Around your pupil and iris is your cornea, which is, under perfect conditions, spherical. When light enters your eye from all angles, part of the job of your cornea is to focus that light, directing it to the retina, right in the back of your eye. What happens when the cornea isn't perfectly round? The eye cannot project the light properly on one focal point on your retina, and your sight gets blurred. Such a situation is known as astigmatism.
Astigmatism is a fairly common vision problem, and frequently accompanies other refractive issues such as nearsightedness or farsightedness. Astigmatism frequently occurs early in life and often causes eye strain, painful headaches and squinting when left untreated. In children, it may lead to difficulty in the classroom, often when it comes to highly visual skills such as reading or writing. People who work with fine details or at a computer monitor for extended periods of time might find that it can be a problem.
Astigmatism can be detected by a routine eye exam with an eye care professional and afterwards fully diagnosed with an automated refraction or a retinoscopy exam, which checks the severity of astigmatism. Astigmatism is easily corrected by contacts or eyeglasses, or refractive surgery, which alters how that light hits the eye, letting the retina receive the light properly.
With contact lenses, the patient is usually prescribed toric lenses, which permit the light to bend more in one direction than another. Regular contact lenses shift each time you close your eyes, even just to blink. With astigmatism, the slightest movement can completely blur your sight. Toric lenses return to the exact same place right after you blink. You can find toric lenses in soft or hard varieties, to be chosen depending on what is more comfortable for you.
Astigmatism may also be rectified with laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical alternative that involves wearing special hard contact lenses to gradually reshape the cornea. You should discuss options with your optometrist in order to decide what the best option is for your needs.
When explaining astigmatism to children, show them the back of two teaspoons - one round and one oval. In the circular one, their reflection appears proportionate. In the oval one, they will be stretched. And this is what astigmatism means for your sight; you wind up seeing the world stretched out a bit.
A person's astigmatism can get better or worse over time, so make sure that you're frequently making appointments to see your optometrist for a comprehensive test. Also, be sure that you have your children's eyes checked before they begin school. A considerable amount of your child's schooling (and playing) is predominantly a function of their vision. You can help your child get the most of his or her year with a comprehensive eye exam, which will pick up any visual irregularities before they begin to impact education, play, or other extra-curricular activities.