Astigmatism is a fairly common condition that causes blurred or unclear vision, streaks through lights or double vision. It is not a disease, but rather the result of an irregular shape to the front surface of the eye. In astigmatism, there is a deviation of the natural spherical curvature of the eye. Simply put, the front of the eye is shaped more like a football instead of a basketball.
Astigmatism can accompany other vision conditions such as nearsightedness and farsightedness, all of which are referred to as “refractive errors” because they affect the eye’s ability to bend or “refract” light. An irregularly shaped cornea prevents light from focusing properly on the retina, which results in a refractive error in vision. Typically, when light enters the eye it focuses or refracts evenly, resulting in clear vision. With significant astigmatism, the light is refracted more in one direction than the other, causing objects at any distance to appear blurry.
What are the symptoms of astigmatism?
Most people have some degree of astigmatism. Minor astigmatism may not affect a person’s vision at all and will likely not require any treatment. However, a more significant astigmatism results in distorted or blurred vision. Other symptoms include headaches, fatigue, excessing squinting, and eyestrain.
If you feel you may have astigmatism, it is important to discuss this with your family eye doctor.
What causes astigmatism?
Astigmatism is often present at birth and can be considered hereditary. In some cases, astigmatism can result from corneal diseases, surgery, or eye injuries that cause scaring of the cornea.
How is astigmatism treated?
Astigmatism is generally treated with either eye glasses or contact lenses. Another method for reducing astigmatism is by changing the shape of the cornea through refractive eye surgery. If you elect to have your astigmatism reduced during cataract surgery, Drs. Walton and Shultz will either correct the shape of your cornea with precisely placed micro-incisions or use a special lens implant (Toric) that is customized for your eye. Toric lenses have greater light bending power in one direction over the other, thus reducing astigmatism.
This procedure is called Astigmatism Reduction Surgery (ARS) and Eye Specialists of Indiana offers it as an elective supplement to cataract surgery. Although it is generally impossible to completely eliminate astigmatism, it can be reduced. Following Astigmatism Reduction Surgery, patients can typically expect improved visual clarity and thinner glasses with lower prescription strength.