What is Astigmatism?

Though it’s very common, there are a lot of misconceptions about the eye condition called astigmatism. In fact, some call it the most misunderstood of all eye conditions. First of all, astigmatism is not a disease and it’s not “a stigmatism”; the “a” is a part of the word.

What is astigmatism?

astigmatismAstigmatism, which comes from the Greek words for “without a spot,” is a vision condition that is caused by an irregularly shaped cornea or lens. People with astigmatism have blurred vision, and approximately one in three American men, women and children are affected by astigmatism, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. When a person has astigmatism, the light rays entering the eye don’t meet at a common point as they do in a person without this condition. The slight curvature of the cornea causes the rays to be just a little off that point, making the image a little blurry.

Although much is still unknown about what causes astigmatism, it is generally considered to be hereditary, since most people have the condition from birth. Though present from birth, astigmatism can and often does get better or worsen over time, depending on the individual. Astigmatism can also develop after eye surgery or after an eye injury.

Treating astigmatism

Not everyone with astigmatism requires treatment. However, when the condition causes moderate to severe blurred vision, headaches and eye discomfort, and when it begins to affect a person’s quality of life, it makes sense to seek treatment.

phoropterAstigmatism is diagnosed after a comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist. During this exam, the eye doctor will test your vision with a standard eye chart as well as use a specially-designed (and painless) tool that measures the curvature of the cornea and another instrument, called a phoropter, that measures how your lens and cornea refract light.

In most cases, astigmatism can be corrected using contact lenses or eyeglass lenses that refract (bend) the light rays in a way that compensates for the curvature of the cornea or lens, thus eliminating the blurry effect.

blurred visionAstigmatism can also be corrected using orthokeratology (also called ortho-k.) Ortho-k is a non-invasive, corrective treatment that involves the patient wearing specially made contact lenses that are designed to gently mold the cornea into a shape that eliminates improperly refracted light and thus blurry vision. Laser surgery is also an option for treating more severe cases of astigmatism.

If you or someone in your family is suffering in the greater Denver area with blurred vision that you think might be caused by astigmatism, optometrists Dr. Chad and Dr. Kristen Nicholson of Southlands Vision Associates LLC can help. We’re the eye doctors inside Lenscrafters located at Southlands outdoor mall in Aurora and have been treating families like yours since 2006. Call us at 303-766-0545 to make an appointment or simply drop in.


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