All You Need to Know About Astigmatism

Optometry concept - pretty, young female patient having her eyes

Astigmatism is an extremely common eye condition, affecting about one in every three Americans, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. It’s also said to be one of the most misunderstood vision problems. Even the name is often confused, with many people referring to it as having “a stigmatism,” rather than “an astigmatism.”

Some other interesting stats you can throw out come from a study conducted by the Ohio State University School of Optometry. Researchers found that 37 percent of Hispanic children have an astigmatism while 34 percent of Asian children, 26 percent of white children and 20 percent of African-American children have it. Why it affects certain ethnicities more than others is still unknown.

No matter what the cause, as the problem begins early in life, scheduling an eye exam is important. How many times have you heard a story about a child failing miserably at school only to learn that it was caused by not being able to see the board?

The good news is that no matter what your age, if you discover you have an astigmatism, it can be corrected with glasses, contacts or even laser surgery.

What Is an Astigmatism Exactly?

Astigmatism, like nearsightedness and farsightedness, is a refractive error and not an eye disease or health issue. The problem is that the eye does not focus light evenly on the retina in order to produce clear vision. Instead, multiple focus points occur either behind or in front of the retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue found at the back of the eye.

Furthermore, the cornea of a normal eye is curved similar to a basketball with the same degree of roundness all the way around. But, an eye with astigmatism has a cornea that looks more like a football. Some areas of the cornea may be more rounded or steeper than other areas, causing images to appear blurry.

Some of the symptoms of astigmatism include eyestrain, squinting, blurred vision at any distance, headaches and difficulty driving at night.

Myopic Astigmatism

There are three main types of astigmatism. With myopic astigmatism, one or both of the eye’s principal meridians are nearsighted. A meridian is a line that bisects a circle or a curve that bisects a sphere, like an eyeball.

Refractive surgery such as LASIK surgery can correct a myopic astigmatism, although you don’t need to resort to this expensive procedure. While it was previously considered difficult to correct the problem with contact lenses, these days there are many contact lenses available such as Acuvue Oasys for Astigmatism. Eyeglasses also can help to correct myopic astigmatism, so if you’re going for that sexy nerd look, the right pair can help you achieve it.

Hyperopic Astigmatism

With this condition, one or both principal meridians of the eye are farsighted. Hyperopic astigmatism can be treated in a variety of ways, but is most commonly treated with contact lenses or reading glasses. Surgical options are also available, but according to some experts it requires customized treatment, says Healio.

At a 2011 Italian Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery meeting, Ugo Cimberle noted that for successful laser treatment of hyperopic astigmatism, customized treatment using specific laser software is mandatory. Before making the decision to undergo this type of treatment, it’s important to find a physician that is highly experienced in correcting this particular condition.

Mixed Astigmatism

Mixed astigmatism is just what it sounds like: one principal meridian is nearsighted while the other is farsighted.

Treating this condition with LASIK is often successful, although it is less predictable than a simple nearsighted astigmatism. As the surgery is more challenging, it’s important to do plenty of research in order to make the best decision. Eyeglasses or contact lenses also are effective treatment methods.

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