What is Astigmatism and do I have it?
When life gets blurry, adjust your vision. Have you found yourself wondering why your vision is blurred or distorted? Do you also get eyestrain or headaches with this unfocused vision? These may be early signs of astigmatism. If you read on we’ll uncover what astigmatism is and what the main causes are.
It’s not always so evident that you may suffer from astigmatism, it could just be very mild, but here in this article, you’ll find useful tips on how to find out for yourself and the best ways to help correct your blurred vision.
What is Astigmatism and How does astigmatism affect vision?
If your lens and cornea aren’t equally curved when light enters the eye it will not be refracted properly, experts will refer to this as a refractive error. Astigmatism is a common eye refractive error, similar to farsightedness and nearsightedness, which can be easily corrected. It is not an eye health issue, so do not fret.
Astigmatism is an eye condition where the cornea is not perfectly round, so it cannot focus light evenly onto the retina located in the back of the eye. Normal corneas are shaped like a tennis ball, but if you have astigmatism, you have a more rugby ball-shaped cornea.
The retina converts the light we see into messages that are sent through the optic nerve to the brain. However, if you suffer from astigmatism, your vision will be slightly blurred or distorted at all distances due to the refractive error.
The extent of astigmatism will affect the level of blurriness in your vision, some may be more severe than others. Other symptoms, alongside blurred and distorted vision, can also include headaches, eyestrain, and difficulty seeing at night.
If as an adult you begin to experience blurred vision you should have an eye test to check for astigmatism or other visual impairments. It is, however, recommended you have a regular eye check-up at least every 2 years, or more frequently if you suffer from an existing eye problem.
For children, having regular eye tests is best to help detect any early signs of astigmatism as some younger kids may not initially be aware of the visual problem.
What causes Astigmatism?
The main cause of astigmatism is the irregularity of the lens or eye curvature. In some cases, people are born with astigmatism, but why has been a mystery even to the experts. It can also be due to genetics, which may be present at birth, however, only developed after years. Other causes of astigmatism can be induced after eye surgery, an injury, or caused by an eye disease.
Usually, astigmatism can develop alongside other visual impairments such as farsightedness and nearsightedness. There is also a rare condition called Keratoconus when your cornea tends to have more of a cone shape rather than a dome shape. This condition can also cause astigmatism and experts believe that many may get this at birth, but again, are not sure how to explain this phenomenon.
One aspect that has been identified is that infants who are born before their due date are more prone to develop astigmatism compared to those who are born closer to their due date.
Astigmatism conditions usually develop early in life, so children should have an astigmatism test early on to detect if there are any symptoms.
Certain demographics are more likely to experience astigmatism symptoms. For example, Asian and Hispanic populations rank among the most likely.
Different types of Astigmatism
There are 2 main types of Astigmatism:
1. Corneal Astigmatism. This is the most common and is caused by a misshapen cornea.
2. Lenticular Astigmatism. Similar to the previous one but affects the lens instead. Some people can have a well-shaped cornea but still, have lenticular astigmatism.
However, based on the different refractive errors there are other types of astigmatism:
1. Myopic Astigmatism: Nearsightedness combined with astigmatism happens when both curves are fixated in front of the retina.
2. Hyperopic Astigmatism: Farsightedness and astigmatism in the eye where both curves are fixated behind the retina.
3. Mixed Astigmatism: This happens when curves are both near and far-sighted.
Astigmatism can also be identified as regular or irregular. Regular astigmatism is when the curves are at 90 degrees, so perpendicular. Irregular astigmatism instead doesn’t have the curves at 90 degrees, an example of this can be Keratoconus.
Can I do an astigmatism test?
One way to check for astigmatism is to take a trip to your local optician for an eye test. The optician can identify whether or not you have astigmatism and what type of correction you may need.
There are 3 types of tests an eye doctor can perform to check for astigmatism:
1. Refraction: When during an eye test you look at an eye chart which helps determine if you have refractive errors, like astigmatism. This particular test helps to see how your eyes can bend light.
2. Keratometry: This will help measure the cornea’s curvature and see how much astigmatism you have. A useful test if you want to use contact lenses.
3. Corneal topography: This can give you a detailed map and measurement of the cornea and can help detect irregular astigmatism.
Nonetheless, you can also do a self-test online and check for signs of astigmatism.
