The cornea surrounding your iris and pupil is, under normal conditions, round. As light hits your eye, part of the role of your cornea is to project that light, directing it toward the retina, which is in the back of your eye. But what happens when the cornea isn't exactly spherical? The eye can't focus the light properly on a single focus on your retina, and will cause your vision to be blurred. This condition is known as astigmatism.
Astigmatism is a fairly common vision problem, and frequently accompanies other vision errors like nearsightedness or farsightedness. Astigmatism oftentimes occurs during childhood and can cause eye fatigue, headaches and squinting when uncorrected. In children, it may cause obstacles in school, particularly when it comes to highly visual skills such as reading or writing. People working with fine details or at a computer for long periods 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 calculate the amount of astigmatism. The condition is commonly fixed by contacts or glasses, or refractive surgery, which changes the way that light enters the eye, letting the retina receive the light properly.
Toric lenses are commonly prescribed for astigmatism because they control the way the light bends when it enters the eye. Regular contact lenses have a tendency to move when you blink. With astigmatism, the smallest movement can cause blurred sight. Toric lenses are able to return to the exact same place immediately after you blink. Toric contact lenses are available in soft or hard lenses.
Astigmatism may also be rectified with laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical procedure that involves the use of special hard lenses to slowly change the shape of the cornea during the night. It's advisable to discuss options with your eye doctor in order to determine what the best option is for your needs.
Astigmatism evolves over time, so make sure that you're frequently making appointments to see your eye doctor for a comprehensive exam. Additionally, be sure that your 'back-to-school' list includes a trip to an eye care professional. Most of your child's schooling (and playing) is largely a function of their vision. You can allow your child get the most of his or her year with a thorough eye exam, which will detect any visual abnormalities before they begin to affect academics, athletics, or other activities.