We often see patients in the office that either have astigmatism or they have a family history of astigmatism. A lot of these patients are so worried, thinking it is a disease or scary problem of the eye.
Actually, astigmatism is a relatively common condition of the eye and is usually very easy to treat with glasses and contact lenses. So to ease your concerns, let’s learn a little bit more about what astigmatism is and how it affects us.
As mentioned, astigmatism is a relatively common condition of the eyes. In fact, nearly one third (⅓) of all people in the world can claim to suffer from astigmatism. Unlike patients with myopia (nearsighted) who have difficulties seeing close or patients with hyperopia (farsighted) who have difficulties seeing near, astigmatism can affect you at all distances. You can also be “nearsighted” or “farsighted” and have astigmatism too!
Astigmatism occurs when the front surface of the eye, called the cornea, has two different curvatures causing two different focal points on the back of the eye, called the retina. Occasionally, the lens in the eye can also cause astigmatism, but usually it is due to the shape of the cornea. When we have two different focal points, we essentially have two different prescriptions in each eye.
When the amount of astigmatism is low and we are young, our eyes can jump between these two focal lengths easy enough to prevent significantly blurred vision. The farther the distance between these two focal points (and the higher the power needed to correct the astigmatism) the blurrier your vision will be without correction.
The most common complaints about astigmatism that I receive from patients include:
The good news is that astigmatism is extremely easy to correct with glasses and contact lenses. Glasses and toric contact lenses basically have two different curves that match the two different curves of the eye so that the image becomes a single point of focus and then the powers line them up correctly on the retina. This creates a single clear image for the eye to transmit to the brain for processing.
Other, less common, solutions to correcting your astigmatism include refractive surgeries like LASIK and PRK. There are also surgically implantable contact lenses that may work for you.
Many hard contact lenses, like scleral contact lenses, will vault the cornea allowing for fluid from our tears and solutions to smooth out the two curves and correct the vision.
Completing a comprehensive vision and ocular health exam is the best way to determine if you have astigmatism. And you can rest assured your optometrist will know the best way to correct your astigmatism. If you would like to learn more about your options, call us at 208-322-8439 today to schedule an appointment!