Around your pupil and iris is your cornea, which is, under usual conditions, spherical. As light enters your eye, the cornea's job is to focus that light, directing it to your retina, right in the back of your eye. But what does it mean if the cornea, or the crystalline lens, is not perfectly spherical? The eye can't focus the light properly on a single focus on your retina, and will blur your vision. This is known as astigmatism.
Astigmatism is a fairly common diagnosis, and mostly comes with other vision issues that require vision correction. Astigmatism can occur at any age and can cause eye fatigue, headaches and the tendency to squint when uncorrected. In kids, it can cause difficulty in the classroom, especially when it comes to reading, or other visual tasks. Anyone who works with fine details or at a computer for extended lengths of time might experience more difficulty with astigmatism.
Diagnosis of astigmatism starts with an eye test with an optometrist. Once detected, refraction, retinoscopy and keratometry tests are performed to measure the amount of astigmatism. Astigmatism is commonly fixed by contact lenses or glasses, or refractive surgery, which changes the flow of light onto the retina to readjust the focal point.
With contacts, the patient is usually prescribed toric lenses, which allow the light to curve more in one direction than another. Regular softcontacts mold to the same shape as the cornea so they will create split focal points rather than one sharp focal point. Toric lenses have different lens powers to compensate for the "football-shaped" corneal curvature to avoid this problem. Rigid contact lenses are a perfect spherical surface, so they also compensate for any corneal distortion.
In some cases, astigmatism can also be corrected using laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical alternative involving wearing rigid lenses to slowly change the shape of the cornea over night. It's advisable to discuss options and alternatives with your optometristto determine what the best choice might be.
A person's astigmatism can get better or worse over time, so make sure that you are frequently visiting your eye doctor for a proper test. Also, make sure that your 'back-to-school' list includes a trip to an eye care professional. Most of your child's learning (and playing) is largely a function of their vision. You'll allow your child make the best of his or her year with a comprehensive eye exam, which will diagnose any visual irregularities before they impact schooling, sports, or other extra-curricular activities. It's important to know that astigmatism is highly treatable, and that the earlier to you seek to treat it, the better off your child will be.