Around your pupil and iris is your cornea, which is, under perfect circumstances, spherical. When light hits your eye, the cornea's role is to project that light, directing it toward the retina, which is in the back of your eye. What does it mean if the cornea isn't exactly spherical? The eye can't focus the light properly on one focal point on your retina, and your sight gets blurred. Such a condition is known as astigmatism.
Many individuals have astigmatism and the condition mostly accompanies other refractive problems that require vision correction. Astigmatism often appears early in life and can cause eye fatigue, headaches and the tendency to squint when untreated. With kids, it may lead to difficulty in the classroom, often when it comes to reading or other visual tasks like drawing and writing. Anyone who works with particularly small or detailed objects or at a computer for excessive lengths of time may experience more difficulty with astigmatism.
Diagnosis of astigmatism starts with an eye test with an eye care professional. Once detected, an automated refraction or a retinoscopy test is performed to check the degree of astigmatism. The condition is commonly fixed with contacts or eyeglasses, or refractive surgery, which alters the flow of light onto the retina to readjust the focal point.
With contacts, the patient might be prescribed toric lenses, which control the way the light bends when it enters the eye. Standard contacts generally shift each time you close your eyes, even just to blink. But with astigmatism, the slightest eye movement can cause blurred vision. Toric lenses return to the same place right after you blink. Toric contact lenses are available in soft or rigid lenses.
Astigmatism may also be fixed with laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical procedure involving the use of special rigid contact lenses to gradually reshape the cornea over night. You should discuss your options and alternatives with your eye care professional in order to decide what the best option might be.
For help explaining astigmatism to children, it can be useful for them compare the back of two teaspoons - one round and one oval. In the round one, their reflection will appear regular. In the oval teaspoon, they will be skewed. This is what astigmatism means for your sight; those affected wind up seeing everything stretched out a little.
Astigmatism can get better or worse gradually, so be sure that you are periodically making appointments to see your eye doctor for a comprehensive exam. Additionally, make sure that you have your children's eyes checked before they begin school. Most of your child's schooling (and playing) is mostly a function of their vision. You'll help your child make the best of his or her schooling with a comprehensive eye exam, which will diagnose any visual abnormalities before they affect academics, play, or other activities. It's important to know that astigmatism is very treatable, and that the sooner to you begin to treat it, the better off your child will be.