Around your iris and pupil is your cornea, which is, under perfect circumstances, round. As light hits the eye from all angles, the cornea's job is to help focus that light, directing it at the retina, which is in the back of your eye. But what does it mean when the cornea is not exactly round? The eye is not able to project the light properly on one focal point on your retina, and will cause your vision to be blurred. Such a situation is called astigmatism.
Many individuals have astigmatism and the condition mostly comes with other vision issues like nearsightedness or farsightedness. It frequently appears early in life and can cause eye strain, headaches and the tendency to squint when uncorrected. With children, it can cause obstacles in school, especially with highly visual skills such as reading or writing. Anyone who works with particularly small or detailed objects or at a computer for extended lengths of time might experience more difficulty with astigmatism.
Astigmatism can be detected in a routine eye exam with an eye care professional and then fully diagnosed with either an automated refraction or a retinoscopy test, which measures the degree of astigmatism. The condition is commonly fixed with contacts or eyeglasses, 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 permit the light to curve more in one direction than another. Regular contact lenses move each time you close your eyes, even just to blink. But with astigmatism, the most subtle eye movement can completely blur your vision. Toric lenses are able to return to the exact same place right after you blink. You can find toric lenses as soft or rigid varieties, to be chosen depending on what is more comfortable for you.
Astigmatism may also be fixed with laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical alternative that involves the use of special hard contacts to slowly reshape the cornea over night. You should discuss options with your optometrist in order to decide what your best choice might be.
Astigmatism evolves over time, so be sure that you are regularly seeing your eye doctor for a comprehensive test. Also, make sure that you have your children's eyes checked before they begin school. Most of your child's education (and playing) is largely visual. You can help your child make the best of his or her year with a full eye exam, which will help detect any visual abnormalities before they impact schooling, sports, or other extra-curricular activities.