If you’re someone with astigmatism, you’ll know that the world around you can look blurry. You may not even be able to see much because of your astigmatism. Like other refractive errors, you can treat astigmatism and see the world clearly again!
What is astigmatism?
You may not realize it, but most people have at least a slight degree of astigmatism. If you have a slight astigmatism, treatment is not usually necessary. Astigmatism occurs most often when the cornea is irregularly shaped.
But you can also have astigmatism if your lens is not shaped correctly as well. Astigmatism, myopia, and hyperopia are refractive errors.
Refractive errors happen when light does not refract as it should. In an eye that’s shaped as it should be, light refracts on the retina.
But in an eye with astigmatism, the light instead refracts at many points. As a result, someone with astigmatism may suffer from blurry or distorted vision.
People with astigmatism may complain of headaches or eye pain when looking at a distance.
It’s also very common for people with astigmatism to have other refractive errors. Astigmatism combined with nearsightedness or farsightedness makes seeing much more difficult!
What are refractive errors?
Refractive errors appear when the eye is improperly shaped. With an eye that’s shaped improperly, light cannot refract as it should.
For an eye without refractive errors, light should hit the retina at only one point. From there, the light travels to the brain as a nerve signal.
Then, the brain takes the nerve impulse and translates it into the images that we see. With refractive errors, the images being seen don’t look quite right.
They may be blurry, distorted, doubled, stretched out, or fuzzy. Common symptoms of refractive errors include:
- Eye strain
- Glares or halos around bright lights
Refractive errors are extremely common and easy to treat! Depending on the refractive errors you may have, there are different treatment options.
How do I know if I have astigmatism?
If you think you may have astigmatism, go see your eye doctor. They will perform a comprehensive eye exam to measure acuity, topography, and refraction.
When testing your visual acuity, you will read a Snellen chart. The Snellen chart has numbers and letters on it. You will read the chart as far down as you can.
When measuring topography, your eye doctor uses an instrument known as a keratometer. With the keratometer, they will shine a light on your cornea and measure the reflection. This allows your eye doctor to determine your cornea’s exact curvature.
With refraction, your eye doctor uses a phoropter to put several lenses in front of your eyes. This is then performed using an instrument called a retinoscope.
With the retinoscope, your eye doctor can measure the focusing power of your eyes. You are then asked to read numbers or letters from the lenses.
This is then separated between two different lenses to determine which power is best.
After these tests, your eye doctor can determine if you have astigmatism.
Temporary ways to treat astigmatism
All refractive errors, including astigmatism, are treatable. The most common ways to treat astigmatism are by wearing glasses or contacts. These are only temporary ways to treat astigmatism.
If a patient has astigmatism, they may need special toric soft contact lenses. Rigid-gas permeable lenses are more suited to the needs of someone with astigmatism.
This is because they stay their normal shape on the cornea. They also compensate for the misshapen cornea while providing better vision.
For patients with more moderate astigmatism, their eye doctor may recommend orthokeratology. Orthokeratology involves a patient wearing fitted, rigid contact lenses to reshape the cornea.
These contact lenses are only worn on a limited basis, like at night while sleeping. They are then taken out before being worn again later on.
Ortho-k lenses are also known as corneal reshaping contact lenses. The results from orthokeratology are temporary and do not permanently correct astigmatism.
Permanent ways to treat and correct astigmatism
Depending on the severity of your astigmatism, you can undergo vision correction procedures. These include LASIK and PRK.
Patients with astigmatism can get LASIK, depending on the thickness of their cornea. Corneal thickness is a key component when getting LASIK. This is because LASIK involves permanently reshaping the cornea to correct refractive errors.
If a patient has a more severe astigmatism, they may be a better candidate for PRK. During PRK, the cornea is not reshaped, meaning corneal thickness is not a factor. Instead, a flap is created.
Then the epithelium, which is the outer layer of the cornea, is completely removed. After epithelium removal, the flap gets placed back down to heal naturally.
Recovery from PRK takes longer than LASIK, because it can take weeks for the epithelium to grow back. Yet vision correction results with PRK and LASIK are virtually the same. This is important for patients looking for laser vision correction, even with astigmatism.
Depending on your needs, there are many ways to live with astigmatism. Want more information about astigmatism or other refractive errors?
Schedule an appointment at Stahl Eyecare Experts in the Long Island area today!