The cornea surrounding your iris and pupil is, under usual circumstances, round. As light hits your eye, the cornea's role is to focus that light, directing it at your retina, which is in the back of your eye. But what happens if the cornea is not exactly round? The eye can't focus the light correctly on one focus on your retina's surface, and your sight becomes blurred. This condition is referred to as astigmatism.
Astigmatism is actually not a rare vision problem, and mostly accompanies other refractive issues such as nearsightedness or farsightedness. It oftentimes occurs early in life and can cause eye fatigue, painful headaches and squinting when left untreated. In kids, it can lead to obstacles in school, especially when it comes to highly visual skills such as reading or writing. Sufferers working with particularly small or detailed objects or at a computer for long lengths of time might find that the condition can be problematic.
Astigmatism can be detected by an eye exam with an eye care professional and then properly diagnosed with either an automated refraction or a retinoscopy test, which calculates the degree of astigmatism. Astigmatism is commonly tended to with contact lenses or glasses, 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 control the way the light bends when it enters the eye. Standard contacts generally move each time you close your eyes, even just to blink. But with astigmatism, the smallest movement can cause blurred vision. Toric lenses return to the exact same position right after you blink. You can find toric lenses in soft or rigid varieties, to be chosen depending on what is more comfortable for you.
Astigmatism may also be corrected by laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical procedure that involves the use of rigid contacts to gradually change the shape of the cornea during the night. It's advisable to explore options and alternatives with your optometrist in order to determine what the best choice is for your needs.
When demonstrating the effects of astigmatism to children, it can be useful for them compare the back of two teaspoons - one circular and one oval. In the circular one, their mirror image appears normal. In the oval one, their reflection will be skewed. This is what astigmatism means for your eye; those affected end up viewing the world stretched out a bit.
Astigmatism can get better or worse gradually, so be sure that you are frequently making appointments to see your optometrist for a proper test. Also, be sure you have your children's eyes checked before they begin school. Most of your child's schooling (and playing) is predominantly a function of their vision. You can allow your child get the most of his or her schooling with a comprehensive eye exam, which will diagnose any visual abnormalities before they affect academics, play, or other activities.