Has life seemed a little blurry lately? It may be you are finally noticing signs of vision loss due to a refractive error called astigmatism. The only way to tell for sure is by scheduling a visit to your optometrist’s office.
One of the most common vision conditions, astigmatism of one or both eyes affects close to 30% of the population, so you’re not alone. The leading cause of astigmatism is genetics. If you are diagnosed with astigmatism, odds are your father and/or mother had it, too. So in most cases, there is nothing you can do to prevent its onset. Fortunately, correcting the condition is 100% within your control – and immediate assessment and treatment are recommended.
Letting astigmatism go uncorrected for too long without corrective lenses or LASIK treatment can have a negative effect on school, work, and driving – which leads to safety issues, especially when driving at night.
7 Facts About Astigmatism (Symptoms, Causes, Correction Options)
Here are some facts about astigmatism to help you learn more about the condition, its symptoms, and how you can correct it.
Blurred vision is the most common symptom
The most common symptom of astigmatism is blurred vision. If you are still young (30-years old and younger), you are most likely to notice it in your far vision. Many students become aware of the problem in their classrooms or college lecture halls. When looking at screens, chalkboards, or whiteboards, you may find you need to blink rapidly to bring your vision back into focus between the far wall of the classroom and the notes or reading materials on your desk.
Other symptoms of astigmatism include:
- Blurred vision while reading or looking at street and business signage
- Trouble seeing clearly at night
- A halo effect around lights such as headlights, neon signs, or digital clock faces
- Eye strain (a tense or squeezing feeling in or directly behind the eyes)
The brain is amazing and can continue adjusting for your astigmatism in a way that keeps you from noticing how blurry things have become, little by little. Once we diagnose you and get you the right corrective glasses/contact lenses, you’ll be amazed as the world comes immediately back into focus. For example, those green blogs you’ve been seeing at the tops of trees separate into individual leaves…
Your lens or cornea is more like a football than a basketball
For perfect vision, the front of your cornea (or the surface of the lens) is supposed to have a spherical shape, like a basketball. If you have astigmatism, one or both of those important, anatomical parts is oblong in shape, more like a football.
Thus, when light enters the pupil, it refracts (bends) along the interior surface of the eye and comes to two focal points instead of the optimal, single focal point. The more oblong the shape, the further apart those points are, and the blurrier your vision will be.
It may be genetics, or…
We mentioned above that astigmatism is most often hereditary, meaning it came to you by way of the family gene pool, and you were born with it. However, injury or trauma to the eye can also cause a misshapen cornea or lens, leading to astigmatism.
Recently, researchers have correlated higher numbers of non-hereditary cases of astigmatism that are linked to sitting too close to the television or screens. This is of clear concern to those of us in the field of optometry and ophthalmology because patient screen use is at an all-time high. If you watch a lot of television or you spend much of your day using screens, make sure to keep yourself at a safe distance so your eyes have a better scope of focus and vision, and give your eyes plenty of breaks by getting up, stretching, and letting your eye rest on a more distant view.
Early detection of astigmatism leads to better outcomes
As with almost every other vision or medical condition or ailment, the sooner we diagnose it the better the patient outcomes.
Astigmatism is often a progressive condition, meaning it can worsen as you age. This is especially true if it goes uncorrected. Without the support of lenses or LASIK surgery, chronic eye strain fatigues your already compromised eye, which can lead to more dramatic vision loss in a shorter amount of time.
It’s important to remember that astigmatism isn’t visible by looking into someone’s eyes the way a cataract can be seen. It requires the patient to either observe regular annual vision exams or to schedule one after noticing astigmatism symptoms. Unfortunately for children, undiagnosed astigmatism can lead to a lazy eye (amblyopia).
Glasses (or contacts) are the quickest, easiest corrective measure
If you have astigmatism in one or both eyes, the first line of correction is a prescription for glasses. Your doctor will send you to your eyeglass shop of choice, where you can choose from a myriad of frames. These are typically the go-to correction source as patients learn more about other options.
Your optometrist may also discuss the option of contact lenses. Ironically, those who have more mild astigmatism may have to wait until their condition worsens a bit before contact lenses can be effective. This is because corrective lenses work to counteract the oblong curve. We can do this at minimal degrees using thicker, glasses lenses, but it’s much harder to replicate with the thin materials used for contacts. If you are able to get contacts, we’ll teach you how to insert them, how to care for them, and how to set up online mail order so you always have a fresh pair at the ready.
You may be a candidate for LASIK surgery
Astigmatism patients are some of our best LASIK surgery candidates because our cool lasers are ideal for perfectly shaving away that extra curve and restoring a more perfect, spherical shape to your cornea or lens. As with contacts, we may not recommend LASIK if your astigmatism is very mild and we feel it’s wise to wait a while (wearing corrective lenses, of course) waiting for the condition to progress a bit before proceeding with surgery.
Visit our post on the 8 Criteria For a Good LASIK Candidate to see if you’re a match.
There’s more than one type of astigmatism
Astigmatisms come in three different types. To understand how we diagnose the types, think of your eye like the face of a clock. Then, imagine there are two, perpendicular lines; one runs vertically, connecting the 12 and the 6, and the other runs horizontally, connecting the 3 and the 9. If the clock face was the surface of your eye, those lines are called the meridians.
We categorize astigmatism by where the apex of the oblong-shaped cornea and/or lens falls within degree lines along the meridians. Depending on the types, you may experience nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), or mixed. Most people fall into the latter category.
Then, there is a range of classifications within those three, general categories of astigmatism. Your eye doctor will be absolutely thrilled to tell you which one you have and what it means. We always love to educate curious patients.
We’re Here For Your Eyes
Has the world looked a little blurrier to you these days? Are you or someone you love struggling to see clearly? Schedule a routine eye exam with us here at the Atlantic Eye Institute.