Surrounding your pupil and iris is your cornea, which is, under usual conditions, spherical. As light hits the eye from all angles, the cornea's role is to help focus that light, aiming it at your retina, which is in the anterior portion of your eye. But what happens when the cornea isn't exactly round? The eye is not able to project the light properly on one focus on your retina, and will blur your vision. This condition is known as astigmatism.
Astigmatism is actually a fairly common diagnosis, and frequently comes with other refractive issues like nearsightedness or farsightedness. Astigmatism oftentimes appears early in life and often causes eye strain, headaches and squinting when left uncorrected. With children, it may cause challenges in school, particularly 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 long periods may find that the condition can be problematic.
Astigmatism can be preliminarily diagnosed by an eye exam with an eye care professional and afterwards properly diagnosed with an automated refraction or a retinoscopy exam, which calculates the amount of astigmatism. Astigmatism is commonly corrected with contact lenses or glasses, for those who prefer a non-invasive procedure, or refractive surgery, which changes how that light hits the eye, allowing your retina to get the light properly.
Toric lenses are commonly prescribed for astigmatism because they control the way the light bends when it enters the eye. Standard contacts generally shift each time you blink. With astigmatism, the slightest movement can totally blur your vision. Toric lenses return to the exact same position immediately after you blink. You can find toric contact lenses as soft or rigid varieties, to be chosen depending on what is more comfortable for you.
In some cases, astigmatism can also be corrected using laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical procedure that involves wearing special rigid contacts to slowly change the shape of the cornea over night. You should discuss options with your eye doctor to decide what the best choice might be.
When explaining astigmatism to young, small children, have them look at the back of two teaspoons - one circular and one oval. In the round teaspoon, an mirror image appears normal. In the oval one, they will be skewed. This is what astigmatism means for your eye; you end up viewing everything stretched out a little.
A person's astigmatism changes gradually, so be sure that you're frequently seeing your eye doctor for a comprehensive exam. Also, make sure that you have your children's eyes checked before they begin school. The majority of your child's learning (and playing) is mostly visual. You can allow your child get the most of his or her school year with a comprehensive eye exam, which will detect any visual irregularities before they begin to affect education, sports, or other extra-curricular activities. It's important to know that astigmatism is very treatable, and that the earlier to you begin to treat it, the better off your child will be.