If you’ve been experiencing problems such as headache or blurred vision, your first step should be to book an appointment with an optometrist or ophthalmologist for a complete eye exam. There could be any number of reasons you are having issues with your eyes, or in fact, you could go in for a routine eye test without being aware of any issues with your vision. In either event, if your doctor says you have an eye condition called astigmatism, here’s what you need to know.
What are the symptoms?
Astigmatism can give you tired or dry eyes, headache, and blurry vision at certain distances, making it difficult to focus when reading. In more severe cases, the vision is blurry no matter the distance.
Can it be treated?
You will be glad to know that astigmatism is treatable. Your doctor will go over your options with you, but in most cases, astigmatism can be overcome with eyeglasses or contact lenses. If you already wear corrective lenses, you may have your prescription adjusted. For more severe cases, laser surgery may be an option, to reshape the surface of the cornea.
What causes astigmatism?
Putting it simply, astigmatism is when the round lens that forms the surface of the eye, the cornea, is misshaped. A regular cornea is perfectly round, whilst an irregular one is more oval-shaped. When light comes in through this mis-shaped lens, it causes a blurring effect – much like if you were looking though a window made of wavy glass, it’s difficult to get a clear and focused picture.
While all of the exact causes are not known, possible sources of astigmatism may include accidents, injuries, other eye disorders, or it could even be down to genetics. Despite the common misperception, astigmatism is not caused by reading in low light, sitting too close to the television, or looking at a computer screen for too long.
How is astigmatism diagnosed in children?
For most adults, astigmatism is diagnosed by qualified optometrists or ophthalmologists who perform a comprehensive eye examination to assess the problem. In the case of small children, however, getting them to sit for a proper eye exam can be difficult, especially as they may not yet be able to articulate what they see or identify whether it seems irregular. Instead, an ophthalmologist may do a test called a retinoscopy, in which light is shone on the eyes and the doctor can take a visual reading of how the light is reflected on the child’s cornea.
It is believed that most patients with astigmatism were born with it. That is why it’s important to have regular eye checks for children, so potential issues can be spotted and treated from an early age. What is more, many children who underperform in school are found to do so because of undiagnosed problems with their vision, so having tests done before they start school is recommended. Once a proper diagnosis has been made and corrective lenses prescribed, most children show improved concentration, focus, and motor skills.
Be sure to talk to a qualified ophthalmologist or optometrist with any questions.