There are 2 easy ways to do this. These are basic astigmatism tests that can be done from the comfort of your own home. They can help you then decide whether you need to consult an eye specialist to get a more detailed evaluation of your vision needs. If you already wear glasses or contact lenses, you can take these tests while wearing either.
The line test
1. Position yourself 2-10 feet away from the screen
2. Start by closing one eye and looking carefully at the lines
3. Repeat this with both eyes
If the lines appear to be the same colour and thickness, likely, you may not have astigmatism. However, if there are differences, your vision is likely blurred, and you may have astigmatism. You should consult your eye specialist at your earliest convenience.
The dial test
1. Position yourself 2-10 feet away from the screen.
2. Start by closing one eye and looking carefully at the lines.
3. Repeat this with both eyes.
If the lines appear similarly dark, likely, you may not have astigmatism. However, if one or more lines appear darker than the rest, you may have astigmatism. You should consult your eye specialist at your earliest convenience.
How to correct astigmatism?
For almost all types of astigmatism, glasses and contact lenses can help correct your blurred or distorted vision. In the case where your astigmatism is very very mild, you may actually not need any glasses or contacts at all.
There is also surgery to help correct astigmatism known as refractive surgery. This type of operation helps reshape your cornea and is permanent. Other common surgeries are:
• LASIK. Laser eye surgery can also be used to help correct myopia or hyperopia
• PRK. Photorefractive keratectomy is another laser eye correction
• RK. Radial keratotomy is a procedure that also helps correct myopia
In any case, you should consult an optician and eye doctor before making any decisions on what type of correction you may need for astigmatism.
Glasses and contact lenses for astigmatism
As we know there are various types of lens materials that can be used to help correct visual impairments. Some of the most used materials for lenses are:
• Plastic (standard)
The type of lens material will depend on the severity of astigmatism and usually the higher it is, the thinner your lenses should be, like high-index lenses. High-index is more expensive but is lightweight and provides high visual clarity.
If you have mild astigmatism and your prescription is lower than 1.00, plastic lenses can be a good choice and are also more affordable than other materials. For moderate or more severe astigmatism you may consider investing a little more money in polycarbonate, Trivex, or even high-index lenses.
Lens coatings are also important to consider when purchasing a pair of glasses for astigmatism. You want to make sure you have the best protection for both your eyes and glasses. Anti-reflective coatings are great in eliminating glare and distractions caused by reflections. Anti-scratch coatings help prevent major lens damages and help keep them looking as new as possible.
Do you play sports and worry that your astigmatism will cause blurry vision? Even if you are an active person, you will find the right prescription sports glasses that can help correct astigmatism. Usually, your prescription will also indicate the values for your astigmatism so all you’ll have to do is pick the right pair of sports glasses. Wraparound frames, for example, are a great fit if you enjoy sports and want full eye protection and visibility, these frames can be combined with many various types of lenses as well.
There are various uses for contact lenses, whether you wear them occasionally, daily, or monthly. The types of contacts you can use to help correct astigmatism are:
• Soft contact lenses that can be used if you have mild astigmatism. Known for the soft and flexible material that can be divided into daily disposables, weekly/monthly disposables, and extended wear. For this type, you’d be given toric contacts to help correct your astigmatism.
• Hard contacts can also be used to help correct astigmatism. The type of hard contacts used are called RGP (rigid gas permeable) and initially are not as comfortable as soft contacts. Many do find that RGP contacts allow for a clearer vision and are good for correcting irregular astigmatism like Keratoconus.
• There are also hybrid contacts you can use for astigmatism which have a hard centre (RGP) and softer edges. Compared to RGP contacts, hybrid ones are a little clearer but also a bit more expensive and usually custom-made for you.
Ah, these eyes! What we do to take extra care of them includes finding the best correction for refractive errors and that blurry vision.
So, what is astigmatism? Essentially your eyes look more like an egg rather than a round ball. This oval shape is what causes blurry and distorted vision. If you begin to experience blurred or distorted vision, alongside eyestrain and headaches, it may be an early sign of astigmatism.
Although astigmatism isn’t a serious eye health issue, you should consult an optician or do a self-test to quickly identify it. There’s really no way to prevent astigmatism but there are various ways to help correct it.
With SmartBuyGlasses rest assured that you’ll find the best correction for your astigmatism with a pair of prescription glasses or contact lenses. If you are interested in learning more about astigmatism then have a look at our Optical Center.
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