The cornea surrounding your pupil and iris is, under normal circumstances, round. As light hits your eye from all angles, part of the role of your cornea is to help focus that light, directing it at the retina, right in the anterior portion of your eye. What does it mean if the cornea is not perfectly round? The eye is not able to direct the light correctly on a single focus on your retina's surface, and will blur your vision. This condition is referred to as astigmatism.
Many individuals have astigmatism and the condition mostly accompanies other vision problems like nearsightedness or farsightedness. Astigmatism often appears early in life and often causes eye strain, painful headaches and squinting when left untreated. In children, it can lead to challenges at school, often when it comes to reading or other visual tasks like drawing and writing. People who work with particularly small or detailed objects or at a computer for excessive periods of time might find that it can be problematic.
Diagnosis of astigmatism starts with a routine eye test with an optometrist. Once detected, an automated refraction or a retinoscopy test is performed to calculate the amount of astigmatism. The condition is commonly fixed by contacts or glasses, or refractive surgery, which alters the way that light hits the eye, allowing your retina to get the light correctly.
For contact lenses, the patient might be given toric lenses, which allow the light to bend more in one direction than another. Regular contact lenses generally move when you close your eyes, even just to blink. But with astigmatism, the smallest eye movement can cause blurred sight. Toric lenses return to the same place right after you blink. Toric lenses are available in soft or rigid lenses.
Astigmatism may also be corrected using laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical alternative involving the use of hard lenses to slowly reshape the cornea during the night. It's advisable to explore options and alternatives with your eye doctor to determine what the best choice might be.
When explaining astigmatism to young, small children, show them the backside of two teaspoons – one round and one oval. In the round spoon, their reflection appears normal. In the oval spoon, they will be skewed. And this is what astigmatism means for your vision; you end up viewing the world stretched out a bit.
A person's astigmatism can get better or worse gradually, so be sure that you're regularly visiting your eye doctor for a proper exam. Also, be sure your 'back-to-school' checklist includes a trip to an eye care professional. A considerable amount of your child's schooling (and playing) is predominantly visual. You can allow your child get the most of his or her school year with a comprehensive eye exam, which will help pick up any visual abnormalities before they impact academics, play, or other activities. It's important to know that astigmatism is highly treatable, and that the earlier to you begin to treat it, the better off your child will be.