Astigmatism is a common refractive error (glasses need) and is often associated with other refractive errors such as myopia, hyperopia and presbyopia. Astigmatism is not a disease process and we all have it in varying amounts.
Signs and Symptoms of Astigmatism
Patients with mild astigmatism may not experience any symptoms at all. Patients with higher amounts of astigmatism often complain of distance and near blur, poor night driving, squinting, and halos around lights. These symptoms often get worse with age. Some children may also have enough astigmatism to cause a lazy eye to develop.
What Cause Astigmatism?
The cornea, which is the clear covering of the front of the eye, is responsible for bending light through the pupil. Ideally, the cornea should be shaped like a nice round slice off of a basketball. However, no cornea is perfectly round. Every cornea has some degree of football shaped to it resulting in different curvatures and images in the horizontal and vertical meridians. The difference between the two curvatures is the amount of astigmatism.
How is Astigmatism Diagnosed?
Astigmatism is diagnosed at a routine eye examination through a process called refraction in which your doctor will show you several different lens combinations in an attempt to compensate for the astigmatism and give you the best vision possible. Also the cornea will be measured with a machine called a keratometer to determine the amount of astigmatism on the cornea.
How is Astigmatism Treated?
Treatment for astigmatism is proportional to the amount of astigmatism present and the level of patient complaint. If there are no complaints, no glasses are recommended. If the patient is a child with a higher amount of astigmatism, glasses are often prescribed full-time to prevent a lazy eye from developing. Some patients with lower amounts of astigmatism may use glasses just to drive or read. Patients with high amounts of astigmatism and who wear glasses full time often move into contact lenses and even LASIK surgery in some cases. Wearing glasses or contact lenses does not change a curvature of the front of the eye. Hence, wearing glasses does not improve or worsen your prescription, but rather the glasses just compensate for the refractive error.
What Steps Should I Take If I Think I Have Astigmatism?
We recommend making an appointment to see Dr. Reinders for an eye examination. He has 22 of years of experience treating patients with astigmatism and other related conditions. The sooner you can check your eyes, the better. All doctors agree that waiting and hoping it will get better is not a prescription for success.