Around your pupil and iris is your cornea, which is, under usual circumstances, spherical. As light hits your eye, part of the role of your cornea is to help focus that light, aiming it at the retina, which is in the anterior portion of your eye. What is the result when the cornea isn't perfectly round? The eye cannot project the light properly on one focus on your retina's surface, and will blur your vision. Such a situation is referred to as astigmatism.
Many individuals have astigmatism and the condition mostly accompanies other refractive issues like nearsightedness or farsightedness. It often occurs early in life and can cause eye strain, painful headaches and squinting when left untreated. With kids, it can lead to challenges in school, especially with reading or other visual tasks. Anyone who works with fine details or at a computer monitor for long periods might experience more difficulty with astigmatism.
Diagnosis of astigmatism starts with an eye exam with an optometrist. Once detected, an automated refraction or a retinoscopy test is performed to check the severity of astigmatism. Astigmatism is easily corrected by contact lenses or glasses, or refractive surgery, which changes how that light hits the eye, letting the retina receive the light correctly.
Toric lenses are commonly prescribed for astigmatism because they allow the light to curve more in one direction than another. Standard contact lenses shift when you blink. With astigmatism, the smallest movement can cause blurred sight. After you blink, toric lenses return to the same place on your eye to avoid this problem. Toric contact lenses can be found as soft or hard lenses.
In some cases, astigmatism can also be corrected using laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical alternative that involves wearing special rigid lenses to slowly reshape the cornea over night. It's advisable to discuss your options and alternatives with your eye care professional to determine what your best option might be.
When demonstrating the effects of astigmatism to children, show them the back of two teaspoons - one round and one oval. In the round spoon, their reflection will appear regular. In the oval teaspoon, their face will be skewed. This is what astigmatism means for your eye; you wind up viewing everything stretched out a little.
Astigmatism evolves over time, so be sure that you are frequently making appointments to see your optometrist for a proper exam. Also, be sure that you have your children's eyes checked before they begin school. The majority of your child's education (and playing) is largely a function of their vision. You can allow your child get the most of his or her schooling with a full eye exam, which will help pick up any visual abnormalities before they begin to impact academics, play, or other activities.