Do you find yourself squinting in order to see better? Do the street lights at night seem to “leak” when you are driving? Then you may be experiencing some of the symptoms that come with astigmatism! Astigmatism is a very common refractive error that occurs in about 1 and 3 people in the United States alone. Keep reading to learn about how astigmatism occurs, common symptoms, and ways it can be treated by your eye doctor.
What Is Astigmatism
Astigmatism is a refractive error caused by your cornea or lens being irregularly curved. Normally, the cornea and lens are rounded and evenly curved like a basketball. This allows for light to be focused onto a single point on the retina which results in clear vision. When there is an uneven egg-shaped curve present, this results in multiple focal points for light to focus on which creates blurry vision. Astigmatism is typically inherited, although it can develop after trauma to the eye such as an injury, disease, or surgery.
Signs and Symptoms
Many of the signs of astigmatism come with the territory of having blurry vision in general. Possessing one or all of these symptoms will not specifically mean astigmatism is the case. It is best to visit an eye doctor to obtain a clear diagnosis. People who have astigmatism generally experience blurry visions/ areas of distorted vision, having to squint to see clearer, eyestrain, headaches and eye discomfort. Many people also will notice that street lights at night will appear to be “leaking” into rays, instead of being clear defined points. If you are noticing any of these symptoms, it may be worth scheduling an eye exam to determine if astigmatism is the cause.
As discussed previously, your eye doctor is the only one who can properly diagnose you with astigmatism. They will run you through a full eye exam to determine how light focuses onto your retina, and then determine what type of lenses will best correct your vision. The examination can include tests that measure visual acuity, keratometry or topography, and refraction.
Measuring visual acuity consists of the typical exam you think of when visiting your eye doctor where you will be asked to read letters on a distance chart. This test determines the clarity and sharpness of your vision. The “perfect” visual acuity is 20/20, which means you would have to stand 20 feet away to read letters that typically can be seen from 20 feet. If your visual acuity is 20/30, it would mean you would have to be 20 feet away to read letters that can normally be read at 30 feet.
These tests are done to determine the shape of your cornea, which can help reveal if it has round or egg shaped curvature resulting in astigmatism. A keratometer is a tool that is used to measure the exact curvature of the cornea. The tool works by focusing a circle of light onto your cornea and measuring it’s reflection. A corneal topographer can also be used to create a contour map of the cornea to give a more detailed assessment.
We have discussed how astigmatism is categorized as a refractive error, which is why this test is essential in creating a diagnosis. A refraction test determines how your eye focuses light. Your eye doctor will place a device called a phoropter in front of your eye which will present different strengths of lenses in front of you as you attempt to read more series of letters at a distance. They will also use either a computerized or handheld refractor, which will shine a light into your eyes to determine the amount of light that is bouncing off of your retina, resulting in a refractive score. These types of tests help determine what the best corrective option is going forward.
There are a few different treatment options that can be recommended by your eye doctor to help remedy your astigmatism. The most common method of treatment is eyeglasses, these would contain a rounded lens to help compensate for the irregular shape in your eye’s cornea or lens. The lenses in the eyeglasses may also contain additional corrective power to improve your visual acuity. Contact lenses are also an option, but they do require extra cleaning and care than eyeglasses. Some individuals may also choose to undergo LASIK surgery to help reshape their cornea and result in clear vision.
If you feel you have astigmatism, the experienced eye doctors at Medical Arts Eye Clinic & Optical are dedicated to help you diagnose and treat the problem with the best option for you! We can also provide your corrective lenses and treatments on site with our wide selection of eyeglasses along with contact lens exams. It is our mission to provide you with the utmost quality is optical care. To book an appointment, call 334-821-3838 today!