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Astigmatism: What You Want to Know About This Common Condition

The cornea that surrounds your iris and pupil is, under usual conditions, spherical. As light enters your eye, part of the job of your cornea is to help project that light, aiming it at your retina, right in the back of your eye. What happens if the cornea isn't perfectly spherical? The eye is not able to direct the light properly on one focus on your retina's surface, and your vision becomes blurred. This condition is referred to as astigmatism.

Many individuals have astigmatism and the condition usually comes with other vision errors that require vision correction. It often occurs early in life and often causes eye fatigue, painful headaches and squinting when uncorrected. In kids, it may lead to difficulty in the classroom, particularly when it comes to highly visual skills such as reading or writing. Anyone who works with particularly small or detailed objects or at a computer monitor for excessive periods might find that the condition can be problematic.

Diagnosis of astigmatism starts with an eye test with an optometrist. Once detected, an automated refraction or a retinoscopy exam is performed to calculate the degree of astigmatism. The condition is commonly fixed with contact lenses or eyeglasses, for those who prefer a non-invasive procedure, or refractive surgery, which changes the flow of light onto the retina to readjust the focal point.

Toric lenses are commonly prescribed for astigmatism because they allow the light to curve more in one direction than another. Standard contacts generally move each time you close your eyes, even just to blink. With astigmatism, the smallest eye movement can completely blur your vision. Toric lenses return to the same position right after you blink. You can find toric contact lenses in soft or hard varieties, to be chosen depending on what is more comfortable for you.

Astigmatism may also be fixed by laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical procedure that involves the use of special hard contact lenses to slowly reshape the cornea during the night. You should explore your options with your optometrist to decide what the best option is for your needs.

A person's astigmatism evolves over time, so make sure that you're regularly visiting your optometrist for a proper exam. Also, make sure that your 'back-to-school' checklist includes taking your kids to an eye care professional. A considerable amount of your child's education (and playing) is largely visual. You can help your child make the best of his or her schooling with a comprehensive eye exam, which will detect any visual abnormalities before they impact schooling, sports, or other activities. It's important to know that astigmatism is highly treatable, and that the sooner to you seek to treat it, the better off your child will be.