The cornea surrounding your iris and pupil is, under usual conditions, spherical. As light enters your eye, part of the role of your cornea is to help focus that light, directing it toward the retina, right in the anterior portion of your eye. But what does it mean when the cornea isn't perfectly spherical? The eye cannot focus the light properly on a single focus on your retina, and will cause your vision to be blurred. This is known as astigmatism.
Astigmatism is not a rare diagnosis, and frequently comes with other vision issues like nearsightedness or farsightedness. It frequently appears early in life and often causes eye fatigue, headaches and the tendency to squint when left untreated. With kids, it can lead to obstacles in the classroom, particularly with reading or other visual tasks. Anyone who works with particularly small or detailed objects or at a computer for extended lengths might experience more difficulty with astigmatism.
Astigmatism is preliminarily diagnosed during an eye exam with an optometrist and afterwards fully diagnosed with either an automated refraction or a retinoscopy test, which measures the severity of astigmatism. The condition is easily corrected with contacts or eyeglasses, for those who prefer a non-invasive procedure, or refractive surgery, which alters the way that light hits the eye, allowing your retina to get the light correctly.
Toric lenses are commonly prescribed for astigmatism because they control the way the light bends when it enters the eye. Regular contact lenses have a tendency to shift when you blink. With astigmatism, the most subtle eye movement can completely blur your sight. After you blink, toric lenses return to the same position on your eye to avoid this problem. Toric contact lenses are available in soft or rigid varieties, to be chosen depending on what is more comfortable for you.
Astigmatism may also be rectified by laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical alternative that involves wearing special rigid contact lenses to gradually change the shape of the cornea during the night. You should explore your options and alternatives with your eye care professional to determine what your best option is for your needs.
Astigmatism evolves over time, so make sure that you're periodically making appointments to see your eye doctor for a proper exam. Additionally, be sure that your 'back-to-school' list includes taking your kids to an eye doctor. 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 school year with a thorough eye exam, which will help detect any visual irregularities before they begin to impact academics, sports, or other extra-curricular activities. It's important to know that astigmatism is very treatable, and that the earlier to you begin to treat it, the better off your child will be.