Around your iris and pupil is your cornea, which is, under usual conditions, round. As light hits the eye from all angles, part of the job of your cornea is to project that light, aiming it toward your retina, right in the back of your eye. But what happens if the cornea is not exactly round? The eye can't direct the light properly on one focal point on your retina, and your vision becomes blurred. This is referred to as astigmatism.
Astigmatism is actually not a uncommon diagnosis, and mostly accompanies other vision problems that require vision correction. It often appears during childhood and often causes eye strain, headaches and the tendency to squint when left uncorrected. With kids, it may cause difficulty in the classroom, often when it comes to highly visual skills such as reading or writing. Sufferers who work with fine details or at a computer for excessive lengths of time might experience more difficulty with astigmatism.
Diagnosis of astigmatism starts with a routine eye exam with an eye care professional. Once detected, an automated refraction or a retinoscopy test is performed to check the amount of astigmatism. Astigmatism is commonly corrected by contacts or eyeglasses, or refractive surgery, which changes the flow of light onto the retina to readjust the focal point.
For contact lenses, the patient might be prescribed toric lenses, which control the way the light bends when it enters the eye. Regular contacts generally shift when you blink. But with astigmatism, the most subtle eye movement can totally blur your vision. Toric lenses return to the same place immediately after you blink. You can find toric contact lenses as soft or rigid lenses.
Astigmatism can also be corrected using laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical procedure involving the use of special rigid contacts to gradually reshape the cornea over night. You should explore your options and alternatives with your eye care professional in order to determine what the best option might be.
When explaining astigmatism to young, small children, have them look at a circular teaspoon and an oval teaspoon. In the round teaspoon, their reflection appears regular. In the oval one, their reflection will be skewed. And this is what astigmatism means for your vision; those affected wind up viewing everything stretched out a bit.
Astigmatism can get better or worse gradually, so be sure that you're periodically making appointments to see your eye doctor for a comprehensive exam. Also, be sure you have your children's eyes checked before they begin school. The majority of your child's education (and playing) is predominantly visual. You'll allow your child make the best of his or her schooling with a thorough eye exam, which will diagnose any visual irregularities before they affect education, play, or other activities. It's important to know that astigmatism is very treatable, and that the sooner to you seek to treat it, the better off your child will be.