prescribed for astigmatism because they control the way the light bends when it enters the eye. Standard contact lenses have a tendency to move each time you blink. With astigmatism, the slightest eye movement can cause blurred vision. Toric lenses return to the same position immediately after you blink. Toric contact lenses can be found as soft or hard varieties, to be chosen depending on what is more comfortable for you.

Astigmatism can also be corrected by laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical procedure involving the use of rigid lenses to gradually change the shape of the cornea during the night. It's advisable to discuss your options and alternatives with your eye care professional in order to decide what your best choice is for your needs.

A person's astigmatism changes over time, so make sure that you're frequently making appointments to see your optometrist for a proper test. Also, make sure that your 'back-to-school' list includes a trip to an eye care professional. A considerable amount of your child's learning (and playing) is mostly a function of their vision. You'll allow your child make the best of his or her schooling with a comprehensive eye exam, which will pick up any visual irregularities before they begin to impact education, play, or other extra-curricular activities.