Around your iris and pupil is your cornea, which is, under usual circumstances, round. As light hits the eye, the cornea's role is to help focus that light, directing it at your retina, right in the rear part of your eye. But what happens when the cornea isn't perfectly spherical? The eye cannot focus the light properly on a single focal point on your retina's surface, and your sight becomes blurred. This is referred to as astigmatism.
Astigmatism is actually not a rare diagnosis, and frequently accompanies other refractive issues that require vision correction. Astigmatism oftentimes appears early in life and often causes eye fatigue, painful headaches and squinting when uncorrected. In kids, it can lead to obstacles in school, particularly when it comes to highly visual skills such as reading or writing. Anyone who works with fine details or at a computer for long lengths may experience more difficulty with astigmatism.
Diagnosis of astigmatism starts with a routine eye exam with an optometrist. Once detected, an automated refraction or a retinoscopy test is performed to calculate the amount of astigmatism. Astigmatism is easily fixed with contact lenses or eyeglasses, or refractive surgery, which alters how that light enters the eye, letting the retina receive the light correctly.
Toric lenses are commonly prescribed for astigmatism because they permit the light to curve more in one direction than another. Standard contact lenses generally move when you close your eyes, even just to blink. With astigmatism, the smallest eye movement can cause blurred vision. After you blink, toric lenses return to the same place on your eye to avoid this problem. You can find toric lenses as soft or rigid varieties, to be chosen depending on what is more comfortable for you.
Astigmatism can also be rectified with laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical alternative that involves wearing hard contact lenses to gradually change the shape of the cornea during the night. It's advisable to discuss your options with your eye doctor in order to determine what the best option might be.
Astigmatism can get better or worse gradually, so make sure that you are frequently making appointments to see your eye doctor for a comprehensive test. Also, make sure that your 'back-to-school' checklist includes taking your kids to an optometrist. The majority of your child's learning (and playing) is largely visual. You can allow your child make the best of his or her school year with a comprehensive eye exam, which will help diagnose any visual abnormalities before they begin to impact schooling, play, or other extra-curricular activities.