Astigmatism is a word that we may hear at an eye appointment, but many of us are not quite sure what it means. Having astigmatism means your cornea or lens is not smooth or evenly curved.
Two types of astigmatism
A normally shaped cornea correctly refracts light rays onto the retina so you can see clearly. If your cornea is irregularly shaped, it is called corneal astigmatism. If the lens shape is distorted, it is called lenticular astigmatism. Either type of astigmatism results in near and far objects appearing blurry and distorted.
How do you develop astigmatism?
Most people are born with some degree of astigmatism, just like many people are born with other refractive errors like nearsightedness and farsightedness. If astigmatism develops later in life, you might notice a change in your vision and may then take steps to have it corrected. However, those who were born with astigmatism may not complain of vision difficulties because they have never known anything different.
What can be done about astigmatism?
Having yearly comprehensive eye exams is the best way to have astigmatism diagnosed. At an eye exam, the eye doctor will test your visual acuity and refraction as well as test for eye diseases and chronic conditions. If you are diagnosed with astigmatism, your doctor can prescribe lenses to correct your refractive errors. It is important to have exams because if astigmatism goes undiagnosed, the cornea can develop a cone-shaped bulge known as keratoconus.
Astigmatism can cause children to perform poorly in school and prevent them from achieving in sports and activities, so make eye exams a part of your preventative health care regimen.