Astigmatism (or astigmia) is a very common eye problem, affecting one person in six. It’s not life-threatening and usually can be treated with corrective lenses (glasses or contacts) or refractive eye surgery. It does tend to worsen with age, as do most medical issues, unfortunately. Drivers need to have 20/40 or better vision with or without corrective lenses in order to pass the state eye exam.
Debunking the Myths
There are a few “everybody knows” myths about this common eye condition.
If I wait, it might get better on its own.
FALSE. Your vision may remain unchanged or worsen but will seldom improve.
Sitting too close to the TV or reading in low light causes it.
FALSE. In most cases, someone is born astigmatic, but an accident, illness or even surgery could be responsible.
Exhaustion or eyestrain is causing my blurry vision.
FALSE. Blurry vision is the primary symptom of astigmia, but it could also be a result of other, perhaps serious, medical issues. Be safe and call Florida Eye for an eye exam.
Only people who are nearsighted (or farsighted) are astigmatic.
FALSE. While someone who is astigmatic could be either nearsighted or farsighted, that’s not always the case.
What is Astigmatism?
Everyone is unique. Some people have perfect vision, but many people have less than perfect vision because their eyes don’t refract or bend light perfectly. The cornea is in the front of the eye, a transparent covering over the iris, pupil and the anterior chamber. The lens and anterior chamber also refract light, but the shape of your cornea greatly influences how clearly you see.
When the cornea isn’t shaped correctly, the light entering the eye doesn’t bend evenly and vision is negatively affected. How greatly vision is affected depends on the shape of the cornea. You might have blurred vision or distant objects could look wavy. Constantly straining to see often causes people to squint and suffer from eyestrain and headaches.
A slight problem could require no immediate treatment but should be checked periodically for changes. For more serious vision difficulties, glasses, contacts or laser eye surgery (LASIK) can greatly improve vision. Routine eye exams can detect this and many other problems.
Although an irregularly shaped cornea is typically responsible for astigmatic vision, there can be other causes.
- Lenticular: The lens is irregularly shaped.
- Myopic: The eye is nearsighted.
- Hyperopic: The eye is farsighted.
- Mixed: The eye is partially nearsighted and partially farsighted because the cornea and possibly the lens are unequally curved. This condition can be successfully treated but is more difficult. Discuss your options at your Florida Eye LASIK consultation.
Vision Problems Can Affect a Child’s Success at School
A U.S. study of more than 2,500 children between the ages of 5-17 found that 28% were astigmatic to a greater or lesser degree. As you can imagine, not being able to read a textbook easily or see the blackboard clearly can really impact a child’s education.
Vision screenings at school typically test for how well a child can see at a distance. This doesn’t rule out other vision difficulties the child may have. .
A child needs many vision skills for effective reading, writing and learning. A child who’s having learning difficulties may say they “hate school,” becoming bored, hyperactive and inattentive. They could be mistakenly diagnosed with ADHD. A yearly comprehensive eye exam could prevent many pediatric eye problems.
Signs of Vision Problems
A few of the signs that could indicate a vision problem include:
- Rubbing or blinking eyes or tilting head
- Not wanting to read, write or perform other activities at close range
- Holding book closer to face than others do
- Shortened attention span
- Poor reading comprehension
- Seeing double
Glasses: Children and many adults find that glasses are all they need to correct their vision. For outdoor wear, have a pair of prescription sunglasses with UV protection.
Contact Lenses: There are several types of contacts used to correct astigmatism. Soft toric contacts are very popular. Rigid gas permeable contact lenses are also an excellent option. Hybrid or specialty contacts are available for those with specific issues.
LASIK: Laser eye surgery is very popular with people over 18 for correcting a number of common eye problems. LASIK is very fast – both eyes can often be done within 15 minutes. Within a day or less, the patient often discovers they can greatly reduce their need for glasses or contacts or give them up completely.
Most people find treatment greatly improves their vision, but everyone’s response is unique. For more information, call Florida Eye Specialists and Cataract Institute.