Have you ever looked through a pair of binoculars that showed blurry vision? This condition is more or less what it feels like to have astigmatism. About 20% of children are known to live with a varying degree of refractive eye problems. We will guide you through the basics of astigmatism, its causes, symptoms, and treatment plans. Let’s get started.
How Do You Define Astigmatism?
Astigmatism is an imperfect curvature of the eyes that causes blurry vision for the person. One or both eyes have curved lenses in the center of the cornea. Instead of a smooth curve like a ball, the lenses are egg-shaped. When the light passes through the lens and refracts against the retina, the misshapen lens causes blurry, fuzzy, or distorted vision.
The Different Types of Astigmatism
With astigmatism, five different types exist with varying conditions for the eye.
Corneal astigmatism is a distortion of the cornea. It is the clear tissue located outside of the eye. The cornea’s curvature is uneven and shaped like a football, pointing the refracted light away from the retina and causing blurry vision.
Lenticular astigmatism is a distortion of the lens found in the inner portion of the eye. A similar condition to corneal astigmatism, but the close distance between the retina creates a fuzzy vision in your eyesight.
Also known as nearsightedness, myopic astigmatism makes objects in the distance blurry. When the cornea curves too much, the light focuses in front of the retina.
Also known as farsightedness, hyperopic astigmatism describes a blurry vision of nearby objects. When the cornea curves too little, the light focuses on the back of the eye. The condition is more effective when the eye is in a relaxed state.
Mixed astigmatism is when your eyesight is blurry in all directions. This is because several parts of the cornea’s curvature are misshapen and prevent correct focus.
Symptoms of Astigmatism
Depending on the type of astigmatism, the symptoms vary with each person. However, the primary symptoms remain prominent in all astigmatism cases. These include:
- Blurry, fuzzy, or distorted vision in varying distances
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Strain and discomfort around the eyes
- Mild headaches
- Frequent squinting
- Pupil irritation
What Causes Astigmatism?
Here are a few reasons that can lead to the development of astigmatism.
Statistics conclude that most astigmatism cases are hereditary. If your family history shows a pattern of astigmatism, the chances of descendants getting it are high. Symptoms of astigmatism present themselves early on in childhood or right at birth. The level of astigmatism varies, but most people grow up with the condition in both eyes.
It’s possible to develop astigmatism later in life through an eye injury. The eyes are a sensitive area of the human body and are prone to the smallest flicks and scratches. Pressure on the eyelids can cause external strain on the cornea and physically deform the lens over some time. Immediate impact and blunt trauma severely misshapen the lens and cause astigmatism. Activities that put the eyes at risk require extra precautions to protect eyesight.
Astigmatism can also be a side effect of some eye surgeries. Cataracts are another eye disease that forms around the eye lens and leads to cloudy vision. Cataract surgery is necessary to restore eyesight and routine activities, but the procedure can alter the cornea and lead to astigmatism.
If there are issues with the cornea, a patient can request a corneal transplant from a donor. However, any complications during the procedure can also lead to astigmatism.
Keratoconus is an eye disease that changes the shape of the cornea over time. The symptoms progress during childhood or late adolescence. People with keratoconus progressively lose the curvature of their corneas. The cornea isn’t strong enough to hold its round shape and begins to bulge like a cone. Not only does the patient develop astigmatism, but the condition interrupts daily life and may eventually require a corneal transplant.
Who’s at Risk for Astigmatism?
Astigmatism can exist in both children and adults. The chances of developing astigmatism are higher for people with:
- A medical or family history of astigmatism or any eye disorder
- Physical (scratches, bruises, etc.) injury to the eye
- Thinning of the cornea
- The inability to see far distances (nearsightedness)
- The inability to see close distances (farsightedness)
- Recent eye surgery
How Can You Diagnose Astigmatism?
A doctor or optometrist will use a comprehensive eye exam to diagnose astigmatism. During these tests, the medical tools measure the patient’s eyes’ focus on light and the power of optical lenses to improve vision. Here are a few tests a patient can expect during an examination.
Visual acuity measures the person’s ability to see shapes and details from a distance. This test is a common exam during check-ups from every physician. Using a distance chart, the doctor has the patient cover one eye and recite letters varying in size. The standard testing distance is 20 feet, and the doctor measures the patient’s visual acuity by seeing how far they can read without complications. The average best corrected visual acuity is 20/20.
A doctor can measure the curvature of the cornea using a keratometer. A circle of light shines on the cornea to measure its reflection and surface-level curves. This examination determines the size of contact lenses and occasionally catches the physical symptoms of keratoconus. If further tests are needed, a corneal topographer can come in to create a detailed map that shapes the patient’s cornea.
A doctor might pull out a phoropter to measure the patient’s refraction level and how the eyes focus on light. During this examination, the doctor goes through different lenses and searches for the one that gives the patient a clear image.
How Do You Treat Astigmatism?
If the diagnosis for astigmatism is mild and/orange andzfrom a minor injury, no additional treatment is needed. Although, for people with years of astigmatism, several treatment options are available.
The easiest method of treating astigmatism is finding a fitting set of corrective lenses. Eyeglasses can improve vision with prescription lenses based on an eye examination. Many patients get a single-vision lens that covers any distance, but people who are 40 and above may receive bifocals or progressive lenses.
Contact lenses are an alternative option that provides a wide field of view. Unlike eyeglasses, contact lenses require more cleaning and maintenance. A retinoscope examines the level of refractive error and allows the provider to choose the proper lens. In complex cases a specialty lens is designed to match the corneal curvature and correct the astigmatism. Each pair fits the patient based on these results and provides optimal vision.
Orthokeratology reshapes the patient’s cornea over time. This treatment plan puts the patient through several contact lenses and attempts to correct the deformed cornea. Before going to sleep, the patient inserts the prescribed lenses, allowing the eyes to adjust for a couple of weeks.
This method is not a permanent solution but gives the patient temporary vision to complete daily activities. Once the patient stops using the lenses, their blurry vision will return.
If the astigmatism is in critical condition and affecting the patient’s daily routine, an operation is required. LASIK eye surgery uses a laser to resculpt the corneal surface. Depending on the patient’s type of astigmatism, the laser’s power and density can flatten or steepen the central cornea.
The procedure takes a few minutes to complete and requires the patient to keep their eye still as the laser works on the cornea. PRK is another form of eye surgery. Unlike LASIK surgery, PRK does not only remove tissues from the inner layer of the cornea but the superficial layer as well. This surgery is for people with dry eyes, thin corneas, or active lifestyles.
How Do You Prevent Astigmatism?
No evidence suggests strong measures to prevent astigmatism. This condition is presented early in life and is rooted in the patient’s genes. However, these practices are known to reduce the risk of astigmatism.
If you have a history of astigmatism, schedule an eye exam once a year and follow the doctor’s advice. These eye examinations lead to prescription glasses, contact lenses, or surgery based on the results.
The best way to avoid astigmatism is to take care of your eyes through exercise and nutrients. Take breaks from the computer and technology to reduce eye strain. Eating food with large quantities of zinc and vitamin C reduces cataracts and macular degeneration.
Avoid Eye Rubbing
Rubbing your eyes can worsen your astigmatism. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, seek out treatment at Art of Optiks.
Always wear protective gear that shields the eyes from physical or chemical damage. Wear sunglasses on a hot day and avoid looking at the sun for long periods of the day.
Keep Your Eyes Healthy
Astigmatism can become problematic if left untreated. Leaving the cornea deformed will leave the person partially blind and unable to function. If these symptoms relate to you, consult a doctor or optometrist and request an eye exam. Contact Art of Optiks today to get started.