What You Should Know About Astigmatism

By Guest Blogger Hillary Rubin

Many patients get scared when they are at the eye doctor and a big, scary sounding word comes out of the doctor’s mouth. That word: astigmatism. However, when a patient asks the doctor “what does that mean? What is an astigmatism?” the doctor tends to ignore the question or brush them off by telling them “it’s not a big deal, and it’s totally normal. Don’t worry about it! A lot of people have it!”

Image: sxc.hu

Image: sxc.hu

This may have happened to you and you’re not the only one. Many people turn to the internet to figure out what an astigmatism actually is. However, there’s a lot of articles explaining, in medical terms, what astigmatism means. Most people don’t understand “medical speak,” so here is a simple guide to understanding what it actually means when you’re doctor says “astigmatism.”

Astigmatism is easily treatable. It’s an eye condition that stems from an imperfection in the curve of your eye. It happens when the cornea and/or the lens has a somewhat different surface curve going in one direction than it does in the other direction. Some areas may be steeper or flatter. Corneal astigmatism happens when your cornea is a distorted shape and havelenticular astigmatism occurs if your lens is distorted. Various symptoms include: blurred vision (vertical, horizontal, or with diagonal lines); eye fatigue and strain; distortion in your line of vision; and headaches can also occur.

The lens and the cornea are the two parts that focus images, if neither have a smooth and even curve the rays of light can’t refract properly. That creates a blurred image – or a refractive error and can occur in conjunction with other types of refractive errors. If you have “nearsighted (myopia) astigmatism” then your eye is longer than normal or your cornea is too curved. Light will focus in front of your retina as opposed to your retina- that will make distant objects blurry. “Farsighted (hyperopia) astigmatism” happens when your eye is shorter than normal or your cornea is not curved enough. Light will focus behind your eye and make objects nearby blurry. Eye diseases, eye injuries, or eye surgeries that went very wrong can also cause astigmatism.

While there is no cure for astigmatism, treatments are available. When you treat astigmatism, you are treating the uneven curvature that is causing your vision to blur. Corrective lenses such as contact lenses or prescription eyeglasses counteract the curvatures of your cornea and can treat astigmatism. Be sure to ask your eye doctor which contact lenses or eyeglasses would be best for your form of astigmatism.

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