What Is An Astigmatism?

Stigmatism might be a word that you've heard quite a few times. Especially if you've been to the opticians a lot. It's quite a common and non-serious condition, that is treatable should it be causing you problems. You can have astigmatism in both eyes or just one eye.

Astigmatism happens when the front surface of the eye known as the cornea, or the lens inside the eye, has miss-matched curves. Essentially, instead of having a perfectly round eye surface shape your eye surface is shaped like a rugby ball which can cause blurred vision at distances.

Astigmatism is often present when you are born and may occur with other conditions such as near-sightedness or farsightedness. Most of the time surgery is not needed as there are no major symptoms. In fact, a lot of people don't know they have astigmatism until they go to the optician for an eye test.

The eye has two structured with curved services that bend to reflect light onto the retina two services are the cornea which is the clear front surface of the eye and then the lens is a clear structure inside the eye that changes shape to help the eye focus on objects.

What are the symptoms of astigmatism?

Some symptoms may include having blurry vision, you can also have eye strain or discomfort at times. You may experience headaches, difficulty with night vision and may find yourself squinting to see or read things more easily.

In addition to this, there may also be times when you have trouble telling the difference between certain letters with similar shapes. For example, at first glance or without glasses you may not be able to tell the difference between letters such as ‘O’ and ‘D’. You might also experience light refraction in a different way from other people.

If one of the two surfaces are oval shaped rather than perfectly round, this means that the light rays aren't being bent the same. So, two different images from these two surfaces can overlap or combine to result in blurred vision. This is a type of refractive error due to light not travelling through the eye in the same way as the curves of each surface don't match up.

If you're near-sighted you may see distant objects as blurry, which occurs because the light is in front of the retina rather than precisely on the retina. If you are farsighted then light never comes to a focus at the back of the eye which makes nearby objects seem blurry instead.

How do I treat astigmatism?

There are several ways to treat astigmatism. The first option is to use glasses, this is also the cheapest and easiest way. If you prefer contact lenses you can also choose to use those in place of glasses to correct your astigmatism.

Whilst astigmatism generally doesn't cause many side effects, if you are finding it particularly difficult you can choose to have laser eye or lens surgery. This of course comes with more risks, but it is more permanent – please note this option is only recommended if you have more severe vision problems.

As with most eye conditions astigmatism can get worse over time. The main reason for this is that astigmatism can change angle and without glasses or contact lenses to correct it – it can worsen. Particularly as you're squinting more. However, generally, eyesight does tend to get worse as you age and therefore this condition can be expected to change a little bit and become worse over time. Using glasses and keeping your eyes healthy through taking supplements alongside a healthy diet, as well as cutting out bad habits for your eyes, can help slow down the worsening of conditions such as astigmatism.