Normally, your eye’s cornea and lens are curved equally and smooth in all directions to be able to focus light rays sharply on the retina. However, when the shape of the cornea or lens is distorted, which is the case with astigmatism, light rays won’t be refracted properly.
As a result, your vision becomes blurry. The quality of your eyesight is akin to looking into a carnival mirror wherein you can appear too short, too tall, too thin or too wide.
Astigmatism is a common eye condition. Experts don’t know exactly why lens or corneal shape becomes distorted, but this eye defect is often inherited. It can be present after birth or may develop later in life. In some cases, astigmatism happens after an eye injury, eye disease, or surgery.
Symptoms of astigmatism include:
- Starbursts at night
- Blurry vision
Important Note: If you have these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean that you have astigmatism.
To be diagnosed for certain if you have astigmatism, visit your ophthalmologist. Your eye doctor will conduct several eye tests to precisely diagnose and measure the severity of your vision problem. These include a vision test, refraction test, keratometry, and corneal topography.
Once you are diagnosed to have astigmatism, your eye doctor will provide you with several treatment options. These include prescription glasses, toric contact lenses for astigmatism, and LASIK surgery. Read further to learn more about these treatment options for astigmatism.
Glasses for astigmatism
If you choose eyeglasses to treat your astigmatism, your prescription will most likely include two measurements:
- Cylinder – this indicates the lens power for astigmatism.
- Axis – this refers to the position of astigmatism on your cornea. It is often measured in degrees from 0-180.
If there is a refractive error, like hyperopia or myopia, you may also notice “sphere power” on the prescription. A minus sign indicates nearsightedness, while a plus sign stands for farsightedness. The higher the number, the more severe your eye condition is.
With regular eye check-ups, your eye doctor can assess if you are long-sighted or short-sighted, or both. This ensures that you are using prescription eyeglasses for astigmatism that are tailored to your needs.
Glasses for astigmatism will either have multiocal lenses or single vision lenses, depending on the refractive error you have. These optical devices can help the light pass through the lens and focus sharply on the retina to deliver a clear image.
Selecting glasses for astigmatism often depends on your lifestyle and personal preferences.
For instance, if you are often using a computer and digital devices for socializing or work, you may need to invest in a pair of eyeglasses for astigmatism with a blue light filter. This will not just ensure clear vision but will also filter out the blue light emitted by digital screens.
Contact lenses for astigmatism
Aside from eyeglasses, contact lenses can also be used to manage astigmatism.
In the past, only rigid contact lenses could be used to correct astigmatism. But today, some eye doctors recommend hard contact lenses to create a spherical service on the eye’s surface for severe cases of astigmatism, and some others prefer soft toric contact lenses and ortho-k as they are better alternatives.
Toric contact lenses offer more than just comfort. They also provide high degrees of producibility and accuracy. They are meant to bend light in the right direction to correct astigmatism.
Contact lenses with a toric front surface can correct lenticular and corneal astigmatism of up to 4.5 D, while those with a toric back surface can treat corneal astigmatism of up to 6.0 D.
Ortho-k (orthokeratology) refers to the use of specially fitted and designed contact lenses to reshape the cornea temporarily to improve vision.
Most ortho-k contact lenses are worn overnight to flatten the cornea while you sleep, and then removed during the day. These lenses may be rigid, but they allow oxygen to reach your eyes to stay healthy. Take note, though, vision improvements can become reversible if you stop wearing these lenses. Thus, you must use them every night or as directed to maintain their benefits.
Some of the advantages of using contact lenses for astigmatism include:
- Produce slight changes in the visual field and distortion of images on the retina
- Correct high corneal astigmatism
- Allow optimum conditions for binocular vision
- Reduce any prism effect or optical aberration to a minimum
Undergoing surgery to correct astigmatism is possible with LASIK. This is an outpatient procedure that can only last for 30 minutes. It uses a laser to create a flap in your cornea and change the thickness and curve of your cornea.
You remain awake throughout the procedure, but your eye doctor may administer sedatives to help calm your body. They will also apply numbing eye drops so you won’t be bothered by the required equipment to operate on your eye. Once done, they will close the initial flap, which heals over time.
Today, new and advanced LASIK procedures are available to treat astigmatism. These include:
- Wavefront-Guided LASIK – This procedure uses an excimer laser that helps normalize the irregularities and complex curvatures of your cornea.
- Femtosecond LASIK – This eye surgery uses a femtosecond laser to create incisions at a particular, pre-programmed depth in your cornea to treat refractive errors.
LASIK surgery provides outstanding results, including fewer (or no) visual symptoms related to astigmatism and better night vision. Unfortunately, LASIK is not suitable for everyone. You are not a good candidate if your refraction error is too high or your cornea is too thin.
Astigmatism does not heal itself. It may even progress as you age.
Wearing glasses and contact lenses for astigmatism remain the effective ways to correct this eye condition.
Regardless of what treatment method you choose, the key is to deal with astigmatism as early as possible to prevent severe vision problems and blindness. Talk to your eye doctor about the best treatment options for you.
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