What is Astigmatism?


Astigmatism is a common vision condition caused by an irregular curvature of the cornea, the clear front cover of the eye, or sometimes the shape of the lens inside the eye. In an eye with astigmatism, the surface of the cornea or lens has a somewhat elongated shape, rather than being perfectly round. This irregularity prevents light from focusing properly on the retina, the light-sensitive surface at the back of the eye. As a result, vision may be blurred at any distance.

How Does Astigmatism Affect Vision?

The effects of astigmatism are varied and can influence both near and far vision. It is often present from birth and may occur in combination with other refractive errors such as nearsightedness (myopia) or farsightedness (hyperopia). The primary symptoms of astigmatism include:

  • Blurred or distorted vision.
  • Eye strain or discomfort.
  • Headaches.
  • Difficulty with night vision.
  • Squinting to see clearly.

Astigmatism may change over time, necessitating regular eye exams to ensure that any prescription for corrective lenses remains accurate.

How is Astigmatism Diagnosed and Treated?

Astigmatism is easily diagnosed through a standard eye exam with an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Special imaging or light reflection tests may be used to measure the curvature of the cornea and assess how light focuses on the retina.

Treatment for astigmatism aims to correct the uneven curvature of the cornea or lens to allow light to focus properly again. The most common treatments include:

  • Eyeglasses or Contact Lenses: The most straightforward treatment is corrective lenses, which compensate for the irregular shape of the cornea or lens.
  • Refractive Surgery: Procedures like LASIK or PRK alter the shape of the cornea permanently using a laser. This is often a long-term solution for those who are eligible.
  • Cataract Surgery: Astigmatism can also be corrected at the time of your cataract surgery with the use of a Toric lens implant. Mild amounts of astigmatism can also be treated at the time of your cataract extraction using a limbal relaxing incision or LRI. Ask your surgeon about your options.

Understanding and Managing Astigmatism

For many, astigmatism is simply a minor inconvenience that can be easily corrected. However, it’s important to maintain regular eye check-ups, especially if experiencing symptoms of astigmatism, as the degree of curvature can change over time. Effective management of astigmatism can significantly improve one’s quality of life by providing clearer vision and reducing associated discomfort.

At the Orchard Eye Center we will measure your eyes for astigmatism and recommend the best possible solutions for your eyes.

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