The lesser-known cousin of nearsightedness and farsightedness could be responsible for your vision problems.
While it might not be as well-known as nearsightedness (myopia) and farsightedness (hyperopia), astigmatism is a similarly common vision problem. Whether you have already been diagnosed with astigmatism yourself or are worried you may be exhibiting symptoms, here’s what you should know in order to seek effective treatment and get started down the path to seeing clearly.
What Is Astigmatism?
Like other refractive errors, astigmatism is caused by an asymmetrical cornea, the transparent surface at the front of the eye that’s responsible for refracting light. Because of its irregular shape, the cornea bends light incorrectly as it travels through the eye, resulting in blurry or distorted vision. Frequently accompanied by nearsightedness or farsightedness, it can affect either eye or both of them simultaneously.
Astigmatism is very common. In fact, many patients unwittingly suffer from it for years, since mild to moderate cases may have little initial effects on a patient’s vision. While it becomes more common with age, studies have found that as many as 28% of children between the ages of 5 and 17 have some degree of astigmatism. It’s most often seen in Hispanic and Asian Americans, but it’s common among other demographics, as well.
Most optometrists test their patients for astigmatism during a standard eye exam. During your appointment, your doctor will evaluate your eyes’ ability to focus light on the retina, as well as their ability to see clearly at a distance and quickly change focus. Since astigmatism might not result in noticeable symptoms at first, regular eye exams are critical for prompt diagnosis and treatment.
Like nearsightedness and farsightedness, astigmatism can be effectively treated with prescription glasses or contacts with an additional corrective lens power. In recent years, however, LASIK has become an increasingly popular alternative to these traditional solutions, providing permanent improvements to vision with none of the inconveniences of glasses or contacts. By reshaping the cornea with a laser, an optical surgeon can directly repair the flaw responsible for astigmatism and eliminate astigmatism altogether, making it an ideal choice for any patient.
If you’d like to learn more about your future without astigmatism, the Swagel Wootton Eye Institute is here to help — schedule a consultation with one of our eye care experts today!