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Focusing on Astigmatism

The cornea surrounding your pupil and iris is, under normal conditions, round. When light hits your eye, the cornea's job is to focus that light, aiming it toward your retina, in the rear part of your eye. What is the result when the cornea isn't perfectly round? The eye cannot project the light properly on one focal point on your retina's surface, and will blur your vision. Such a condition is known as astigmatism.

Many individuals have astigmatism and the condition mostly accompanies other refractive problems such as nearsightedness or farsightedness. Astigmatism frequently occurs early in life and can cause eye strain, headaches and the tendency to squint when left uncorrected. In kids, it may cause difficulty in the classroom, especially when it comes to highly visual skills such as reading or writing. Anyone who works with particularly small or detailed objects or at a computer monitor for long periods may experience more difficulty with astigmatism.

Diagnosis of astigmatism starts with a routine eye test with an optometrist. Once detected, an automated refraction or a retinoscopy exam is performed to check the degree of astigmatism. Astigmatism is easily fixed by contacts or glasses, for those who prefer a non-invasive procedure, or refractive surgery, which changes the way that light hits the eye, allowing your retina to receive the light correctly.

For contacts, the patient is usually prescribed toric lenses, which control the way the light bends when it enters the eye. Standard contacts have a tendency to shift each time you blink. With astigmatism, the slightest eye movement can cause blurred sight. After you blink, toric lenses return to the same place on your eye to avoid this problem. Toric lenses are available as soft or rigid lenses.

Astigmatism may also be fixed with laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical alternative that involves wearing rigid contact lenses to gradually reshape the cornea. You should explore your options and alternatives with your eye care professional in order to determine what your best choice is for your needs.

A person's astigmatism evolves gradually, so make sure that you are frequently making appointments to see your eye care professional for a proper exam. Additionally, make sure that your 'back-to-school' list includes a trip to an eye care professional. A considerable amount of your child's schooling (and playing) is largely visual. You can allow your child make the best of his or her schooling with a full eye exam, which will help diagnose any visual abnormalities before they affect schooling, athletics, or other activities.