Around your iris and pupil is your cornea, which is, under perfect circumstances, round. When light hits your eye, part of the job of your cornea is to help focus that light, directing it toward your retina, in the rear part of your eye. But what happens if the cornea is not perfectly spherical? The eye can't direct the light correctly on one focal point on your retina's surface, and sight becomes blurred. Such a situation is known as astigmatism.
Many individuals have astigmatism and the condition frequently comes with other refractive errors like nearsightedness or farsightedness. Astigmatism often appears during childhood and can cause eye fatigue, painful headaches and the tendency to squint when left uncorrected. In children, it can cause obstacles at school, particularly when it comes to reading or other visual tasks. Sufferers who work with fine details or at a computer for long periods might find that the condition can be a problem.
Diagnosis of astigmatism starts with an eye test with an eye care professional. Once detected, an automated refraction or a retinoscopy test is performed to calculate the degree of astigmatism. Astigmatism is commonly corrected by contacts or glasses, or refractive surgery, which alters 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 have a tendency to shift each time you close your eyes, even just to blink. But with astigmatism, the slightest eye movement can cause blurred vision. After you blink, toric lenses return to the same place on your eye to avoid this problem. You can find toric lenses as soft or rigid varieties, to be chosen depending on what is more comfortable for you.
In some cases, astigmatism can also be fixed by laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical alternative that involves wearing special rigid contacts to slowly reshape the cornea during the night. It's advisable to discuss options with your eye care professional to determine what your best choice might be.
For help explaining astigmatism to children, show them a round teaspoon and an oval teaspoon. In the circular teaspoon, their mirror image appears proportionate. In the oval one, their face will be skewed. And this is what astigmatism means for your vision; those affected end up seeing everything stretched out a bit.
Astigmatism can get better or worse gradually, so make sure that you are regularly making appointments to see your eye care professional for a comprehensive test. Also, make sure that your 'back-to-school' list includes a trip to an optometrist. Most of your child's schooling (and playing) is predominantly a function of their vision. You'll allow your child make the best of his or her school year with a thorough eye exam, which will pick up any visual irregularities before they begin to impact education, athletics, or other activities.