Astigmatism 101

Paper with words astigmatism, glasses and container for lenses. Selective focus.
Have you or someone you know recently been diagnosed with astigmatism by an optometrist in Lancaster, PA? You probably have a lot of questions or concerns about this vision condition. The first of which usually is, “What is astigmatism?”

While you may think astigmatism is an ailment or illness, it’s not. Astigmatism is a prevalent eye condition that’s simply a “refractive error.”

When you have astigmatism, it means there is a slight imperfection in the curvature of the cornea of your eye. In other words, it isn’t perfectly round. While a perfectly curved cornea will reflect light rays onto the retina at the back of the eye, astigmatism causes these light rays to refract improperly, resulting in blurred or distorted vision.

In the following article, we’ll go over what causes astigmatism, how it’s diagnosed, and how to treat it. But above all else, if you’re having vision problems and suspect astigmatism—please schedule an eye exam with your eye doctor today!

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What Causes Astigmatism?

Unfortunately, the exact origins of astigmatism are still mostly unknown, yet it’s evident that there’s a connection between astigmatism and other eye-related conditions. Astigmatism generally progresses with age and is frequently observed before the development of cataracts. It’s also possible to inherit astigmatism, suggesting a genetic component. Astigmatism may also result from eye surgery or eye trauma, like an eye injury related to playing sports. When discussing astigmatism, it’s crucial to understand its various forms.

Types of Astigmatism

During your eye exam, your eye doctor will look for three common types of astigmatism.

Regular Corneal Astigmatism: This is the most commonly encountered form, often inherited, where the cornea has an oval shape instead of being perfectly round. This shape alteration affects how light enters the eye, leading to vision distortion.

Irregular Corneal Astigmatism can emerge due to several factors, including:

  • Eye injuries that can alter the cornea’s shape.
  • Post-operative changes following certain eye surgeries.
  • Keratoconus is a less common but significant condition where the cornea progressively thins and bulges outwards, forming a cone-like shape. In advanced cases, keratoconus may necessitate corneal transplant surgery to correct the severe astigmatism it causes.

Lenticular Astigmatism arises from irregularities in the lens inside the eye rather than the cornea. This astigmatism affects how the lens directs light onto the retina, potentially causing similar visual distortions.

Understanding these types of astigmatism is vital for diagnosing and choosing the appropriate treatment path, whether it involves corrective lenses, contact lenses, or possibly surgery, depending on the astigmatism’s severity and nature.

How Is Astigmatism Diagnosed?

You’ll need to see your optometrist or ophthalmologist to receive a proper diagnosis. During a comprehensive eye exam, they’ll check your visual acuity. Your eye specialist will meticulously examine your cornea and lens’s surface, shape, and size. This process is essential because astigmatism often arises from irregularities in the cornea or lens, affecting how light rays are focused on the retina.

Moreover, a refraction test will likely be performed. This test is instrumental in determining how well your eyes can focus light, which is a critical factor in identifying the presence and extent of astigmatism. Through these detailed assessments, your eye care provider can determine the degree of your astigmatism, laying the groundwork for developing an effective treatment plan to correct your vision.

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What Are Your Treatment Options?

Despite its somewhat intimidating name, astigmatism is a common condition, and it can be successfully treated using corrective lenses or surgical intervention.

EYEGLASSES

Eyeglasses remain the most common corrective measure for people with astigmatism. These may be single-focus or progressive lenses that address multiple distance viewing issues in presbyopia cases.

CONTACT LENSES

Contact lenses used to correct astigmatism are called “toric” lenses. Contact lenses have an advantage over glasses because they can physically correct the cornea’s shape, provided they are gas-permeable or rigid lenses.

You can use soft disposable contact lenses if you have mild or regular astigmatism. Still, they’re not always as effective because they adjust to the cornea’s shape instead of reshaping them. So, for higher levels or irregular astigmatism, hard RGP lenses or scleral lenses might be necessary.

REFRACTIVE LASER SURGERY

Surgical intervention from laser treatments, such as LASIK or PRK, are procedures that reshape the cornea by removing the inner tissue. Laser surgery is a permanent solution that can fully correct moderate to severe astigmatism. A doctor may recommend these procedures for patients over the age of 20 whose corrective eyewear is insufficient in treating their astigmatism or who dislike wearing their eyeglasses or contacts.

What’s the Difference Between Astigmatism, Myopia, and Hyperopia?

Astigmatism is caused by an irregularly shaped cornea or lens, leading to distorted or blurred vision at any distance. Myopia (nearsightedness) is when distant objects appear blurry because the eye shape focuses images in front of the retina. Hyperopia (farsightedness) is when close objects are blurry because the eye shape focuses images behind the retina. If you suspect any of these vision issues, your most crucial move is to see an optometrist in Lancaster, PA, for an eye exam!

What Are My Next Steps If I Have Vision Problems and Suspect Astigmatism?

If you think you have any type of vision problem, including astigmatism, don’t hesitate to have a comprehensive eye evaluation performed by an optometrist in Lancaster, PA. Here at Campus Eye Center, we are home to some of the best eye doctors in the region!

Get in touch to schedule an eye exam with Campus Eye Center today. Our doctors can help you detect and treat your astigmatism or other eye diseases so you can live better by seeing better.

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