What is astigmatism and how can it affect you?

A common cause of blurry or distorted vision, astigmatism is a common eye condition affecting almost half of the people in the UK who wear glasses.

What is astigmatism?

Astigmatism is a type of refractive error where the irregular curvature of the eye distorts its ability to focus.

Astigmatism relates specifically to the shape of the cornea – the layer at the front of the eye that helps the eye to focus light to see clearly.

Normally, the cornea is perfectly spherical and evenly curved enabling light entering the eye to focus on one clear point. With astigmatism, this curvature is uneven and not perfectly round; this distorts the light entering the eye directing it to different points, inhibiting the eye’s ability to focus sharply, and causing blurred or distorted vision.

Symptoms of astigmatism

Although astigmatism can also be caused by an eye injury or eye disease changing the shape of your cornea, most people with astigmatism are born with it, but they may be unaware that they have it.

Symptoms of astigmatism may include:

–        Blurry or distorted vision.

–        Squinting, particularly to see things further away.

–        Tiredness.

–        Headaches.

–        Eye strain.

If you have any of these symptoms, you should go for an eye test. The symptoms of astigmatism are easily treated but will worsen over time if they are untreated. Astigmatism in one eye can also cause a lazy eye if left untreated.

Your optometrist will be able to establish if you have astigmatism. A keratometer (or ophthalmometer) can be used by the optometrist to measure the curvature of the cornea’s surface and assess the scope of astigmatism. From this assessment, your optician can prescribe glasses or contact lenses to correct any distortion caused by astigmatism.

Types of astigmatism

Much like myopia (short-sightedness) and hyperopia (farsightedness), astigmatism is a refractive error affecting the eye’s ability to focus on particular distances.

There are three types of astigmatism:

–        Myopic astigmatism causes blurriness of things far away and the effect of short-sightedness.

–        Hyperopic astigmatism causes blurriness of things close up and the effect of farsightedness.

–        Mixed astigmatism is when one meridian (section) of the eye is myopic and the other is hyperopic causing different levels of sighted-ness.

How can astigmatism be treated?

Astigmatism is a refractive error that can usually easily be treated once diagnosed by your optometrist.

Glasses can be prescribed with lenses to correct the distortion caused by astigmatism.

Contact lenses can also be prescribed by your optometrist to correct any refractive errors caused by astigmatism. Toric contact lenses are designed specifically for astigmatism, with different refractive powers vertically and horizontally to correct irregular curvature of the cornea.

Refractive or laser eye surgery can also be used to treat astigmatism by reshaping the cornea.

Keep an eye on your eye health

We recommend you have a routine eye health check every two years to check both your vision and overall eye health, even if you don’t think you have problems with your eyes or vision.

If you have any symptoms of astigmatism or changes to your vision or eyes, check in with us anytime for advice about eye care, or if you have any concerns about the health of your eyes.

Optomeyes has a team of qualified and experienced optometrists and dispensing opticians available to help you with your day-to-day eye health and vision as well as advising on any concerns you may have.

Get in touch today to book an eye test in Lee-On-The-Solent or Wickham with one of our experienced optometrists.

Alternatively, email lee@optomeyes-eyecare.co.uk or wickham@optomeyes-eyecare.co.uk and one of the team will call you back to book your appointment.

Find out more about eye tests at Optomeyes