The part of the eye that surrounds your pupil and iris is your cornea, which is, under usual circumstances, round. As light enters your eye from all angles, the cornea's job is to focus that light, directing it at the retina, right in the anterior portion of your eye. But what is the result if the cornea is not exactly spherical? The eye cannot project the light properly on one focus on your retina, and will cause your vision to be blurred. Such a condition is called astigmatism.
Many individuals have astigmatism and the condition mostly comes with other refractive problems that require vision correction. It oftentimes occurs during childhood and can cause eye strain, painful headaches and the tendency to squint when left uncorrected. In children, it may lead to difficulty in the classroom, especially with reading or other visual tasks like drawing and writing. People who work with particularly small or detailed objects or at a computer monitor for extended periods may experience more difficulty with astigmatism.
Diagnosis of astigmatism starts with a routine eye test with an eye care professional. Once detected, an automated refraction or a retinoscopy exam is performed to calculate the degree of astigmatism. Astigmatism is commonly tended to by contacts or glasses, for those who prefer a non-invasive procedure, or refractive surgery, which alters the flow of light onto the retina to readjust the focal point.
For contacts, the patient might be prescribed toric lenses, which control the way the light bends when it enters the eye. Standard contact lenses generally move when you close your eyes, even just to blink. With astigmatism, the most subtle movement can totally blur your sight. After you blink, toric lenses return to the same position on your eye to avoid this problem. You can find toric contact lenses in soft or rigid varieties, to be chosen depending on what is more comfortable for you.
In some cases, astigmatism can also be rectified with laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical alternative involving the use of special hard lenses to slowly change the shape of the cornea. It's advisable to explore your options with your optometrist in order to decide what your best choice might be.
Astigmatism changes over time, so be sure that you are periodically visiting your eye care professional for a proper test. Additionally, be sure that you have your children's eyes checked before they begin school. The majority of your child's education (and playing) is largely a function of their vision. You can help your child make the best of his or her schooling with a comprehensive eye exam, which will pick up any visual abnormalities before they begin to impact schooling, sports, or other activities. It's important to know that astigmatism is very treatable, and that the earlier to you seek to treat it, the better off your child will be.