Focusing on Astigmatism
Surrounding your iris and pupil is your cornea, which is, under usual circumstances, spherical. When light enters the eye from all angles, the cornea's job is to project that light, aiming it to your retina, right in the rear part of your eye. But what does it mean when the cornea is not perfectly spherical? The eye can't project the light properly on one focus on your retina's surface, and will cause your vision to be blurred. Such a condition is known as astigmatism.
Astigmatism is a fairly common diagnosis, and mostly accompanies other refractive problems that require vision correction. Astigmatism oftentimes appears during childhood and often causes eye strain, painful headaches and the tendency to squint when left untreated. With children, it can cause obstacles in the classroom, often when it comes to reading or other visual tasks. People who work with particularly small or detailed objects or at a computer monitor for extended lengths of time may find that the condition can be a problem.
Astigmatism is detected in a routine eye test with an eye care professional and then properly diagnosed with an automated refraction or a retinoscopy exam, which measures the severity of astigmatism. The condition is commonly tended to by contact lenses or glasses, for those who prefer a non-invasive procedure, or refractive surgery, which alters the flow of light onto the retina to readjust the focal point.
Toric lenses are commonly prescribed for astigmatism because they allow the light to curve more in one direction than another. Standard contacts have a tendency to move each time you close your eyes, even just to blink. But with astigmatism, the slightest eye movement can completely blur your sight. Toric lenses return to the same position right after you blink. You can find toric lenses in soft or rigid lenses.
In some cases, astigmatism can also be fixed by laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical alternative that involves wearing special rigid contacts to slowly reshape the cornea over night. It's advisable to explore your options with your eye doctor in order to determine what your best option might be.
For help explaining astigmatism to children, show them a circular teaspoon and an oval teaspoon. In the round one, their reflection appears proportionate. In the oval spoon, they will be skewed. And this is what astigmatism means for your eye; those affected end up seeing everything stretched out a bit.
Astigmatism changes over time, so make sure that you're periodically making appointments to see your eye care professional for a proper exam. Also, make sure that your 'back-to-school' list includes taking your kids to an optometrist. Most of your child's schooling (and playing) is largely a function of their vision. You'll help your child get the most of his or her schooling with a thorough eye exam, which will help pick up any visual irregularities before they impact academics, sports, or other activities.