A relatively common eye condition, astigmatism can be treated using specific lenses. Though the name might sound severe, astigmatism is still fairly minor. However, if you’re unsure about what it is, this guide should help.
What is astigmatism?
Astigmatism occurs when the cornea or lens isn’t a perfectly curved shape, and leads to both blurred and distorted vision (It’s quite common in people who wear glasses). It typically occurs alongside other ‘refractive errors’ such as:
Short-sightedness (known as myopia) and Long-sightedness (hypermetropia).
Is it dangerous?
Astigmatism isn’t a lethal condition, but if it isn’t treated it can cause discomfort for the sufferer through headaches, eye strain and fatigue, particularly after working on tasks such as reading or using a computer for long periods of time.
What causes astigmatism?
Astigmatism is the result of an irregular-shaped cornea (the transparent layer of tissue on the front of the eye). In normal cases, the cornea is spherical – a bit like the surface of a football – but astigmatism causes an irregular curve (more like a rugby ball).
The result of this is that light rays entering the eye aren’t focused perfectly, resulting in a blurred image.
Typically, astigmatism is present at birth. On some occasions, though, it can develop after an eye injury or as a result of complication during eye surgery. It can also be the result of keratoconus and keratoglobus, eye conditions that can distort the cornea, causing it to bulge.
Types of astigmatism
There are two main types of astigmatism – regular and irregular:
- Regular astigmatism is where the cornea curves more towards one direction than the other – this condition can usually be corrected using glasses or contact lenses.
- Irregular astigmatism is where the curvature of the cornea isn’t even across the eye; usually meaning the curve is in a single direction. Irregular astigmatism is typically more common when eye injuries occur and the cornea is scarred. This can also be corrected with contact lenses but not with glasses.
Get it checked
It’s important to get your eyes checked regularly in order to have astigmatism diagnosed – on some occasions it can go undiagnosed for years, resulting in a greatly reduced ability to read and concentrate.
How to treat astigmatism
Often, astigmatism symptoms are so mild that they don’t even need to be treated, but if they do require treatment, there are a few different options:
These corrective lenses compensate for the irregular shape of the cornea so that any incoming light passing through the lens is properly focused onto the retina (the light sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye).
There are a number of effective models for sale via Eyesbright’s prescription contact lens partner, and you can find them here.
Laser eye surgery is another option, but it’s usually considered somewhat drastic for what’s still a relatively mild condition. Note: Eye surgery is not available on the NHS.