What is astigmatism? People with astigmatism have an abnormal curvature of the eye, specifically the cornea. Rather than being rounded like a soccer ball, the cornea is oblong and resembles a football. The contorted shape causes light to pass through improperly, then transferring images to the retina unevenly. The result is blurry, distorted vision which can lead to headaches, and eye strain.
For some, having an astigmatism has little effect on their eye care. It is when the astigmatism is severe or coupled with another vision issue that it must be addressed. Three types of astigmatism exist: myopic, which is coupled with nearsighted vision, hyperopic with farsightedness, and mixed which means the patient has one of each.
Eye care providers commonly use three types of treatment for astigmatism:
Eyeglasses may be prescribed to help correct the vision distortion and near or farsightedness that accompanies the abnormal curvature. The patient would most likely need the glasses for the rest of his or her life. Eyeglasses can be undesirable for many reasons including cosmetic dislike, the propensity to scratch or break, fogging of lenses, glare, and difficulty wearing sunglasses with them.
Two types of contact lenses can be prescribed by your eye care provider to help correct astigmatism. Soft toric lenses redirect light at a measured angle to compensate for the oblong shape of the cornea but do nothing to reshape the cornea. Gas permeable lenses or semi-rigid contact lenses can do this, though it is important to understand that astigmatism may return if lens wear is discontinued. Contact lenses can be a much more convenient and attractive way to deal with astigmatism, but are not without their drawbacks. Contacts can be expensive and require significant maintenance, plus some patients find them to be irritating to wear.
A more permanent solution to astigmatism is surgery such as LASIK or PRK. Eyes must be otherwise healthy before an eye care provider will perform this surgery, but for good candidates this can mean no contacts or glasses. A few issues related to this surgery are dry eyes, future vision changes that may result in the need for other means of vision correction, plus surgical complications.
Astigmatism is a benign eye condition that may not require intervention. If you are a patient needing attention for this issue, consult your eye care provider to determine the appropriate choice for you.