Astigmatism is one of the most common yet misunderstood eye problems. The name itself can be confusing. (It is astigmatism and not “a stigmatism.”) In this post, Dr Joshua Hann of Eastside Eye Specialist Care clears up some of the confusion about astigmatism and explains its causes and treatments.
Sometimes astigmatism is mistaken for a disease affecting the health of the eyes. Astigmatism actually refers to a focusing error that causes blurry vision at all distances. Most people have at least slight astigmatism.
Astigmatism affects the cornea, or the transparent layer covering the front of the eye. The cornea is responsible for bending or “refracting” light that enters the eye onto the retina. In turn, the retina converts the light into electrical signals and transmits them to the brain to interpret as the images you see.
A normal cornea is evenly curved and spherical (similar to a basketball), which makes it easy to focus light on a single point of the retina. A cornea with astigmatism has an asymmetrical, oblong shape (similar to a rugby football). Because of the different curvatures, the cornea cannot perfectly focus light on the retina.
As a result, vision may be blurry or distorted at all distances, and small text may be nearly impossible to read. If you have astigmatism, you may describe your uncorrected vision as similar to looking through a carnival funhouse mirror. Because your eyes struggle to focus, you may experience other symptoms, such as eye discomfort/fatigue and headaches.
Most cases of astigmatism are present from birth. However, some develop after eye surgery or a traumatic eye injury, or due to a corneal condition called keratoconus.
Treatments for Astigmatism
Traditionally astigmatism is treated with glasses or contact lenses, which have different powers in different portions of the lenses to compensate for the cornea’s irregular shape. But if you do not like the inconvenience of corrective eyewear, more permanent vision correction is available in the form of laser eye surgery.
During laser eye surgery, Dr Hann uses a state-of-the-art laser to remove microscopic bits of corneal tissue. By improving the shape and curvature of the cornea, laser eye surgery improves the way the eye focuses incoming light. Laser eye surgery patients are usually able to reduce dependence on corrective eyewear or even forego glasses or contacts, depending on the task at hand.
If you have been diagnosed with astigmatism and would like to find the treatment that best suits your visual needs and lifestyle preferences, Dr Hann would be happy to speak with you. He can discuss laser eye surgery in detail, explaining more about how the procedure works and how it can reduce or eliminate dependence on visual aids.
To request a consultation with Dr Hann, please call or email Eastside Eye Specialist Care today.