What is an Eye Astigmatism?

N. Madison
N. Madison

Eye astigmatism is a common condition that affects the vision. When a person has an eye astigmatism, his cornea is irregularly curved and the condition is called a refractive error. Most people have some level of astigmatism, and it often requires no treatment. When there is a high amount of curvature, however, treatment is necessary.

In astigmatism, the eye focuses images on more than one point rather than the single point of normal vision.
In astigmatism, the eye focuses images on more than one point rather than the single point of normal vision.

Astigmatism can affect people at any age. It may even go undetected at first and then be discovered during a routine eye exam. This is because it can grow worse with time. Frequently, school-age children have astigmatism that isn't detected right away. It may be discovered as it worsens.

Glasses can often help correct an astigmatism.
Glasses can often help correct an astigmatism.

To understand how eye astigmatism works, it helps to consider the normal shape of the eye. Usually, an eye is shaped like a sphere. With this shape, the eye refracts light evenly, and clear vision is the result. A person with astigmatism, however, is more likely to have a football-shaped eye. With this shape, entering light is unevenly refracted, and the vision is obstructed.

Yearly visits with an optometrist are required to check levels of eye astigmatism.
Yearly visits with an optometrist are required to check levels of eye astigmatism.

To a person with eye astigmatism, objects may appear blurry, no matter how close or far away they are. A person with this condition may experience headaches and eyestrain as well. An eye examination can reveal whether or not a person has eye astigmatism. Often, the condition is found along with other types of vision problems. For example, people with eye astigmatism may also be nearsighted or farsighted.

Contact lenses for astigmatism can be comfortable, but need proper maintenance.
Contact lenses for astigmatism can be comfortable, but need proper maintenance.

A person's level of eye astigmatism can increase over time. For this reason, yearly eye exams by an optometrist or ophthalmologist are required. Treatment may vary, depending on the amount of astigmatism a person has. A person with only a slightly irregular corneal curvature may not even need corrective lenses. However, a person with a significant amount of astigmatism will likely need corrective lenses, which can be either glasses or contact lenses.

An eye exam should be performed annually.
An eye exam should be performed annually.

A person with this visual condition will need special corrective lenses that are called toric lenses; they bend light more in one particular direction, correcting astigmatism. Some people may opt for refractive surgery instead of corrective lenses. Such surgery can alter the shape of a person's cornea, fixing eye astigmatism permanently. There are several types of refractive surgery that may help a person with this condition, including laser eye surgery. Each person may be better suited to a different type of eye surgery, and an optometrist or ophthalmologist is qualified to evaluate a patient and suggest one.

Laser eye surgery is a commonly used to treat astigmatisms.
Laser eye surgery is a commonly used to treat astigmatisms.
An eye astigmatism can be accompanied by farsightedness, making it difficult for a person to focus on close objects.
An eye astigmatism can be accompanied by farsightedness, making it difficult for a person to focus on close objects.
N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments

FernValley

@mitchell14- I have astigmatism contacts and haven't had any problems with them. I was also told, though, that many people still aren't aware of them. It's even possible to get things like laser eye surgery for astigmatism, although my eye doctor doesn't recommend that sort of surgery in general.

Instead, a safer alternative is getting corrective lenses implanted into your eye. I've thought about doing it, though I may wait a few years; it is more expensive than laser surgery, but less risky and is often much longer lasting.

vogueknit17

People with really strong prescriptions, especially if they have astigmatism or near sightedness, can also be at risk of their retina actually detaching, which could be permanent damage if they don't seek help right away. My doctor told me about it years ago, and it's important to see an eye doctor within 24 hours if you think it's detached.

mitchell14

I have astigmatism and am also near-sighted. This means I have a pretty costly eye prescription, but I can still use contact lenses, which not everyone realizes. Astigmatism treatment is really much better now than it used to be, even a few decades ago.

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